Trees Forever Growing Futures Schools

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Trees Forever Inc.
City & State:
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement
To plant and care for trees and the environment by empowering people, building community, and promoting stewardship.

Submission Information

Impact Essay
Trees Forever is an environmental non-profit organization based in Marion, Iowa, with programs throughout Iowa and Illinois, and national educational efforts. Our mission is “to plant and care for trees and the environment by empowering people, building community and promoting stewardship.” A great example of “our mission in action” is a new program: Growing Futures Schools, for which the prototype has been developed at Vinton-Shellsburg High School in Vinton, Iowa. This project came about when a local Vinton couple, donating land for a new school, requested the building of an outdoor classroom as a condition of their gift. To accomplish this goal, Trees Forever organized a group of stakeholders and led a visioning process that included faculty, staff, and community members to design a campus that would serve as both an outdoor learning lab and community recreation area. An important part of the process has been developing materials to illustrate and explain the project visually. To accomplish this, Trees Forever used our donated Adobe InDesign software to create two concept boards, which include an aerial view of the site with the superimposed landscape plan, “before and after” image edits, and explanatory text. People viewing the boards can quickly see the layout of the classroom, how certain components of the landscape will look after planting, the benefits and features of the plan, and the phases during which this multi-year project will be developed. On October 17, 2008, a tree-planting event marked the official kick-off of Growing Futures Schools. The event enjoyed good attendance and excellent media coverage. The availability of the concept boards on display played an important part in explaining this project—designed to serve as a national model for outdoor classrooms—greatly enhancing the understanding of a rather complex project for all those in attendance. The boards also helped tremendously with fundraising for the project. Recently, the plan was featured in a national “Ag Mag” on trees and green careers. A condensed version of the boards continues to play a crucial role in educating the public about this project with such an important environmental impact, helping to engage volunteer help and community support. Recently the project was selected out of literally thousands of projects as one of Trees Forever’s top 20 projects over its 20-year history. To date, 590 trees and 70 shrubs have been planted on the site, with almost 100 volunteers involved in the project, contributing over 3,700 hours. Volunteers included students, Pheasants Forever representatives, residents, and, especially, 11 hard-working AmeriCorps members. We strongly believe that the range and number of individuals involved in the project have been increased by the use of the concept boards. They were recently displayed at the Iowa Chapter-American Society of Landscape Architects’ spring conference where they received very positive comments and generated discussion as to the possibilities of working with additional schools. Going forward with the next phases of Growing Futures Schools, these illustrations will educate a wider audience about a nationally replicable project while continuing to inspire the local community.
Submission Category
Environmental Impact Print/Photo