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Top 10 Tips for LEAF

1.   Adopt-a-Forest for the School Year.

  • Contact your community or state forester to conduct a site walk to explore your school grounds or community forest.
  • Research and investigate a local forest ecosystem.  What types of plants and animals might you find on your school grounds or in a community forest?
  • Identify trees using the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Identification Field Guide.
  • Look for animal signs such as tracks, scat and animal rubbings on trees to help identify what animals are using the forested ecosystem.
  • Collect data on plant species in forests (trees, shrubs, grasses, ferns) over the school year to help students assess change and explore relationships.
  • Use GLOBE soil protocols to conduct soil studies to determine types of soil, moisture, micro-organisms.

2.   Explore a Forest Micro-Habitat such as rotting logs or the understory of a tree.

  • Identify what plants and animals are using these micro-habitats.
  • Determine how these micro-habitats contribute to the health of the full ecosystem.
  • Assess the biodiversity of these micro-habitats – determine overall health and productivity.
3.   Explore the concept of photosynthesis and determine what factors support healthy plant growth and what factors have a detrimental impact on plants.
  • Have students design experiments to test plant growth and photosynthesis on your school grounds or in your adopted forest.
  • Explore the concept of why leaves change color in the fall.
  • Determine ways to assess plant growth through the seasons – do trees still grow in the winter without their leaves?  What about evergreen trees.  Do they grow keep growing in the winter?

4.  Identify invasive plant species on your school grounds or in a local community forest.  

  • Contact your local native plant society or state Department of Forestry to find out which plants are invasive in your area.
  • Learn the appropriate way to remove invasive plants you are targeting, then plan school or community events to remove invasive plants.
  • Replace invasive and non-native plants with native trees and shrubs

5.  Learn how forests and trees are managed to produce wood products in your region.

  • Connect with your local County or Urban Forester to learn about forest products and where they come from.
  • With your local forester, visit a managed forested site – explore how foresters determine tree height, diameter and mark trees to be harvested.
  • Explore what sustainable forestry practices and certification means with groups like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

6. Participate in a forestry/tree citizen science project.

  • Check out scistarter for a variety of tree based citizen science projects.
  • Check out the Cornell Lab’s Citizen Science program that offers several projects to engage your students in recording bird observations on your school grounds or in remote forests to help document environmental change.
  • Quantify the structure of trees and forests in your community and the environmental benefits that trees provide with i-Tree.
    •    Observe how plants change over the seasons using Project Budburst and help scientists figure out how plant species are responding to climate change in your region.
  • Use GLOBE to track phenological changes, take biometric measurements, as well as soil and water quality tests for trees surrounding the school.

7. Explore where your water comes from and the role forests play in protecting our water.

  • Find out what your local watershed is.
  • Ask a member of your local watershed organization to come and speak to your students about forests and water quality.
  • Create a “watershed model” and experiment with different land cover and impacts on water quality.
  • Participate in a tree planting to reduce runoff in your community.

8.  Educate the school community about the importance of forests.

  • Ask someone from a local organization (such an urban forester or state department of Forests to give a presentation about forests for students.
  • Put up signs highlighting the different types of trees and animals that call your school grounds home.
  • Discuss with students how the forest and trees where they live differ from other forests and trees around the world and what plants and animals make it unique.
  • Create your own forest ecosystem in your school and have a forest celebration with school families.

9. Plant trees on your school grounds or in your community.

10.  Certify your School grounds under NWF’s Schoolyard Habitat Program.

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