TreesCharlotte partners with Park & Rec and CMS to sponsor tree education programs for youth
TreesCharlotte is committed to growing its educational outreach program with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to teach elementary students about the value of trees and instill an abiding appreciation of our urban forest.
TreesCharlotte works with principal-appointed teachers, or TreeChampions, who receive a stipend from TreesCharlotte to promote the tree curriculum, engage students in campus planting events, connect parent-teacher associations with tree planting projects and enlist students in caring for trees at their schools. In its first year, the program reached seven CMS teachers in six schools.
This school year, TreesCharlotte is also partnering with Mecklenburg Park and Recreation to bring interactive tree learning programs to several Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Three nature centers – McDowell, Latta Plantation and Reedy Creek – lead programs at Briarwood Academy, Hornets Nest Elementary, Starmount Academy of Excellence and Winget Park Elementary School.
Aligned with North Carolina and Common Core state standards, the programs are tailored to first-, second- and third-graders. When possible, Park and Rec’s environmental educators work to schedule school visits around campus tree plantings, when student interest in the topic is piqued.
One of the programs, called “Tremendous Trees,” educates young students about how trees provide shelter, food and other materials to wildlife and people. The lessons are hands-on and allow students to use their senses to learn about the various parts of the tree, compare leaves and bark from different trees and use “tree cookies,” cut from fallen trees, to gain insight into a tree’s history.
The programs help to forge a deeper understanding and connection between the students and the trees on their campuses, says Melissa O’Lenick, manager of McDowell Nature Center, who leads the program for Park and Rec.
“It builds ownership for the trees that TreesCharlotte has planted and teaches the students that these are living things we need to care for,” she says.
For higher grade levels, TreesCharlotte has used the web-based program i-Tree, developed by the U.S. Forest Service, for teaching tree benefits in urban settings.
TreesCharlotte has planted more than 7,700 trees on 33 different CMS school campuses, which make up about 39 percent of the total tree plantings.
“It’s really important to send a message to our students that learning happens beyond the classroom,” says CMS Superintendent Ann Clark.
“TreesCharlotte is a wonderful opportunity for our students to be really thoughtful and intentional about learning and paying it forward.”
For more information about TreesCharlotte’s educational programs, visit www.TreesCharlotte.org/volunteer/youth-focus.