Magazine article American Forests

Kids Count: One, Two, Tree

Magazine article American Forests

Kids Count: One, Two, Tree

Article excerpt


"The local public works department is very excited about the work we have done and would like to see it expanded," says Lyn Malone, whose 8th grade world geography class in Barrington, Rhode Island, recently completed an analysis of the school's tree canopy using AMERICAN FORESTS' CITYgreen computer software.

The idea for the project came in 1999 when the state began requiring cities and towns to include an urban and community forestry component in their state-mandated comprehensive plans. Malone says she knew most Rhode Island communities were totally unprepared to meet this new state requirement. Without an inventory of their current tree resources, Rhode Island's cities and towns could not begin longterm planning.

She and another Barrington Middle School colleague, science teacher Jim Kaczynski, began brainstorming education plans that could help fill this arboreal void.

"I wanted something that was interdisciplinary and I really wanted the project to serve as a community service," Malone says. She was familiar with CITYgreen from previous work with GIS software developer ESRI and from a GIS Institute for Teachers that she had attended. CITYgreen uses aerial photography and tree inventories to map and measure tree canopies and calculate the environmental and economic benefits trees provide.

Malone and Kaczynski thought CITYgreen would be the perfect tool. The National Geographic Society Education Foundation agreed, awarding their Project One, Two, Tree a $25,000 grant over two years. ESRI also donated $25,000 worth of its ArcView GIS software to the project. The teachers launched the program last fall with 80 8th-graders, and the students soon were inventorying the school's tree canopy and using CITYgreen to analyze and interpret data and create maps. With the project complete and a full-color report prepared, Malone's students presented their detailed study to administrators and local officials.

"The kids realized they are involved in something important," says Malone.

The project combined students' skills in math, biology, and other subject areas. "It [also] served as a vehicle to raise students' environmental awareness," she says. "They saw firsthand the importance of the data and important role of trees. In addition, the project is creating more informed decisionmakers for the future because the students are learning the importance of long-term planning.

"The students also became more conscious of dying trees that might be dangerous to passersby, which made the students more aware of their surroundings," Malone adds. …

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