A Clairbourn Tradition - 20 Years of Ginkgo Leaf Play

Nancy Ward
Grand and magnificent trees are often used as symbols of the educational experience, and this is especially true for Clairbourn School. Today, we have in the center of the quad a stunning, mature Ginkgo tree that bursts into spectacular bright yellow color every winter and covers the green lawn in its soft, leathery leaves.  But, this was not the first large tree of note on Clairbourn's campus.
When the school first moved to its current location on Huntington Drive back in 1931, the dominant feature hovering over the 3.5 wooded acres was a large-scale eucalyptus tree that eventually grew to have a 12 foot diameter trunk.  

The eucalyptus tree was the symbol used on all of Clairbourn School's publications in addition to the crest symbol.  Students enjoyed playing around the tree at recess time, climbing into the valleys along its massive trunk, and enjoyed the spicy scent it gave to the air on campus.  It was almost like having a BFG on campus (a big friendly giant) who kept all the students and staff company and watched over them.

But, in 1988, a windstorm took down the mighty eucalyptus tree.  It started to lean over throughout the night and by 4 in the morning, it had laid it self down between all of the buildings on campus without harming a single one.  School was cancelled that day. But as the tree was removed, portions of its branches were cut into rounds and turned into keepsakes for students and alumni to remember the tree.

With the loss of the beloved eucalyptus came a new set of friends - the Ginkgo trees on campus!  A small grove was planted near the reception entrance, and a large one was planted in the center of the school quad.  Ginkgo trees only grow a maximum of 2 feet a year, so it took about ten years for the trees to mature enough in size to create a stunning visual spectacle on campus.

Junior Pre-Kindergarten Teacher Lee Rankin remembers that she started taking students out to play in the leaves somewhere around 1998. Since the city of San Gabriel doesn't have snow in the wintertime, this is the next best option for students to have a special wintertime experience.  The Ginkgo leaves are a perfect play medium because they stay soft and flexible, and have great hang-time when thrown in the air, and their bright yellow color picks up the sunlight in jewel-like fashion. It creates the perfect childhood moments where they get to experience the joy of romping through piles of leaves, chasing their friends, and having a snow-ball-like leaf fight.  

This twenty-year tradition is now one of the most cherished memories for Clairbourn students. And the good news is, Ginkgo trees can live up to 3,000 years, so that means there are many more opportunities for future students to share the joy of this special experience on the Clairbourn Campus.  Please enjoy the videos below!
Junior Pre-Kindergarten Students Play in the Ginkgo Leaves
Pre-Kindergarten Students Play in the Ginkgo Leaves
Kindergarten and 1st Grade Students Play in the Ginkgo Leaves
2nd-5th Grade Students Play in the Ginkgo Leaves
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