Roanoke Co, Va. -

Students at Fort Lewis Elementary School grabbed shovels and helped plant a tree today.  Eight trees in all are being planted at the school in Roanoke County.

Friday's event was in honor of Arbor Day.  Teachers took class outside to teach students how important it is to plant trees.

Forestry Spokesman Dennis McCarthy  listed several reasons that trees are valuable:  they provide shade, capture rainwater to prevent runoff and provide a place for birds to nest. 

"Children learn by doing and so if they can be involved in the process they'll be more likely to remember,:" said Fort Lewis Elementary School Principal Cindy Klimaitis. "This week I would say every child knows what Arbor Day is and knows the importance of trees."

The students also got a special treat- a visit from Smokey Bear.   "Oh they love Smokey Bear. That brings it in and helps them relate it to the forest," said  Klimaitis. "They definitely love to see Smokey anytime he can come."

The children also sang songs about trees and pretended they were trees reaching their arms high into the sky.

Today's event helps Roanoke County retain its Tree city USA designation by the Arbor Day Foundation..  The county has held the designation for 16 years.

Roanoke County Supervisor Joseph B. "Butch" Church read a proclamation declaring April 18th National Arbor Day in Roanoke County.

It's also the first year the event was administered by the Clean Valley Council.   The Council made it possible for eight new trees to be planted at Fort Lewis Elementary School though a $1,600 matching grant from the Virginia Department of Forestry.