Whether you live in a rural community or a crowded city, trees serve as a symbol of nature. They clean the air, provide shade, decorate our neighborhoods with color and serve as a home for other wildlife. Trees remind us that even though many Americans do not live near national parks, nature can be found anywhere --- even on a crowded busy street. To understand our public lands, it is important to study the impact that trees have on both wildlife and people, from the middle of a dense forest to an urban metropolis.
Benefits of Trees
What do your local trees contribute to your neighborhood?
- Read all the benefits of trees through the Trees are Good website, which covers the social, economic and environmental benefits of trees.
- A single mature tree can absorb as much as 48lbs of carbon dioxide each year. In its lifetime, the average tree sequesters at least 1 ton of carbon dioxide.
- New York City estimates that its tree canopy annually removes 2,202 tons of pollution from the air, sequesters nearly 1.35 million tons of CO2, captures over 890 million gallons of storm water and saves residents millions in energy bills. The MillionTrees campaign is dedicated to expanding the cities urban forest and getting all New Yorkers involved with their local environment.
- Trees purify soil. In what scientists term phytoremediation, trees actually have the ability to absorb dangerous pollutants from the soil and transform these into less harmful compounds.
- Trees decrease the amount of storm water runoff. Some trees absorb upwards of 1000 gallons of water each year. Forests, both large and small, are excellent buffers against flooding.
Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree (PLT) is an award-winning curriculum for Pre-K to 12 grade students to teach about trees and the environment. Through fun and engaging hands-on activities, PLT enhances critical thinking, problem solving and effective decision-making skills, and teaches individuals to weigh various sides of an environmental issue to make informed and responsible decisions. In 2008, National Public Lands Day partnered with PLT to produce two activities for kids.
- Activity 31: Plant a Tree (Downloadable PDF) - Never underestimate the power of a tree! Besides giving us an amazing array of paper and wood products, trees provide a host of other benefits – from shading our backyards to assisting in the maintenance of the global climate. Students can express their appreciation of trees by planning and carrying out their own tree-planting project.
- Activity 32: A Forest of Many Uses (Downloadable PDF) - Privately and publicly owned forests are often managed to provide many different resources. In this activity, students will learn how forests are managed to meet a variety of human and environmental needs.
- Project Learning Tree's "Connecting Kids to Nature" Activity Sheets - A selection of PLT activities that can be used by parents. The activities are meant to be done outside.
- American Forests contains educational resources for students in preschool through high school.
- The Forest History Society's If Trees Could Talk website contains a wealth of information on trees and accompanying lesson plans.
- Arbor Day Nature Explore is dedicated to providing resources and curriculum to connect children and their families to the outdoors.
- The National Environmental Education Foundation's EE Week's Forestry Curricula provides environmental lesson plans assorted by grade levels.
- Investi-gator is a free science journal for upper elementary level students. This journal is created in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association.
- Natural Inquirer is a middle school science education journal, created so that scientists can share their research with middle school students. Each article tells you about scientific research conducted by scientists in the USDA Forest Service.
How to select, plant and care for a tree
Natives Only! Don’t plant just yet—make sure you have the right tree for your area: