Education is the most critically important tool in enabling humankind to survive in all sorts of environments and circumstances. The United Nations Education Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) backs this idea by asking all UN member states to stand firm in supporting children to go to school so that they can become active participants of transformation in their societies. The organization adds that by providing quality, relevant and inclusive education to all human races and ethnicity, the world would arrive at its peak much earlier than expected and provide a binding instrument for a fair living planet.
Also, it has been documented that children learn better when they are surrounded by nature, so enriching their environment with trees and flowers will enable them to become better students.
We at Amara together with Purdue University have been involving kids in tree planting sessions. The project greatly raises awareness on the importance of trees and shrubs. We know that the best way to inspire a love for nature is to start teaching it at a young age. By having students learn every aspect of tree planting and care, from choosing a species to harvesting viable seeds to putting them in the ground and everything in between, it becomes second nature to them.
The kids of Mariwenyi Primary School learned how to plant and care for trees. And now they understand why the practices we taught them are important to our well-being. By having high school students teach what they learned to the preschoolers, they not only become advocates, but, they get to experience the wonder and delight of a child’s view, which strengthens their own experience. Most did not understand why caring for trees before, during, and after they are planted leads to healthy trees. It prompted opportunities for real learning, like explaining that we can’t just throw a tree or shrub in the ground and walk away. We had to emphasize that planting a tree in a dry and settled environment is not the same as a tree growing in a forest and that a tremendous amount of care is needed.
Planting trees and gardens at schools helps beautify the community and schools. The newly grown trees will clean the air. They will clean the water runoff from the buildings with their roots. They not only enrich the students and residents’ lives, they enrich the earth that they now inhabit. As the gardens start to flower, they will attract bees, birds, and butterflies — all of which we need to pollinate food gardens in the community.
The scenery will bring an aura of peace to the area. Personally, it eases my soul to watch the birds, insects, and wildlife flit among the trees and flowers. If I feel stress from the outside world, I go into nature to quiet my mind and bring me to a place of serenity. So, I imagine that for the high school students who are under great pressure, bringing nature to them is a relief. To now be surrounded by greenery, singing birds, and blooming flowers than before it was a barren concrete landscape.
One of the most rewarding parts of the project was that even though it was about education, no one had to teach the preschool children to be happy about trees. They understand that to the core of their being. Watching them dance, hug, and sing to the trees was delightful beyond measure. To bear witness that kind of joy and appreciation was the best part of the whole experience.