Blog Post By Kelsey Desmond

2020 TreeWise: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

In the Junior Urban Forester Program’s 9th year, TreeWise looked a bit different. TreeWise, aka our flagship summer youth education program, is geared towards campers aged 6-10 and encourages students to discover tree species in their neighborhood and better know the green spaces near them. We believe that in 2020, with all its uncertainties and challenges, that spending time outside is healing. It induces curiosity about the natural world, and care for our urban forest.

Given our ability to work with a variety of age groups in the city, we developed two booklets for grade bands K-2 and 3-5. Our Junior Urban Forester Booklets are a cornerstone of our programming (you can get your very own booklet too!) and are a tactile tool for youth in the city to safely explore their nearby nature in DC and reinforce concepts shared during virtual camp sessions. Designed with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and DC Public Schools (DCPS) learning objectives, our booklets and lessons are tailored for campers. Mainly the lessons and activities focus on campers learning how trees are beneficial, how to best care for trees and what they need to survive, how they fit into ecosystems and habitats, and how to identify some common trees throughout the city.

This summer, we offered high-quality urban forestry activities to 30 children through virtual camp sessions and delivered 80 booklets through our online store. We distributed 60 booklets to our partners at DC’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) for use at their Fun in the Sun camps. Campers throughout the city could learn directly from me, our Youth Programs Coordinator, or take our booklet on an urban adventure.

DPR and campers are not the only people we partner with on our mission to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards though. Through our TreeWise program, we have been able to work with the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) participants. In the past few years, this has been through DPR sites where SYEP participants help facilitate camp activities. This year, we were thrilled to be able to distantly meet some SYEP at Horton’s Kids and Carver Terrace properties and offer them urban forestry activities. While the targeted age group for TreeWise is lower elementary children, the virtual program enables us to expand some of our offerings to include high-school-aged participants. SYEP helped facilitate activities for younger campers, all while partaking in activities that sparked scientific inquiry for themselves. I particularly loved discussing phloem and xylem with Horton’s Kids SYEP and playing an informative Kahoot on the benefits of trees.

One of the best parts of the TreeWise program is field trips that connect DC’s youth with the wonderful naturalized spaces in the city. In the past, we have taken TreeWise campers to Rock Creek Park, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and the Aquatic Resource Education Center in Anacostia Park. We offered three virtual field trips to campers this year, with the hopes to inspire awe and curiosity. We discussed different animals and trees that lived in Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Two participants from Paradise Apartments near Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens told us all about their dreams to become a biologist and paleontologist. We think they will be adding urban forester to their career goals!

To grow a greater, greener city, we must work together, not just today or tomorrow, but day after day and year after year. When we teach younger generations about the value of trees and green space now, we will ensure that our city’s lush tree-filled legacy continues. We need your support to continue inspiring future tree stewards – become a Casey Trees Member today. Your gift ensures programs like this continue.

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