What is Arbor Day?
Arbor Day was first celebrated in 1972 in honor of the Arbor Day Foundation’s centennial. Its mission is to impact the world through conservation and education. It is the largest non-profit organization dedicated to planting and nurturing trees in the country. The foundation is attempting to better our environment by planting trees in cities, reforesting the Rain Forest, and educating the public on the benefits trees have on the environment. However wonderful the Arbor Day Foundation is, the products and resources it offers can be costly. The American populace has been celebrating Arbor Day since 1874, when it became an official holiday as mandated by Governor Robert W. Furnas. Your class can celebrate by visiting the Arbor Day Foundation’s official website or through a series of engaging classroom activities.
Arbor Day and Class Curriculum
Start the day off with by providing students with a brief history of how and why Arbor Day is celebrated. Have small groups use the Internet to find and share interesting facts about Arbor Day. Get outside to practice math. Have small groups each choose one tree in the school yard to measure. They should measure and record the circumference and length of a branch, trunk, and twig. Have each group add their data to a chart, being sure to label the type of tree they measure. They can then compare their data and make generalized inferences about tree types and growth. They can also write a story about their life as a tree in the school yard, asking the following questions:
- What would they see?
- How old are they?
- How were they treated by animals, students, and teachers through the years?
Get out the microscope and science journals. Have your class collect sap, leaf, and bark samples. They can use the microscope to observe, record, and make comparisons between items that have come from different trees. Purchase a small tree from your local nursery and plant it in or near your school. End the day with a very special film. The Man Who Planted Trees is an eloquent and beautifully animated film that tells the tale of one man who dedicated his life to planting trees. The film is most appropriate for children 4th -7th grade, but is lovely and inspiring enough to bring tears to this teacher’s eyes.
History and legend alike are full of individuals that are passionate about the impact trees have on the environment. Have groups of 3 or 4 choose and research an individual conservationist. They can use their information to create a poster or trading card depicting who the individual was, where they were from, a brief history, the positive impact they had on the environment, and images of their trees.
Here are a few names to research for the project:
- Abdul Karim
- Johnny Appleseed
- Elzeard Bouffier
- Jean Giono
- Jadav “Molai” Payeng
- Marthinus Daneel
Each of these men has positively impacted their home environment by simply, planting trees. With our ever changing and advancing world, so lost is the quiet repose found beneath the shady branches of a tree.