Cascade Education Corps leads plantings with Fowler Middle School students
You can always hear eighth graders coming. On a clear day at Fowler Middle School in Tigard, Cascade Education Corps members eagerly awaited leading their first planting of the season. The shovels stood in a neat circle, the trees were placed where they needed to be planted, and with an excitement you could hear before you saw it, the students from Ms. Scheller’s science class arrived to do the work.
Friends of Trees has been working with kindergarten-through-eighth graders for over twenty years. This programming has taken different forms, starting with the “School Trees Program” in the late nineties. Since 2009, much of our youth engagement has been with our Green Space program. It was put on pause because of the pandemic, but with this planting at Fowler Middle, K-8 plantings are officially back!
The CEC are all high school students following an alternative path to graduation by working on hands-on environmental projects, gaining skills and knowledge that can lead to career opportunities. There were five CEC members here today with their crew leader, Michelle. By this point in the season, they were already planting experts ready to share their knowledge with the Fowler students.
“This can be a really meaningful experience for these students,” Michelle said to the crew before the eighth graders arrive. Kaled, one of the CEC members, knew this firsthand. He was a Fowler Middle School student himself and fondly remembers when he planted trees with the CEC.
The planting was at Dirksen Nature Park, conveniently adjacent to Fowler’s campus. After the students arrived, everyone introduced themselves, and talked about why planting native trees is important. Thinking big picture, one student immediately shouted, “climate change!” Thinking locally, Meng Vue, a Friends of Trees Green Space Specialist, talked with the students about how these plants would slow erosion and stabilize the stream that runs between the park and their school.
Then the kids split into groups, each led by a CEC member. They learned how deep to dig their holes, how to get the tree out of its pot, and how to replace the soil just right. With the pandemic causing so much need for virtual learning, the kids planted trees with eagerness and enthusiasm, grateful for a hands-on activity. In just 45 minutes, every student planted a tree.
“After all they’ve had to adapt to, It’s so great to get them outside like this,” Ms. Scheller said.
Three different classes participated throughout the day. Meng was beyond pleased with how well the CEC members worked with the students. “Teachers enjoy having the CEC teach the students,” Meng said. “It’s really bridging the gap between high school and middle school.”
This was just the first of six plantings scheduled this year at Fowler Middle School. Come spring, we’ll have plantings at Oregon Trail Elementary School in Clackamas County, with first-year forestry students from the Sabin Schellenberg Center serving as crew leaders. Youth engagement is critical to our mission—it creates the next generation of tree stewards in our community. On top of that, it’s just plain fun to see these kids get their hands dirty.
Special thanks to our partner Clean Water Services for supporting this work!
Friends of Trees has been partnering with Chemawa Indian School in Salem for more than five years. Our partnership includes training Chemawa students as Crew Leaders for our planting events in Salem and engaging hundreds of Chemawa students at tree planting and tree care events, including activities at the Chemawa Indian School campus.
This partnership has been driven by dedicated teachers and staff at Chemawa who are passionate about creating opportunities for the students to participate in their community through improving the environment while building their leadership skills.
Chemawa teacher Paula Stuart explains why the partnership is so valuable to Chemawa, “Friends of Trees’ offer to donate trees on Chemawa’s campus has increased awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship. Students who might not have otherwise noticed have joined in, sometimes merely tempted by donuts and hot chocolate, then catching the joy of working outside in teams of happy diggers.”
Paula continues, “Science teachers at the school have offered credit for participation and I am ever so happy that this active engagement has influenced several students’ interest in pursuing environmental careers.”
Finish reading here, where you will find the entire November edition of Treemail, our monthly e-news. Want to catch up on past issues of Treemail? They’re here!
Friends of Trees and partners are providing job training and leadership skill-building opportunities for youth
- POIC/Rosemary Anderson High School: At-risk youth participate in a POIC job training program through training and serving as Crew Leaders (a key Friends of Trees volunteer role) and helping to plan and implement tree planting events throughout the season.
- Cascade Education Corps: Washington County high school students in CEC train as Crew Leaders, and are also trained to work with elementary and middle school students. The older students work with the younger ones on planting teams, serving as their Crew Leaders for tree planting and tree care events.
- Chemawa Indian School: Students undergo Crew Leader training and serve as Crew Leaders at Salem-area tree-planting events. The students train and lead community volunteers, as well as their fellow Chemawa students (read more about this partnership below).
What’s particularly encouraging about this program is the overwhelming interest from the students. Friends of Trees Deputy Director Whitney Dorer shares, “Young people really want this, there is a growing, huge demand. For instance, this year 45 students applied for the 15 available POIC spots.” Whitney concludes, “Our vision is to be able to make this available for all young people who are interested, so we are especially grateful to the variety of funders and partners who are investing in today’s youth.”
Pictured above: POIC Program Manager Leigh Rappaport (center) with POIC student Crew Leaders.
Growing the next Tree Team generation
Our education program engages students of all ages
“I planted trees today with my class. I’ve never planted a tree before—I got dirty! I had fun and I want to come back on my own and plant trees again.”
-Aminah, age 14, Vancouver, middle school student
Every year Friends of Trees works with thousands of young people, engaging them with planting and caring for trees and natural areas in Oregon and Washington.
Youth engagement and helping to grow the next generation of tree-stewards and tree-huggers is critical to our mission. Through giving young people the tools to engage with the natural world, and providing information about the crucial role trees play in our region’s and our planet’s livability, Friends of Trees is helping to develop the environmental advocates and leaders of the future.
Friends of Trees’ education program actively and meaningfully connects youth of all ages with nature. We offer a classroom-based curriculum combined with field work, and we work with students from elementary school through high school. Our partners include Oregon Trail Elementary School, David Douglas High School, POIC/Rosemary Anderson High School, and the dozens of schools who send students to our community planting events every season. Curriculum topics address the importance of trees; different species and the benefits of native plants; stormwater management; rain garden design; riparian area restoration .. and more! Students get their hands dirty through actually planting and caring for trees; they work as teams toward a common goal and older students build leadership skills in the field.
Young people are using screens and media for an average of 9 hours a day, so it is vital that we offer opportunities to connect them with the natural world. Schools have fewer and fewer resources and Friends of Trees helps fill this gap. No matter the age, youth bring an excitement to planting day that creates memorable experiences for all participants. No one is too young to plant trees!
This is an excerpt from our November 2017 Treemail, read the entire issue here.
“Friends of Trees’ Crew Leader training program for POIC students creates a sense of community for our youth who are often disconnected from the greater community.” Leigh Rappaport, POIC Program Manager.
Based in North Portland’s Rosemary Anderson High School, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center is a nonprofit that provides at-risk youth with high school education and connects them with career training, including partnering with Friends of Trees.
POIC students participate in a number of Friends of Trees activities, about 20 this planting season. Activities include classroom work on identifying plants and plant selection, but most of the work is outside. Friend of Trees trains POIC students in all aspects of a planting event: site-selection, site-prep, proper planting and staking. Additionally, POIC students train to be Crew Leaders, key leadership roles among FOT volunteers.
“The program creates a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves,” Leigh says. “The students feel that they’re doing something important by helping volunteers learn how to plant trees–and they’re also learning a lot about trees.”
Tree cheers for POIC!