From TREEs to STEM!

2015 | Toledo Botanical Garden

This TREE Fund Arboriculture Education grant will provide funding for 400 inner city students to enjoy hands-on, inquiry based experiments and outdoor explorations designed to excite student curiosity about the environment, and provide experiences that deepen their understanding about the role they play in protecting and enjoying the natural world around them. Each classroom within Toledo’s Central City Ministries two schools will receive a field trip to Toledo Botanical Garden (TBG) and a follow up school visit to their classroom. During the field trip students will explore sites on our 60 acre campus to learn about the arboricultural practices we use and to be introduced to a grade level science concept. A follow up in-school activity will enhance the science concept and underscore the principals of arboriculture and urban forestry. These students ranging in age from 5- 11 will have an increased understanding of how trees grow and respond to cultural practices and to their environment. Horticulturists and educators at TBG will expose students to current arboricultural practices in use at TBG as well as issues relevant to Toledo area forestry. This will take the science activities and experiments done to the next level by connecting science and test book concepts to real world learning about the importance of trees in urban culture.

Toledo CollageProgram Results

Toledo Botanical Garden (TBG) educators introduced 200 low income urban students to arboriculture through field trips and in-class programs that explored selection, pruning, training, pathogen management and fertilization. Using field trips to our 60 acre campus and follow up in-class visits, K-6th graders explored science through the lens of urban forestry.

During field trips students engaged in grade level correlated experiments investigating soil quality, food webs, energy transfer, interdependence, plant structures and cell division. Small teams of students then used mapping skills to find designated locations in the garden and identify the tree management practice in use. They documented their findings with iPad photos. These photos were later used to compare team’s scores and the crown the AboriQuest winners!

In a pre-assessment activity where students were shown photos and asked to differentiate between trees in natural settings and trees in cities where management practices were in use, only 20% of the answers were correct. During the final school visit, students identified not only urban settings but the management practices correctly over 50% of the time (with Pruning and Training identified correctly 70% of the time, probably attributed to the cool examples we have on our campus)! Providing the necessary introduction and then setting students loose on a quest to find trees and identify management practices was a great experience for both students and staff. Students enjoyed an outdoor science exploration while learning about trees in an urban setting.

The students impacted by this grant are among the lowest in income in the Toledo area. Without this funding they would not have been able to participate in this program. We feel the program successfully introduced Urban Forestry to an audience that would not have an opportunity to participate in a fee based program. TBG educators strive to create new standards based environmental education opportunities to offer all area students, with minimal budgeting allowances for curriculum development. This grant allowed us to fund the time needed to develop, test and tweak new programming that we could not do otherwise. We will now offer it in our regular curriculum of fee based programming.