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Celebrating trees takes root at Walnut
School presented with $10,000 for winning video
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Matt Bawcum of His Tree Services explains to Walnut Elementary students that it is important to cut the roots of the drought resistant Oak tree once it is removed from its pot so that the roots can spread and the tree to grow.


A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth $10,000, at least at Walnut Elementary in Turlock.


After working for weeks to create a video that demonstrates the importance of trees and tree preservation for the national Scotties Tree Rock competition, Walnut Elementary submitted a video created by Lisa Chittim, Irene Hales and Sherri McMillan’s third grade classes titled “Hug a Tree.” After making it as one of the top 10 qualifiers in the national competition, Walnut Elementary competed with nine other schools across the country for a shot at the $10,000 grand prize. The winner was determined by the school that could garner the most votes and through community support, parent help and the use of social media to spread the word, Walnut took first place.


"It's a video contest but it's also a marketing contest," said Janet Prensky, spokesperson for Scotties Tissues. "I'm impressed by the smart and sophisticated way that they spread the word and got the votes to win."


Contrary to the belief that bigger schools would have a better chance at winning the competition, last year a school in Lone Oak, Texas, a town with the population of only 600 people, won the competition beating out bigger cities like San Antonio. According to Prensky, "Turlock followed suit."


On Thursday Scotties representatives made their way from Massachusetts to Walnut Elementary to facilitate the capstone event: the tree planting ceremony. Eight new trees were planted at the school with the help of local tree company His Tree Services. The third grade classes collectively planted drought resistant oak trees by adding mulch, packing the dirt in and watering them.


Afterwards, the entire school enjoyed a rally where the school was presented with the $10,000 check, watched their award winning video and were recognized by local dignitaries including the Turlock Unified School District superintendent Sonny DaMarto with board members in attendance. Turlock Mayor John Lazar also announced that March 20 will now be recognized as Walnut Elementary Scotties Trees Rock Day.


"Winning the competition validates the visual and performing arts magnet program and the special quality of the visual arts program at our school," said principal Mark Holmes. "Our perseverance paid off."