Kirstenbosch celebrates Arbor Week with "Forests for People" theme

20 September 2011

Learners pot a young tree into a bag to take back to school"Forests for People" was the theme celebrated during Arbor Week this year  (2011). The Kirstenbosch Biodiversity Education Programme followed a tradition dating back to 1872, when it celebrated Arbor Week between the 1st and 9th September this year.

History of Arbor Week

In 1872 Mr J Sterling Morton, of the United States territory of Nebraska, persuaded his local agricultural board to set aside a day for planting trees. He also, from his position as editor of a newspaper, encouraged public participation in the event by publishing articles on the value of trees for soil protection, fruit, shade and building. Apparently a million trees were planted on that first Arbor Day.

ACSA staff and learners plant trees at Noluthando School for SkillsThe importance of trees

Arbor Day was first celebrated in South Africa In 1983 and has gone from strength to strength since then, expanding to a full week, with citizens all over South Africa planting trees. Trees are appreciated not only as a source of building materials, food and medicine, but also for their scenic beauty and as a contributor to the health and well-being of communities. As awareness of Global Warming and Climate Change has increased, so too has the knowledge that trees not only provide us with oxygen, but also act as carbon sinks for much of the carbon dioxide produced by our everyday activities.

Trees planted at schools

The Kirstenbosch Outreach Greening team partnered with Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) to plant 20 trees and 60m² of indigenous garden at the autism unit of Noluthando School for Skills in Khayelitsha. ACSA also supported the team in the planting of 20 trees at Imperial Primary in Beacon Valley. SANLAM donated bone meal and compost which was used in the planting of 25 trees at Rainbow Primary in Wesbank. The SANBI team, led by Benjamin Festus, as well as the learners and ACSA employees, took part in the greening of their school grounds.

Doing the photosynthesis jive in the forestArbor Week lessons at Kirstenbosch

529 learners, of all ages, attended Arbor Week lessons in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in 2011. They had time to enjoy the forest, listening to sounds and observing habitats and the various organisms that interact in the forest. It was a real wake up call to discover how well a forest ecosystem provides services for all that live in it - and how easily the fragile links can be broken down, often by the actions of humans. As part of the commitment to valuing and conserving our trees and forests, all learners planted or potted a tree seed, seedling or sapling. These were taken back to school to be nurtured there until they are big enough to be planted out in the school grounds.

After the various greening activities, educators commented how much the learners enjoyed getting their hands dirty with the soil and being responsible for the planting of a seed or young tree. Educators also commented on the many links to the school curriculum and the well planned activities which the learners found enjoyable, as they were always involved. They felt a positive awareness of the environment had been created and the importance of plants realized. One young learner was heard to say: "This was the best outing ever!", while an older one remarked on how peaceful it was in a forest.

Eskom employees enjoy their excursion to KirstenboschPartners supporting Arbor Week

SANBI values the partnerships which assisted some groups to attend lessons in Kirstenbosch during this week:These included ESKOM, who not only funded a school to attend, but also ran their own environmental awareness competition, based around the Arbor Week theme, for their staff. The winners, from all over the Western and Northern Cape, were treated to a trip to Cape Town and a full morning of learning and fun in the Garden, led by Almuth Delius. Their Arbor theme focused on Global Warming and how to reduce our carbon footprint through lower carbon emissions.Both the City of Cape Town's YES programme and Shaheed Ebrahim of Escape to the Cape Tours also provided funding to bring learners from historically disadvantaged areas of Cape Town to the Arbor programme.

We are grateful to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for their generous donation of trees. Each school that came to Kirstenbosch, was given 5 mature trees to plant in their school grounds, with the advice and assistance of the Gold Fields Centre team.

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