Students explore trees in ‘Growing Works of Art’ contest

By Dorothy Pellett
Burlington, VT (February 19, 2011)- Trees stand stern, not appearing particularly inviting this time of year. But take a closer look, and you might find a friendly face for…furry fauna? Crawling critters? Food foragers? And perhaps for you?

Children who enter the Growing Works of Art contest, sponsored by Vermont’s Urban and Community Forestry program, will look for the answers. Each student’s answers will be different from the others, because each chosen tree is unique, and each student’s curiosity prompts different questions. The contest, with a submission deadline of March 15, invites Vermont students in first through eighth grade to create an original piece of art in pen, pencil, crayon, pastels, paint, cloth, collage, photography or computer art.
The subject of the art would be one kind of tree of the student’s choice. It need not be one of our most familiar trees, such as the maple or the oak, but if it is, the specific name such as red maple or sugar maple should be included. It’s also an opportunity to identify and become acquainted with a tree they have seen but might not know well, organizers say.
More than 100 species of trees grow in Vermont. Each needs certain combinations of soil, sun, water and nutrients to grow, so we find them in various environments across the state. Lawrence Hamilton of Charlotte has spent half a century working with trees. A former professor of forest conservation at Cornell University who has helped protect forests on several continents, Hamilton said the art contest will be a great learning tool for kids. “This is a much-more-focused and desirable opportunity than, for example, having students prepare a poster on the general topic,” he said. “There is much more learning involved.”
Tree learning
Students in Judy Elson’s fifth-grade classes at Ferrisburgh Central School this year adopted trees near the school, visited them monthly and recorded their observations, enhanced by writing poems and making tissue-paper collages in the classroom. Elson said the art contest would coordinate well with their next forest-study units. She and other teachers have planned a project for the contest: a photo collage done on the computer. “It’s going to be lots of fun for the kids to integrate art and technology,” Elson said.
Many schools include tree and forest studies in their curricula. The art contest could provide teachers with an opportunity to help students meet standards and grade-level expectations in writing, natural resources and agriculture when the educators expand tree activities beyond art. A list of the specific standards is included in the activity guide for the Growing Works of Art contest. In preparation for the contest, students might share ideas about their favorite trees and what they like about them; how trees benefit animals and us; or trees they think more people would like to know about.
When they submit their artwork, they will include answers to five questions that they have composed, telling five distinctive things about the species of tree that is the subject of their art. Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator Danielle Fitzko suggests some questions to consider: Where will you find the tree growing in Vermont? What might live in it? How would people use it? Who might eat it, and what parts? How old could it grow? Contest-winning art will be pictured on tree trading cards as part of a new Forestry Passport program to be unveiled in March by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
The trading cards will showcase the work of eight students (one per grade) and eight of Vermont’s trees. Students may collect the whole forest on cards as they complete the passport program. At Vermont’s Arbor Day celebration May 6 in Montpelier, the eight art-contest winners will be recognized and receive a Vermont State Parks season pass, worth $80, and other gifts. Fitzko said the state contest and Forest Passport activities replace previous years’ Arbor Day poster contest.

Related Resources:

Burlington Free Press- Students explore trees in ‘Growing Works of Art’ contest

Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program