Forest ReLeaf in the Classroom
2015 | Forest ReLeaf of Missouri
Forest ReLeaf in the Classroom is a hands-on interactive program teaching students about the many benefits trees provide, developing tree stewards in the process. Four levels of lesson plans: K-2, 3-6, middle and high school have been developed and will be taught by a trained docent/educator to present the 45-60 minute program. In addition to basic biology and environmental impact lessons, emphasis will be placed on the social and community benefits. Special “forest trunks” will be brought into the classroom with level-specific items for hands-on activities teaching students about the integral role trees play in our daily lives. Examples of some of the materials include a rain gauge, blood pressure cuff, clinometer, tree cookies, binoculars, bag of acorns, Frisbee, dollar bill, mood surveys, and tree journals. A special tree benefits board game has been created to reinforce the knowledge. Docents will leave behind suggestions for extended lessons and a “coupon” for a free tree from Forest ReLeaf for spring or fall planting. Lessons include a coupon for a 4-5 foot tall, 3-gallon native Missouri species tree from our nursery for planting. Providing an actual tree encourages continual learning throughout the students’ tenure at that school. Because Forest ReLeaf has its own nursery, we can also provide additional follow up learning experiences like tours of the arboretum, greenhouse and rain garden, and participation in planting projects or nursery volunteer work.
Forest ReLeaf in the Classroom, a new educational outreach effort created by Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, was piloted in the fall of 2015. The 45-60 minute lesson plans, tailored to K-2, 3-5, middle and high school students, received a very positive response from the teachers and students participating in pilot. The lessons were created by teachers and thus meet state core curriculum science requirements. Each lesson aims at teaching the concept of biophelia, building on basic biology while also focusing on the many social, environmental, economic and community benefits of trees. Pre- and post- tests found profound differences in learning that occurred as a result of the lessons. A unique feature of this program is that each participating school received a coupon for a free Missouri native tree for planting on their campus. These 3-gallon container trees are grown at Forest ReLeaf’s community-assisted tree nursery in St. Louis County. Students not only learn more about the myriad benefits of trees, they also learn the importance of becoming good tree stewards.
Forest ReLeaf in the Classroom utilized the generous funding from TREE Fund to cover the cost of purchasing the materials and trunks, thus producing a game which is used in two of the lesson plans, and for the cost of staff time to coordinate partners, teach lessons and train docents. It also allowed us the time to prepare for and present at the Missouri Environmental Education and Green Schools Conference, an opportunity we had not anticipated. As a small nonprofit, Forest ReLeaf relies on grants to provide funding for new endeavors. Without the support from TREE fund we would not have been able to launch this program.