Planting trees with children
Arbor Day is an opportunity to engage children in the importance of trees, both for for human life now, and the future of a habitable planet. Peter Pakke writes how planting trees with children can also be a powerfully affirmative activity, project or ceremony.
Arbor Day is the annual day, on different dates in different countries, that celebrates the beauty and remembers the importance of the world’s trees by coming together as communities and planting new ones. It can be a perfect time to engage children in the deeper significance of what they may see primarily as an excellent place to climb and hide!
Children can gain much from taking part in the ancient ceremonial tradition of planting a tree – on their property, in their schoolyards or in the precincts of their church, temple, mosque or synagogue. It can be a beautiful, meaningful and symbolic ritual, that also has a very real, practical purpose of huge importance to the future – their future – on planet earth.
Arbor day can also be an opportunity to raise awareness about how valuable trees are are. Children may not appreciate that they provide shade, enhance biodiversity and maintain the integrity of the land; that they reduce our air conditioning costs and noise pollution, not to mention helping to combat global warming. Yet we habitually abuse them, by paving or building roads over their natural habitats, improperly pruning them, driving over their roots with heavy tractors and poisoning them with fertilisers and other inorganic products.
Many people believe that a tree’s roots mirror its branches, reaching deep down into the soil and extending just to the drip line, where the branches end. Not so. Most tree roots are in the top 60 cm of soil and extend from the trunk to as far as three times the diameter of the branches. This proximity of roots to the surface makes them more vulnerable than people realise, and irrigation systems and managed landscaping can often damage trees: slicing through their roots, or crowding them out with introduced shrubs.
Arbor Day is an opportunity to raise such awareness and remember the debt we owe to trees. Sharing and celebrating this day with children can help to build their sense of responsibility and duty of care to this most precious of our fellow species. So, if you work with children, find out from the link below when Arbor Day falls in your own country and plan to celebrate it with them; by planting a tree or trees – not just for today, but for tomorrow – and help children to discover them anew.
To find out more about Arbor Day, including which day it falls upon in different countries, go to the Arbor Day Foundation website here
Some ideas for tree-planting with children
Tree planting of course does not need to be restricted to Arbor Day. It can be a powerful way to honour each child’s specialness, to celebrate their birthday not with cake but by planting a tree with them, as the ancient Celts did.
Explain that many of the trees children see and enjoy today were planted for them by previous generations, now gone. Talk about passing the gift of trees forward to generations to come
With children from migrant families, plant trees that originate from the country of their parents or grandparents.
Plant native ‘allergy friendly’ shade trees from different countries of Europe.
Find out about tree-planting schemes that can be replicated in your community.