Caring for the Trees – Part 2

Posted on January 19, 2010

In preparation for Tu B’Shevat, I am pleased to present you with part two of Caring for the Trees which include concrete activity suggestions and websites that can help you make Tu B’Shevat more meaningful for you, your family, students and community. In part one, we had a values discussion, background information and relevant Jewish texts to help you address Tu B’Shevat.

Have a community-wide tree planting party. Encourage community members to plant new trees in their backyards or at a local synagogue, school or park and arrange tree planting parties so that those who do not have space for an extra tree can help with the process. If possible, find a local nursery that is willing to offset part of the cost of each tree and host a ceremony to honor all participants.
Suggested Age: Elementary School +

Donate a tree in Israel in honor of someone special. Since your local environment benefits from trees planted all around the world, this is the perfect opportunity to help beautify and restore Israel. Encourage your family, friends and colleagues to join in your efforts by setting up a contest to see who can donate the most trees in Israel. Find out how students can raise money towards a trip to Israel by planting trees through the Jewish National Fund’s Plant Your Way to Israel program. Planting Your Way to Israel is a great way to offset the carbon footprint of your flight to Israel.

Invite a local expert to speak on taking care of community trees. Educate your community on what types of trees are indigenous to the area and how to care for them: How to recognize potential health issues, when to prune them and what species will thrive locally. Follow up by inviting community members to adopt local trees that they are willing to take responsibility for.
Suggested Age: Middle School +

Adopt a local tree. Encourage families and students to adopt trees on the school or synagogue premises. They can be responsible for keeping a journal of the tree’s health. This will teach them that trees must be cared for once they are planted, and will give them a sense of personal responsibility toward a specific tree. It will bring the concepts they have been learning about into their immediate world. Create adoption certificates for each participant to excite participants about their new responsibility.
Suggested Age: Elementary School +

Host a community-wide viewing of The Lorax. The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, is the story of how an industrialist single-handedly destroys an entire forest. Invite the community to watch the cartoon version of this enlightening story and follow-up with a discussion on the importance of protecting our trees or a community-wide tree drive.
Suggested Age: Elementary School +

Volunteer at a local park or forest. Contact a local park ranger to find out how you can help sustain the trees in your area. Inquire whether or not you are able to help care for the trees and ask how your help may be needed to advocate on their behalf in the local community.
Suggested Age: Middle School +

Raise money to protect an endangered rainforest. Have community members hold a fundraiser (i.e. a raffle with prizes such as a bicycle to promote environmentally healthy transportation, gardening tools, trees planted in Israel, etc.; or a bake-a-thon which uses organic ingredients) and use all proceeds to protect the trees in an endangered rainforest.
Suggested age: Elementary School +

Lobby for our forests. Research bills in Congress that protect national forests from loggers and developers. Have students send letters to their Congressman asking them to vote for the bill. Follow up by keeping the community updated about the status of these bills.
Suggested Age: Middle School +

Selected Related Websites:

Arbor Day Foundation – Provides a vast array of information and resources including a preschool curriculum, elementary school-level activities, tree identification tips and tree-care guides.

Center for Ecosystem Survival – Protect biodiversity by adopting an acre in a rainforest or a coral reef. This organization provides downloadable resource material and sells a slide set and video to further support teachers.

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life – The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life provides resources to help synagogues and professionals increase their awareness of and participation in environmental activities. It also provides updates on public policy initiatives relating to the global warming.

Earthroots – Earthroots is a grassroot activist organization that works to protect wildlife in Ontario, Canada. They advocate on behalf of wildlife that is in danger and enable individuals to adopt trees in Ontario wilderness preserves.

Jewish National Fund – The JNF GoNeutral Program enables you to calculate your carbon emissions and encourages you to balance these emissions by planting trees in Israel. JNF also sell a set of “Trees in the Land of the Bible” posters that can be used to compare the ecosystem in Israel to your own.

Rainforest Alliance – The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. It provides resources on companies that exhibit responsible foresting and agricultural practices and enables individuals to adopt acres in rainforests.

Trees Are Good – This website, put out by the International Society of Arboriculture, strives to promote greater understanding of the benefits of trees. It includes dozens of interesting fun facts about trees and links to other useful resources.

Treelink – Provides links to local organizations that work to plant and sustain trees.

Treepeople – Treepeople educates children about the environment and trains and supports communities to plant and care for their trees. They have many tree-planting programs and provide resources on the benefits of planting trees, how to plant a tree and how to care for trees.

I welcome your feedback and hope that you use these resources to help engage your students, congregants and family.

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