In the fall of 2015 I was weeding our garden. I pulled a small spruce tree. As it came out of the ground I realized that tree was valuable for our classroom and the students. I quickly planted it in a pot and brought it to school. We learned about the tree, science and math… it even served as our class Christmas tree. It was a weedy “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” but it was perfect!
In the spring, we planted the tree at school. Students wrote a wish on a cedar shim that were placed around the tree. At the end of the school year I asked a student if she ever visited the class tree in the school yard. “Everyday,” she beamed!
I realized the power of trees in the classroom… Since then I have built learning around potted trees that I introduce to class. We write about them, compare them, measure them, research them… and eventually the trees get planted at school. Students develop a connection with the trees (and related learning.) So good.
Rewind 30+ years: I worked as a tree planter for 4 summers and planted about 240,000 trees in Ontario and Alberta, Quebec and British Columbia. It was a tough job. I loved it. I still have access to two of the tiny trees from 1989. They’re now 5 metres tall.
Trees in this post are some of the trees planted at schools. Below is our backyard tree nursery. Most of these trees come from seed, tree giveaways or from our own yard.
Since 2015 I’ve planted 20-50 trees each year at schools, parks and beyond. I love watching them grow. Want some trees? Look for free tree giveaways in your community, buy them from a nursery or grow them from seed. Enjoy!
People around the world banded together recently to urge for change to help earth.
At school I see a wide range of views from young students. Most are keen to help but can be limited in knowledge and resources. What can you do to help young people help the planet?
• Lead by example! Children are sponges and mimic those they hold in high regard. If you compost, recycle and pack lunch with re-usable containers, it’s likely they will, too. Our son came home and told me he needed a container to bring his lunch/snack compost waste home. He made me smile. His teacher is making a difference.
• Talk In class we talk about factors affecting the environment. Discuss options for getting around: using bikes, public transit, electric/hybrid and gas car.
Discuss the benefits? Costs? Modelling critical reasoning is a valuable skill for youth to experience (and adopt.)
It doesn’t take a lot for young people to understand and appreciate .
• Bring nature to the classroom I love trees!
I bring trees and plants into classroom learning. Trees can be used in science (soils, life, photosynthesis) and in literacy (describe/compare, narrative, read aloud…)
In math, trees can be used to recognize and create patterns as well as measurement.
After a month of learning, we plant the class tree somewhere at the school. I asked one student if she ever went to see her class tree. Without hesitation she beamed “Everyday!”
Trees can be a powerful learning tool! Bring your own environmental passion to the classroom.
• Goals Set goals with your students/children. Every little positive environmental action helps… Will you: 1. Plant trees? 2. Walk, bike, car pool? 3. Reduce/eliminate purchases with excessive packaging? 4. Compost 5. Choose alternatives to fossil fuels?
They also fit nicely into the curriculum: • We wrote about the differences and similarities of the leaves. • We compared the mathematical patterns and measured their sizes. • We studied the science of trees as oxygen producers. • We included them in art. • We discussed the social impact of trees on neigbourhoods. … And then we planted two trees as a lasting memory of the learning and gift to the school/neighbourhood.
In the current state of our climate – more frequent floods, big storms and weather anomalies – bringing attention to the carbon capturing potential of trees at any grade level is a good thing.
I’d like to see trees planted as many places as possible. Schools and students are a great place to plant the seeds, metaphorically and literally. Growing trees in your class is possible and easy: • Plant some apple seeds from a student’s lunch apples and see what happens. • Contact groups like Ecology Ottawa and ask about their free seedling giveaways. • Collect seeds in the fall and explore the process of seed germination (this can be challenging.)