The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus K–12 program is designed to support primary, middle, and secondary school teachers and staff as they bring the benefits of trees to life both inside and outside of the classroom. While the impact of the pandemic postponed the first year of recognition, nine schools have received a special designation for their early involvement in the program.

About Tree Campus K–12

Schools across the country are engaging and empowering students through trees, and Tree Campus K–12 is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate it. This focus on trees will help to ensure the next generation is conservation-minded and prepared to carry on our tree planting legacy.

Four goals have been established, and each school works to meet these goals to earn recognition:

  • Tree Campus Team that is dedicated to achieving Tree Campus K–12 recognition
  • Education Plan that connect students to trees and their global benefits
  • Hands-On Experience that engages students in trees and the community
  • Arbor Day Observance to celebrate trees within the school or the community

Celebrating the 9 Founding Schools

While the first official year of Tree Campus K–12 recognition will be the 2021–2022 school year, these Founding Campuses stepped up as program ambassadors. Each has demonstrated a commitment to the program goals, and their work exemplifies the vision of the Tree Campus K–12 program. Many of them provided valuable feedback on the program’s design.

South Grand Prairie High School, Grand Prairie, TX

Members of South Grand Prairie High School’s Kindness Crew, a club established on each school campus within the district, stepped up to serve as the Tree Campus Team. After earning a grant to install an irrigation system for the newly planted fig trees and learning about their proper care and maintenance, the students set forth nurturing the trees. By participating in their ongoing care, students gain important opportunities to get outside and take responsibility for the organisms providing shade, clean air, and food to the campus — and most importantly to the Kindness Crew, camaraderie.

Abington Friends School, Jenkintown, PA

While things looked different in 2020, Arbor Day has traditionally been an important annual milestone at Abington Friends School. Their annual event incorporates music, dancing, poetry, and tree planting. The entire school and many families gather in celebration of trees and witness the first grade and senior classes plant two trees to represent change over time and growth. This ceremony is held on a field ringed by trees planted on Arbor Day in years prior.

On Track Academy, Spokane, WA

On Track Academy in Spokane is a career-focused public high school. This year, through a partnership with the Pacific Education Institute, students explored correlations between Spokane’s tree canopy and socioeconomic data. They are uncovering where the greatest opportunities exist to address inequities, propose a solution to the city, and help guide where street trees will be planted in collaboration with community organizations.

Highland Park High School, Highland Park, IL

For their hands-on experience, Environmental Science students identified the species of trees all around the high school property and recorded their location with GPS. They worked in pairs in order to cover the entire campus ground. The Seek app was used to identify tree species, and the MyGPSCoordinate app helped them determine the latitude and longitude of the tree near the center of the trunk. They identified a variety of both native and nonnative species such as the native White Oak tree and the nonnative Japanese Maple.

Edmond North High School, Edmund, OK

Last year, environmental science students completed a campus tree inventory with the help of i-Tree software to calculate tree benefits, uncovering a projected $30,857 in benefits provided by 77 campus trees over the next 20 years. These students and members of the SUN club then coordinated with school operations staff to plan service projects involving the restoration of these valuable trees. These students plan to implement a Standards of Care plan to guide the nurturing of campus trees.

Borton Magnet Elementary, Tucson, AZ

Students, staff, volunteers, and arborists from the Department of Forestry and Fire Management performed a complete campus tree inventory and input the data into i-Tree to calculate the benefits of the campus trees. While the tree inventory is helpful for proper management and care, the bigger win is the opportunity for students to engage with professionals who work with trees as well as conservation-minded volunteers.

Wesley International Academy, Atlanta, GA

A partnership with Alliance for Community Trees member Trees Atlanta spurred Wesley International Academy’s commitment to the goals of Tree Campus K–12. All 4th grade students have four classes with Trees Atlanta. Topics include Urban Forest 101, Forest Products, Canopy Cooling Effect, and Urban Heat Islands.

Dogwood Elementary, Knoxville, TN

At Dogwood Elementary, students learn among the trees every day. As part of the Community School Initiative, Dogwood’s outdoor classrooms are community-driven and maintained through community partnerships. Additionally, the outdoor spaces of the campus are open every day to any child. Their commitment to trees even earned the school’s arboretum accreditation as a Level 1 arboretum through the Morton Register of Arboreta.

Platte County High School, Platte City, MO

At Platte County High School, the Tree Campus team has plans to set up an QR code system in the outdoor classroom. This system will allow students from all across the district to come to the classroom and learn about the types of trees present in the classroom — in an easy and effective way. Also, the Environmental class has committed to improving the planet through sustainable practices, and lesson plans were created to educate classmates and teachers on the importance of eco-friendly and nature-conscious living.

It’s exciting to see how each school’s experiences are tailored to the students and community. It’s also pretty cool to watch students of all ages develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world. Congratulations to the nine founding schools!

Planning for Tomorrow

As the Tree Campus K–12 program grows, we hope to help shape a deeper understanding of trees and conservation in the future caretakers of our planet. If you know a K–12 school that deserves recognition for connecting students to trees, encourage them to check out the program website or contact us at k-12@arborday.org and start the journey to applying for recognition in Spring 2022.