Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Our Education Department is Turning Over a New Leaf

Just as the spring has brought new growth to our Canopy – we are excited to announce some new growth of our own.

After three remarkably productive and busy years as Director of Education, Laura Bassett is moving on to pursue a long-held ambition – she has started her own landscape design firm! While her accomplishments as Director are numerous, we’re particularly proud of the partnership she forged with the Department of Parks & Recreation and her dedication to growing and supporting the Pruning Corps with the Urban Forestry Division. We took a minute to reflect with Laura on her time here:

Laura, right, with Prunings Corps members at Oxon Run Park in 2017.

Casey Trees (CT): What has surprised you most working at Casey Trees?
Laura Bassett (LB): How heavy trees are and how different the soil (and therefore digging effort required) is from one community planting site to the next. Also, our volunteers are incredible! They will be smeared with mud and sweat at the end of a tough tree planting but still smiling from ear to ear and then show up again next week to do it all again.

CT: What has been your biggest, best, or favorite achievement during your time at Casey Trees?
LB: I’ve been very lucky to work on some exciting programs and collaborate with amazing partners over the past 3 years, so I couldn’t pick just one! Developing a dedicated volunteer pruning program for our street trees with the Urban Forestry Division and expanding community education programs with our D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation come to mind. Planting more trees with volunteers in a season than ever before was another highlight of my time here. Taking kids to the natural areas in their neighborhoods and seeing them discover the wild spaces of our city. Then there are the simple but powerful moments of sharing in the learning process of students of all ages and watching someone learn something new like how to identify a tree. I love the process of learning so the “ah-ha” moments are always my favorite.

CT: Do you have any advice for future education directors or team members?
LB: Urban forestry is just as much about the people as it is about the trees. This is one of the most important takeaways from my time as the Director of Education. Developing authentic relationships and building trust with communities in D.C. is mission critical. Also, enjoy the work and try to laugh every day! It is very fulfilling work and downright fun.

CT: What is one thing you wish/want to say to the hundreds of volunteers that you’ve worked with?
LB: To the thousands of volunteers who have contributed to this work over the past couple years – you are all amazing. Thank you for all that you do to make our community a better place.

Taking the helm of our Education Department as Acting Director is our very own Chelsea MacCormack! Our Volunteer Coordinator since 2017, Chelsea has been an integral part of our Community Tree Planting program and numerous tree education classes. We sat down with the new Acting Director:

Chelsea (center) speaks to Intro to Tree ID participants this past spring.

Casey Trees (CT): What has been your biggest, best, or favorite achievement during your time as Volunteer Coordinator?
Chelsea MacCormack (CM): My favorite achievement has to be connecting communities to their trees. In the last year and a half we have made big strides with DPR to connect each site that we plant at to a class, an inventory, and a planting to really help the community get to know their trees and build their urban forest.

CT: What are some things you’re looking forward to as Acting Director?
CM: I am looking forward to supporting team education! I love all the programs that we put on and have been to many of our classes for both adults and kids, but now I get to be a larger part of the creative process that goes into planning and supporting these programs. I also get to continue to grow our volunteer programs and be a part of our events.  

CT: What is one thing you wish/want to say to the hundreds of volunteers that you’ve worked with?
CM: If I could say one thing to all the volunteers that I have worked with its that you make Casey Trees what it is. We cannot even begin to make a dent in the tree canopy without our planters. We can’t see where we are going without our inventories. We can’t speak for the trees without our advocates. And we can’t care for our trees’ longevity without our pruners.

If you have any questions or well wishes for Laura or Chelsea we’re always available at 202-833-4010 or


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