It’s back to school time in our urban and community forests! We eagerly anticipate another opportunity to create a better future, a more resilient future. Two things our future depends on: our students and our trees. Students need to understand the connection between a livable world and our community trees. What can Urban Foresters do to contribute to our local school’s success and the nurturing of our future forest stewards?
Research suggests that schools with more trees have higher scores in reading and math (Kweon, et al 2017). Classrooms with views of green landscapes positively impact recovery from stress and mental fatigue (Li and Sullivan, 2016). Green outdoor settings also seem to reduce the symptoms of ADHD (Kuo and Taylor, 2004). As little as 10 – 20 minutes spent in nature has a positive effect on the mental health of college age students (Meredith, et al, 2020). It is crucial that urban foresters collaborate with educational institutions to ensure that learning environments are optimized for the benefit of students’ mental health and academic performance.
There are many resources available to help support the greening of schools and integrate trees into curriculum and programs. The U.S Department of Education, Green Ribbon Schools bases their Awards recognition on the three pillars of the program; 1) reducing environmental impacts, 2) improving health and wellness, and 3) offering effective environmental and sustainability education (greenstrides.org). The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus Higher Education and Tree Campus K-12 Programs help students recognize and celebrate the benefits that trees provide. Project Learning Tree provides activities and resources designed to teach children about the environment through trees and forests (plt.org). The U.S. Forest Service and your Sate Foresters provide technical assistance and outreach to local Urban and Community Forestry Programs that directly work with local schools.
As urban foresters we need to take advantage of every opportunity to partner with our schools. We visit classes for career day and participate in environmental education programs. We maintain trees on campuses. Urban foresters teach college students. We provide data for research projects. We supply reused urban wood for outdoor classrooms and gardens. Urban foresters plant orchards and food forests at schools. We plant trees and we share in the celebration of Arbor Day. Every moment spent at a school we can make their learning environment better, communicate the benefit of trees and foster stewardship among the next generation.
It’s back to school time, another opportunity to build a better future!