The Forest Where We Live: The Series »»»Published: November 10, 2000

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  • This series is designed to help students.

Overview: Trees line our avenues, shade our schoolyards, provide links to our heritage, contribute to economics and serve as a basis of urban ecosystems. They provide us with oxygen, help filter the air, reduce temperatures, buffer the effects of wind, and contribute to our sense of well being. And while not meeting the generalized definition of forests, city trees occupy approximately seventy million acres of our nation’s landscape, a space they share with eighty percent of all Americans.

LESSON PLANS: Download the complete Teacher Guide here.


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This series is designed to help students:

  • become more aware of the forest ecosystems of which they are a part
  • develop skills necessary to establish and maintain healthy urban landscapes
  • become acquainted with urban forestry-related careers, and
  • become stewards of their home environments.


Program 1: Urban Forestry, What Is It?
Discover the field of urban forestry, which has risen in importance since the 1970s. Learn the difference between rural and urban forests and hear from some of the key people working in the field: municipal foresters, scientists, government leaders, university professors teaching forestry issues and average citizens working in volunteer and nonprofit organizations.
Activity: Close Encounters With a Tree

Program 2: The History of Urban Forestry
Discover that a 19th century conservation movement arose over concerns about deforestation and led to the creation of city parks, wildlife refuges and the U. S. Park Service. The post-World War II period set the stage for a new environmental movement concerned with rapid urbanization, highway expansion, and the devastating impact of Dutch Elm disease. See the establishment of a body of knowledge, policies and practices aimed at protecting and fostering urban forests.
Activity: Classroom Discussions

Program 3: Deforestation In America
Learn the dangers of not attending to urban forests. Uncoordinated development throughout the nation and the resulting deforestation have led to overheated cities, worsening air pollution, and flooding. Concerned citizens call attention to urban forests and the establishment of an ethic of land use to benefit the entire community.
Activity: What Effects do Trees Have on the Environment?
Optional Laboratory: Comparing Soil Temperatures in Sun and Shade

Program 4: The Science of Urban Forestry
See how urban forests affect climate, energy savings, air pollution, the potential for cost benefits, and psychological health. Scientists and foresters describe better ways to plan cities. Sociologists explain the psychological importance of trees in reducing stress and promoting harmony within inner city environments.
Activity: Drying Leaves
Activity: A Simple Clinometer
Activity: How Big is a Tree?
Optional Laboratory: Measuring Tree Heights
Activity: What's Happening Below the Surface?
Activity: How Old is a Tree

Program 5: And Who Shall Lead the Way?
Explore the debate over how to care for urban forests and who should assume the lead: government or nonprofit and private organizations? Cutbacks in government budgets have increasingly left the task to non-profits and private organizations. Viewers meet leaders of nonprofit organizations in Baton Rouge, Atlanta, New York, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.
Activity: How Fast Does this Tree Grow?
Activity: Planting a Tree and Helping It Grow
Activity: Establishing a School Arboretum or Tree Walk
Activity: Investigating a Built Community

Program 6: A Natural World
View how young people and communities unite through model programs to beautify urban areas, such as the Chicago “River Rats.” Meet citizens throughout the country—foresters, researchers, professors, and private citizens— who affirm the vital importance trees play in preserving quality of life and a sense of community.
Activity: Meet Your Forest

Healthy urban forests moderate temperature, reduce air pollution, reduce flooding, and allow people living in urban areas – representing 80% of the nation – to live calmer, less stressful lives.

Our environment is part of who we are.

Correlated to Standards & Guidelines

Note: Throughout the activities in this guide, students will be instructed to work in collaborative groups. Development of strong, cooperative teams is essential for successful completion not only of the unit activities, but also of the cumulative project. Rotation of job assignments and review of job descriptions may take extra time but will prove beneficial to team development.


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