By Emma Gray
Last fall I was privileged to be a member of the Portland Parks & Recreation Neighborhood Tree Steward class of 2011. This means that I learned a ton about trees and scored a super sweet hoodie. It also meant I had to come up with some sort of culminating tree-related service project. Hmm. Tree inventory? Pruning workshop? Planting project? These all had their merits, but none of them left me feeling suitably inspired.
Luckily, my youngest daughter attends an elementary school which offers after-school classes in three eight-week sessions each year through its TEAF program. Since 2002, the TEAF (Tualatin Education Arts Foundation) program has provided students with opportunities they may not be able to get anywhere else. At our school, kids have the chance to learn yoga, martial arts, languages, art, science, gardening, cooking, knitting, yo-yo, soccer, volleyball, hip-hop dance and many, many other subjects from teachers and community members. It is a phenomenal program. And this spring, trees got added to that list!
For an hour each Wednesday afternoon I had the pleasure to meet with five curious and energetic students in grades 3-5 to talk and learn about trees—especially city trees. We learned what trees are, how trees grow and why trees are important. With the help of guest speaker and certified arborist Jesse Batty, we identified all the types of trees that grow at Tualatin Elementary. We wrote tree poems, learned how trees clean the air and the water, and we even planted a tree on campus!
During the last few sessions of class, students used what they had learned to write this story, Emma The Elm, about a young elm tree that learns why it is so important to be a city tree even though it is a very tough job.
I am confident that these five young people have a lifetime of tree stewardship ahead of them. Watching them learn about trees and share their enthusiasm for nature and the world around them was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I am incredibly thankful to the Tree Steward program, to Friends of Trees and to Tualatin Elementary for helping make it happen.
Gray is Individual Donor Relations Specialist for Friends of Trees.