Rain affected plans for students and teachers at Kingsolver Elementary School to celebrate Arbor Day May 3.

A scheduled tree planting event turned into an indoor celebration as they gathered in the commons area of the school to read poems, perform a play and listen to brief remarks from by Alex Beehler, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment.

"This is truly a beautiful school," said Beehler, during the event. "It is totally unlike any school I have ever attended."

Beehler acknowledged the dampener rain put on the Arbor Day plans.

"I love planting trees," said Beehler "I realize Mother Nature has made it a little difficult today but whatever we do in recognition of the wonderful role that trees play in our lives, it's really important."

The school's students ran the entire event, from the poems to the Arbor Day play, in which a statue of J. Sterling Morton comes to life and explains the history of Arbor Day, started in Nebraska.

Shortly after moving to Nebraska from his native Detroit in 1854, the journalist and eventual newspaper editor wrote articles encouraging Nebraskans to plant trees in the state. "Now we know why you became the author of a holiday," said one student near the end of the play. "You really did write it."

While plans for the actual tree planting will take place at a later date, one student read a short poem that would have signified the start of the planting ceremony. Part of the plans would have included the planting of wildflowers around the trunk of an oak tree picked out by the Fort Knox Forestry Division.

"We'll do that at the actual planting at some point. It just maybe won't be as official as this particular one," said Laura Gibson, Kingsolver's principal.

Gibson said the Arbor Day celebration becomes a natural extension of their life science curriculum every year.

After the short celebration, Beehler and officials from Fort Knox took a tour of the facilities, stopping in one classroom that was divided into four smaller groups for a more personal educational experience. Gibson explained to Beehler how the whole facility, including the curriculum and teaching styles, is part of the new 21st Century Education concept which, according to her, focuses on the students more than in the past, when the main focus was on the curriculum.

Gibson shared a story about her first day of school there, when she braced for the reality of whether the new concept would work. She expected chaos and confusion. Instead, she walked into very quiet classrooms, where students were busy taking part in the discussions and engaged in active learning.

Beehler smiled: "Mr. Rogers would be proud."

After the tour, Beehler sat down with some 3rd graders to enjoy lunch. He asked them questions. They answered. They asked him questions. He returned the favor.

"This was fabulous! I was impressed with sort of the openness that allowed a greater flexibility in education," said Beehler. "I was impressed with how well disciplined all those kids were. It's this happy marriage of the latest technology available as well as long-standing hardcore effective school education principles that meet together.

"It highlights why particularly young families want to live inside the fence line because they have access to great schools like this."

He said the example of Kingsolver makes it even more imperative that the quality of housing matches the quality of schools.

After the visit, Beehler traveled to U.S. Army Human Resources Command to witness Fort Knox's award-winning energy resilience plans.

"I'm excited about all the fabulous things that the [post] has done in energy resilience," Beehler concluded. "I hope that can be replicated more across the Army enterprise."