This year, Arbor Day we will celebrate very differently than years gone by. Volunteering, community events and gathering of friends is not on the approved list this year, but that does not mean we should look past this important day. The spirit of the day exists with or without large events.  Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”  We need our trees not only for the many things that we enjoy about them- recreation, food, shade, fuel, paper, and shelter, but also for their vast environmental benefits.  “Trees provide habitat for wildlife, clean the air we breathe, provide shade, reduce the damaging effects of wind, and limit erosion and contribute to a healthier environment,” according to the  DEP Acting Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe.  Where would our world be without our trees?

This April 24, Arbor Day reminds us to appreciate the value of the tree, and urges us to replace the trees that we have used. Here in New Jersey, Arbor Day is always celebrated on the last Friday of every April. As noted by the founder of Arbor Day, Sterling Morton,   “… Arbor Day proposes for the future…Each generation takes the earth as trustees…We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” Arbor Day comes just a week after Earth Day (April 22, 2020), and comes with a similar message of caring for our earth, and preserving it for the next generation.

With all of the worries of today, let’s send our kids outside this Arbor Day and recognize the importance of our tree friends cleaning the air. There are so many ideas for this day, no matter the age or subject that you teach! Check out the ArborDayFoundation for some ideas, and check out some virtually shareable options below:

  • Have your kids complete a scavenger hunt for tree types, biggest tree, smallest tree, oldest tree, etc.
  • Invite students to sit under a tree for the afternoon Google meet. Discuss how trees help us, and write poems or haikus about them.
  • Have students take a walk around their home and survey or sketch a map of the trees on their property.
  • Review the history of Arbor Day and watch It’s Arbor Day Charlie Brown through a youtube link.
  • Have a virtual Arbor Day Celebration Ceremony and plant a seed, pinecone, or sapling if avalable. I am doing this with my kids and we are burying apple cores.
  • Ask the student to read a book (or complete a read- aloud) about trees
  • Challenge students to make their own books about trees and make a video clip to share with the class.
  • Keep it simple and ask them to take a nature walk or hike in the closest woods.
  • Have students draw a tree from their yard  and post it to share- ask the class to try to identify the trees.
  • Ask your students to collect leaves from the trees in their surrounding area- and the use the leaves to collage a picture- like a leaf man, or a leaf house. Have them post their creations online.

Jessica Cicalese Kurtz is a mom of 4 and a veteran middle school engineering and science teacher at Toms River Schools. She is an experienced curriculum developer and teacher trainer, and is a regular contributing writer to the Plymouth Rock Teachers’ Lounge

Jessica Cicalese Kurtz wearing a lanyard leaning again a tree. A lake and trees with autumn leaves in the background.

A young boy climbing a tree. There's a fence and white vinyl houses in the background

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