This past Tuesday, HII -- along with thirty fourth graders from the Brooklyn Arbor School -- kicked off the 2016 season of Tree Care Tuesday. We stewarded trees along South 3rd street; picking up trash, weeding, aerating soil, mulching, and planting native species in the tree beds. The native species came from the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island, a super cool greenhouse and nursery complex that forages for and plants native seeds, so that when we plant tree beds in Brooklyn, we’re planting shrubs that belong in the ecosystem.
We asked the students and each other why we care about NYC street trees. Here’s what we came up with:
They provide oxygen, making the air cleaner and reducing the risk of asthma
They beautify the neighborhood
They provide shade on hot summer days
They soak up water, preventing the potentially harmful (and disgusting!) Combined Sewer Overflow
Along with the planting and stewardship, we ran two art activities: one visual, one literary. We wanted to do the physical work of keeping trees healthy and beautifying the community, but we also wanted to help the kids forge personal connections with the trees -- and creative agency is a great way to do that.
In one station, kids chose their favorite leaves and did crayon rubbings in rainbow colors. In another, they wrote their own poems inspired by Wallace Stevens’ 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, encouraging the students to pick a tree, plant, or spot in the park and to describe it in as many ways they could -- what it looked like, smelled like, felt like, reminded them of. One student wrote that the curly branches of the tree were like curly hair. Another named two worms and made up the story of their family.
Tree Care Tuesday continues every Tuesday this summer. We’d love for you to join us or donate to TCT -- we are always looking for extra help and extra hands! Please RSVP if you plan to come so we know how many people to expect.