Westfield Friend School third grade teacher, Patricia Lyons, of Moorestown scans the tree tags affixed to the school’s trees to learn about the various species of trees on campus on Wednesday, July 6. Lyons received a grant from the Friends Council of Education, which enabled her students to create the school’s Tree Walk.
Moorestown teacher and students at Westfield Friends School created a “Tree Walk,” using a series of horticultural tags, that when scanned have students deliver information about the tree.
Moorestown resident and third grade teacher, Patricia Lyons, was joining her husband on a sabbatical in London during the 2015–2016 school year where she often spent her time visiting botanical gardens. While taking in the trees at Kew Gardens one day, inspiration struck. Lyons, a third grade teacher at Westfield Friends School in Cinnaminson, got to wondering how she could get her students identifying and tagging the numerous trees around campus. When she returned stateside, Lyons applied for and received a grant from the Friends Council on Education to bring her idea to life. With that began a year-long lesson on horticulture and tree stewardship for her students, which culminated in the creation of the school’s “Tree Walk,” a series of horticultural tags affixed to trees around campus that when scanned have Westfield students deliver information about the tagged tree with the walk open to the public throughout the summer months.
In September, students in third through sixth grade each “adopted” a tree to learn about. Students created a tree’s biography using field guides. Lyons said in addition to completing math lessons in measurement and estimation, students were inspired during the year-long focus to write poetry and create artwork with nature as the theme. Lyons said she was discussing her QR tag idea with her daughter who suggested having students recite the information for the tags would make it truly a Westfield project.
“This project seemed a perfect fit for the students at Westfield, since we encourage them to be stewards of their natural world and make decisions that help not harm the planet,” Lyons said. After contacting a company that makes horticultural tags for botanical gardens, Lyons, along with the help of her fellow teachers, got to work having students record their trees’ biographies for the tags. Each recording ranges between 45 seconds and one minute and can be accessed using any QR tag scanning app. Lyons said her students were more than happy to record their trees’ tags at the end of the school year.
Third grader, Kieran Barasch said he enjoyed learning about his adopted tree the European larch. He said had it not been for the project, he wouldn’t have learned so much about the trees on campus. “I think it’s really cool how technology has advanced so much,” Barasch said. “I think it was a great idea to put the QR codes on the trees.” At the end of the school year, the entire third grade class assembled a book about how trees communicate through their roots, with every student in the class illustrating it. Barasch said he was happy that each student got a copy to take home to remember the project.
As a result of the Tree Walk, some of the trees on Westfield’s campus will be submitted to the Champion Big Tree Registry in New Jersey to see if they can earn champion status. Students measured circumference, crown diameter and estimated tree height to submit their trees, Lyons said. The tags will remain on Westfield’s campus for the foreseeable future, and Lyons said she’s more than happy to share her tag idea with schools in the surrounding area. She said in speaking with members of Moorestown’s Shade Tree Commission during their Arbor Day festivities, they expressed interest in her project and talked about bringing something similar to Moorestown’s trees. For her, the goal was to promote scientific research while giving students a heightened awareness of natural resources. “To me, that’s really what brought the project to life,” Lyons said. “Getting kids excited by the science behind it.”
The public can visit Westfield Friends School’s Tree Walk after school hours when school is in session, on weekends or throughout the summer months. To download a brochure on the Tree Walk, visit www.westfieldfriends.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=846313&type=d&pREC_ID=1227395
Artist, educator, conservationist, and gardener envisions people becoming better connected with their outdoor experiences in public gardens.