Tree ID Textile Wraps
It was our goal to first improve our own knowledge about Biodiversity and the role of Urban Forests and then to take leadership in developing a greater appreciation for the trees on our school property. In the fall we lost one of our very old, majestic Silver Maples. As a school community we were saddened by the loss of this tree. We collected and pressed some of the leaves and small twigs to incorporate into art work.
We found that many students, regardless of their age, struggled to distinguish the species of trees onsite. We have approximately 60 trees on site and approximately 12 species. The younger students could name and describe a variety of Pokemon creatures by appearance and characteristics, however, they could not distinguish between trees, other than Maple, in the schoolyard. When surveyed we found that the majority of trees were simply called ‘tree’ or given a human nickname by the students. We hope to help younger students become tree detectives and learn the names and characteristics of different trees in our area. We hope to inspire conversations between parents/guardians, children, youth, staff, community members who use the space on weekends and evenings and the daycare that also shares our outdoor spaces.
First we expanded our knowledge of local tree identification skills, during different seasons. We researched local tree species using field guides from the University of Guelph Arboretum and other tree identification books and cards that we purchased with the grant. One of the tree ID sheets from the Guelph Arboretum included names in English, French and Anishnabemowin. The LSF Youth Forum was also beneficial with the focus on Urban Forests and Parks Canada and Climate Action. We sketched many of the trees in the school yard and helped younger students make tree bark rubbings and identify the trees by their bark before there were new buds or leaves on them. Then we observed the new buds, the young leaves, and seed pods. We traced leaves, identified them and integrated them into our artwork. We also took our math lessons outside and applied our measurement and area lessons to calculate the area that we would need for our various tree wraps and to determine whether we had enough fabric or would need to combine some fabrics into our designs. We also looked at an outdated tree map for our school and communicated with a forester who works at our board. We are committed to helping them to update our school site tree map. We also communicated with Toronto Forest Health staff.
For this project the Grade 6B students have been learning embroidery, basic hand and machine sewing, traditional rug hooking, nature weaving and needle felting. The students developed confidence and peer mentoring skills as they helped each other learn new techniques. They repurposed and upcycled many materials, including small fabric scraps from a local textile artist, old clothing from students in our class and craft supplies from neighbourhood seniors. We cut up old stained t-shirts for rug hooking yarn and cut up old denim and cotton pants for sewing our wraps. We borrowed sewing machines and embroidery hoops, bought an iron from a thrift shop and purchased a weaving loom and additional supplies. We spoke about how hand sewing skills and upcycling help with sustainable living choices and taking action to repair and repurpose rather than replace. The students’ new textile skills were then used to create a variety of tree ID wraps, which we hope will serve as conversation starters between students and families over the summer and fall months and will in turn foster a greater understanding of the value of the Urban Forest and the importance of identification skills.
It is our hope that this project will help to foster curiosity through hand made textiles and student led tree tours.
Reflection & Celebration
We will celebrate our place based learning project and the work that we did on our Tree ID Textile installations at the end of June with a picnic and day amongst the trees in High Park. We have also been celebrating the many positive messages that we have been receiving from our community about our LSF education project. It has been especially encouraging to see the excitement and wonder in the younger students when they see our tree textiles in the school yards.