Lori Byrd, a ForestNation Ambassador in Tennessee, talks about her Tree workshop in a local school.
What makes you so passionate about trees?
I was born outside Knoxville, Tennessee, and was very close to my grandfather, who worked for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As a child I heard lots of stories about the mountains and the different trees species here. When I was four years old, my grandfather and I planted my first tree, a beautiful red maple. Last year I went to visit their old house and I saw the tree had been cut down. Other people might have said, “Oh, it’s just a tree,” but for me it was like a childhood friend. When I was young I spent most of my time playing in that yard and under that tree, so I was pretty heartbroken. I wanted to plant a new tree in honor of my grandfather’s memory so I could watch it grow all over again. Andrew Pothecary, ForestNation’s founder and CEO, actually sent me a red maple tree for my birthday in April. He knew how much that tree would mean to me. My work with ForestNation makes me appreciate where I’m from. I can’t imagine living somewhere without trees to climb and play under and look at.
How did you get involved with the school?
My cousin had a daughter at Maryville Christian School, so when her 2nd grade class began learning about plants they invited me to come speak. Mrs. Damron’s class studied photosynthesis, how trees grow, and completed tree projects all week leading up to my workshop.
Tell me about the workshop.
I brought a sprouted tree with me and talked about how trees grow. In addition to the sprouted tree, I had bought tree kits, herb kits and wildflower kits so each student would have something to grow and plant, whether they had yard space or not. They were so excited when I explained that, if they register their tree, herb or wildflower kits, ForestNation would plant a tree for them in a developing country. “We’re going to get our own tree?!” one student exclaimed. We discussed some of the different types of trees and the roles they play. I showed them a picture of what the red maple tree would look like fully grown so of course they all wanted red maples after that.
How did the students react?
The students were so enthusiastic that they wanted to tell me all about what they’d learned so far. They started explaining to me how trees are homes for certain animals and how it’s important to replace the trees we use for things like building houses. They also wanted to hear about where their matching trees would be planted, which at the time was Tanzania.
One little girl said she wanted to plant a tree that she could climb. At the time she had a broken arm and I had to wonder if she’d climbed one too many trees already! I explained to her that by the time the tree is big enough to climb she’ll probably be an adult. But she was happy to hear that her children and grandchildren would be able climb on the same tree that she planted. A tree kit is a gift that keeps giving for years and years to come.
Do you have recommendations for future workshops?
I think it’s great to have the students complete a project leading up to the workshop. It introduces them to the topic and gives them something to talk about during the visit. The very first tree project I did was with a school fundraiser in Boston, who had already sold over 100 tree kits. I asked the students to write a paper on the importance of trees and the winner got an iTunes gift card. They seemed to really get into it and I still have their wonderful essays to this day.
How can others get involved?
It’s important to drive the students towards the ForestNation website where they can name their tree, register it, post pictures, and get engaged through social media. Really, anything that will get them out planting and spreading the word about the importance of trees. Get people involved, get their hands dirty, get their hands in the dirt! Tree kits are also a great, personal gift for long-distance friends and relatives, since we can ship them anywhere in the world. And of course every time you give the gift of a registered tree kit, ForestNation plants a matching tree as well.
During my visit to Maryville I also learned that the school was in need of a new roof for its gym. So I explained a little bit about how schools can use ForestNation for fundraising. The kids were excited about getting to sell tree kits and about raising money for their school (and getting more trees planted!) They hope to start fundraising with ForestNation this Fall.
School Fundraising opportunities
Did you know that schools anywhere in the world can fundraise with ForestNation? Not only are tree kits the greenest school fundraiser ever, they provide a socially responsible and sustainable learning activity. Schools also get a dedicated fundraising page with customized information about their school and the importance of the fundraiser.
Tree Kits Sales are a Win-Win-Win
- Students get to learn about the environment while encouraging others to grow their own trees, knowing they’ve had a positive impact on their school.
- Community members “Pledge to Plant” using the provided fundraising forms to pre-order their tree kits. They get the satisfaction of watching that tree grow, knowing they helped their local school and the planet.
- Our planet is the biggest beneficiary of tree kit fundraising of course! For each tree kit sold, ForestNation plants a matching tree in a developing country.