Friends of Trees Plants Hope for Community

Friends of Trees Plants Hope for Community

Portland, OR. Despite shelter-in-place, Friends of Trees (FOT) managed to finish its planting season in neighborhoods and urban green spaces in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Staffers like Tyler Rise (pictured above) are keeping things moving, but o
perations are quite different than usual because the typical neighborhood volunteers are not allowed to work.  

A pod from the Northwest Youth Corp, a roving group that does summer maintenance, helped plant trees in Forest Park. The planting season lasts from November to April, so thankfully the COVID-19 pandemic did not hit until near the end of the season.

Friends of Trees relied heavily on staff and trained crew-lead volunteers to finish projects by themselves. Trained individuals are continuing typical summer operations by surveying trees that were planted earlier in the year. These volunteers mulch and prune the trees as needed.

Friends of Trees’ impact in 2019

The benefits of trees

Future operations will look much different than normal. Interim Executive Director Whitney Dorer predicts that more plantings with fewer people will take place in order to prevent larger groups from congregating. The attendance of past planting events has reached over 250 people. Unfortunately, the traditional post-planting potlucks will be put on hold. Friends of Trees focuses not just on the environment but also on the community. 

“It will take a lot of creativity on the part of our team of our supports and volunteers to find new ways to engage community while we are still planting trees throughout the city and in natural areas,” said Dorer. “We are just going to have to work with whatever is given in terms of social distancing guidelines.” 

A volunteer shows her love for nature during a winter planting session pre-COVID

Friends of Trees is remaining active on social media. Short, educational videos on different trees have been put together by various FOT staff. In the spirit of community, every Thursday, a staff member is introduced on the FOT Instagram. Introductions include name, pronouns, position, favorite tree(s), favorite potluck food, and hobbies. Corporate and Business Relations Specialist Sam Erman even included his favorite hummus recipe. 

In this time of isolation, Friends of Trees recognizes the growing importance of community building while remaining safe.  

From Friends of Trees:
We bring people together. Inspiring our community members to plant, care for, and learn about trees is key to our mission. We welcome individuals, families, and businesses throughout western Oregon and SW Washington to help restore and beautify our region. Friends of Trees recognizes that not everyone has equal access to the benefits of trees. As we work to remedy that, we strive to be a welcoming and safe place for everyone, regardless of age, ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, political views, or economic status. Without our volunteers, we are nothing. But together, we do amazing things. 

Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors… and at Home

Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors… and at Home

Portland, OR. When shelter-in-place went into effect in March, Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors’ (ECO’s) programs shut down immediately. Classes and service trips, like the planting pictured above, were canceled (photo credit, Wasim Muklashy Photography). ECO is a nonprofit focused on educating the younger generation about the environment through hands-on experiences. Coincidentally, ECO was already exploring online programming. 

In order to reach more rural areas of Oregon, ECO began developing and implementing online learning materials prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Known as Place-Based Units (PBUs), these programs are customized for different schools. Where ECO Educators would typically go to learning sites, this allows programs to reach areas that were not as easily accessible. Free resources can be found on the ECO website to continue environmental education from home. 

Before facing the effects of COVID-19, students search for frog and salamander eggs while monitoring the wetlands.

One child’s response to ECO’s “Dear Nature” reflection activity

Children who are under-privileged are of special focus to ECO. It has been found that people of color and those with lower income are more affected by environmental injustice. For example, according to the National Conference for Community and Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11.2% of African American children and 4% of Mexican American children suffer from lead poisoning, where only 2.3% of white children are affected. 

ECO was founded in 2005 by two women, Sarah Woods and Bethany Shetterly Thomas. All ECO educators happen to also be female, providing role models for young girls interested in STEM. 

In February 2020, ECO received the Impact Award in Environment & Sustainability from Ninety-Nine Girlfriends. The mission of Ninety-Nine Girlfriends is as follows: “We are an inclusive women’s collective giving organization that provides opportunities for learning and grant-making to engage local women in our community. We strive for impact by making significant grants and becoming more informed and engaged philanthropists.” The impact award came with a $100,000 grant. 

Students use movement to learn about leaf arrangement pre-pandemic.

A portion of this grant went to creating a new initiative known as Climate Action Education. According to Operations Manager Reade Weber, such a program was requested by students and teachers alike who wanted to know what they could do to fight the environmental issues they were learning about. Made of actionable steps the youth can take, the Climate Action Education program is made up of three lessons: Climate Science and Solutions, Green Jobs, and Consumption and Waste. 

Directed toward all grades K-12, ECO hopes to relate to youth in a way they can understand, empowering students to create change. 

From Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors: 

ECO inspires students to care for nature through innovative, hands-on science education. All our content is developed in-house by our team of outstanding educators, who draw from their STEM degrees and experiences as field scientists, park rangers, and environmental educators around the country. For over 15 years, ECO has implemented these lessons in classrooms and on trails, and empowered thousands of students to become the scientists and change-makers of the future. ECO prioritizes reaching low-income and minority students at under-resourced schools as these students are most impacted by environmental injustice.  Together with Ninety-Nine Girlfriends, ECO is working to equitably integrate ecology education into science curriculum in Oregon.