Gateway Technical College’s Abbie Ford offered a simple, but important, reminder to the community ahead of Earth Day on April 22.

“We only have one earth,” said Ford, the school’s manager of community relations and communications. “We should take as much care of it as we can.”

Local residents had the opportunity to climb an oak tree, explore a bee colony, ride in a hybrid semi and visit nearly 40 environmentally-friendly exhibits at the 12th annual Celebrate Earth Day on Saturday at Gateway Technical College, 3520 30th Ave.

The indoor-outdoor event was preceded by a Pike Creek cleanup and also included horse and carriage rides, earth-friendly activities, children’s crafts, a plant sale and an electronics recycling center. About 40 Gateway graduates kicked off the event with an alumni breakfast.

“There was definitely a lot going on,” Ford said. “What we hope people take away are ways they can become more environmental-friendly in their own lives. We hope people can learn strategies to reduce plastic waste or be more responsible with their water or plant things in their yard that will help the environment.”

As usual, one of the most popular spots was the Wisconsin Arborist Association’s tree climbing station. People who wore safety equipment — including a helmet and climbing harness — scaled over 40 feet through limbs and branches of an estimated 200-year-old Burr Oak tree, or a Quercus macrocarpa, as Gateway’s Aaron Schauer identified it.

Visitors could also practice throwing tree-climbing rope through plastic rings attached to trees.

“One of the old researchers that was instrumental in our industry, he had a saying that every child should have the opportunity to climb a tree, and we believe that,” said Schauer, Gateway’s program director for its arboriculture/urban forestry program. “We think it really does a fantastic job of connecting people with trees. They are a huge part of our lives. They give us a lot of mental benefit and good health. Imagine having no trees. That would be very sad and boring. As we’ve gotten so busy in our lives, we stay inside a lot and get disconnected, and it affects our health. This is a beautiful thing getting people outside and allowing them to have that connection.”

The Bee Barn was a popular spot early in the day as visitors learned the importance of honeybee pollination and the dangers of colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that’s threatening the country’s bee population.

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating a variety of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Some scientists believe the dwindling bee population and colony disruption is due to pesticides, pathogens, loss of habitat and climate change.

A number of children constructed bee houses out of plastic bottles and straws and made bee baths to attract the insects. Others learned about a butterfly’s life cycle and participated in a treasure hunt.

“They were able to learn something and take a craft home as well,” said Caitlin Brug, Gateway’s marketing communications specialist. “It’s good to get them started learning early.”

Don Lee, of Burlington, was one of about 20 people who took part in the Pike River cleanup. Later in the day, he participated in many Earth Day activities with his sons Jaxon, 8, and Ryker, 7.

“Our main motive for coming out was picking up trash,” Lee said. “It’s important to us as a family. That’s something we do every day.”