Evan Barnard, Student, Johns Creek, Georgia, High School

Research indicates that visually impaired individuals often find themselves on the perimeter of activities that sighted individuals enjoy, leading to lower than average rates of time spent in nature.

Education8bYet trees provide unique sensory experiences for the visually impaired – the textures and patterns of bark, the shapes and sizes of leaves, the unique routes carved out by roots, and the interesting paths taken by branches. An opportunity existed.  How do we get the visually impaired out in nature, enjoying trees?

Evan Barnard, a 16 year-old junior at Johns Creek, Georgia, High School, answered the call. He began work on a Braille trail — a nature trail with Braille signage and guide ropes to improve access for the visually impaired.

Evan attended a Georgia Council of the Blind meeting and invited members to experience the trail. He quickly found himself with a group of enthusiastic volunteers.

Education2b1Soon, interest in Evan’s work grew – a story appeared on the international Braille blog and he was contacted from across the nation about establishing Braille trails.

One day, standing near the Gwinnett, Georgia, Environmental and Heritage Center, Evan heard the breeze whispering in the woods, and decided the name for a new trail — Whispering Woods Braille Trail. Construction started on Global Youth Service Day.

The ability for the visually impaired to walk freely along the trail is a unique opportunity for those usually unable to enjoy the forest.  Georgia Council of the Blind members experienced the trail and provided suggestions.

Education7fThe experience was moving. One participant commented on how long it had been since he had been in nature and connected with trees, and how much it meant to him. This life-altering experience would not have been possible were it not for Evan Barnard.

Evan is sharing his work with legislators and others, and as a participant in TEDx Global Youth Day — a series of events all around the world designed to empower and inspire young people.

For determination and innovation in increasing nature access for the visually impaired, Evan Barnard is the recipient of the 2015 Award for Education Innovation. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

John Royster, Landscape Architect – Omaha, Nebraska

Enersen1bJohn Royster has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to serving his community as a tree planter, promoter and protector. One of John’s childhood memories is of his interest in the conservation projects on his grandfather’s farms. John built on this interest by helping care for trees as a Cub Scout. Later, as a college student, he served as a park ranger engaged in planting projects. John eventually earned a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Kansas State University.

During his 30 year career as a landscape architect, John Royster has been committed to conservation.  By focusing on trees, one site at a time, John has made a profound impact on the Omaha region and beyond.  He’s made public engagement a priority, providing a platform to educate people about the importance of their actions to environmental quality.

In 1989, John worked with the Arbor Day Foundation to develop the site plan for the development of Arbor Day Farm, which served as the roadmap for this National Historic Landmark.

John has worked with several nonprofits, such as Girls Incorporated of Omaha, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Omaha by Design, and the Arbor Day Foundation, among others. John has never been afraid of getting his hands dirty. If a planting project needs to be done and John is around, you’ll likely find him in the thick of it.

Omaha-DowntownFor nearly a decade, John worked with Omaha by Design — an urban design and environmental nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Omaha’s economic development potential by improving the quality of its physical environment as an avenue to a better quality-of-life. John served as a voice for trees and conservation as a way to attract people to — and keep people in – Omaha, a Tree City USA community.

Connie Spellman, Director, Omaha by Design, said, “John’s enduring respect for the natural environment is evident in every project he touches. His passion for sustainable design helped us develop the tenets to which we remain committed a decade later.”

For his lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation leadership in greater Omaha, John Royster is the recipient of the 2015 Lawrence Enersen Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Award for Education Innovation

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Award for Education Innovation—Delaware Center for Horticulture:

The Award for Education Innovation recognizes innovative education programs that successfully introduce and teach their audience the importance of trees and serve as an inspiration for future environmental stewards.

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Jen Bruhler of the Delaware Center for Horticulture plants a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

The Delaware Center for Horticulture believed that combining job training with tree planting helps not only individuals, but the community at large. That philosophy lead to the launch of the Return to Work Green Jobs Program in 2009. What started as an education program to employ ex-offenders to plant trees has now grown to become a meaningful life changing model, transforming both lives and communities.Since its inception, dozens of men and women have received classroom and field training focusing on urban forestry, urban agriculture and public landscapes and have been gainfully employed.

A recent program graduate shared:

“Coming from prison, to working with trees, to be honest with you… trees saved my life. I’ve seen the other side, and it was very rewarding to have the opportunity to work with the staff at the Delaware Center for Horticulture.  The staff there gave me a new view not just on trees, but also on people.  This program gave me the tools to work in my neighborhood, and finding out about these different lifestyles gave me the vision to want to do something better with my life.”

The Return to Work Green program demonstrates firsthand the lasting impact a tree planting can have in restoring hope where it is needed most.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Public Awareness of Trees Award

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Public Awareness of Trees Award—American Chestnut Foundation:

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Bryan Burhans from the American Chestnut Foundation plants a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

The Public Awareness of Trees award is presented to an organization or individual whose innovative work elevates the public awareness and understanding of the importance of trees.

The American Chestnut tree comprised more than 200 million acres of eastern woodlands up until the first half of the 20th century when the chestnut blight infested the region, affecting one-fourth of the hardwood tree population. The mission of the American Chestnut Foundation is to restore this tree to our eastern woodlands to benefit our environment, our wildlife and our communities.

The return of the chestnut to its former role in the Appalachian hardwood forest ecosystem is a major restoration project that requires a multi-faceted effort involving extensive public engagement.

The foundation has two major public awareness initiatives: the American Chestnut Learning Box—an educational tool that brings the story of the chestnut to classrooms, nature canters and civic groups—and The Charlie Chestnut Environmental Education Program—curriculum designed to inspire students to learn more about the environment and American chestnuts. With 16 state chapters and more than 5,000 members, the American Chestnut Foundation is better able to generate public awareness toward the campaign.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management—University of California-Irvine Shadetree Nursery:

The award for Excellence in Volunteer Management is presented to a community, group, or organization for their outstanding efforts to mobilize and engage volunteers in tree planting and care within a community.

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Matt Deires of the University of California Irvine plants a tree with his parents Peg & Maurie at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

Established in 1996 as a three-way partnership between the University of California-Irvine, the Irvine Ranch Water District, and the nonprofit Shadetree Partnership, this long-term community partnership provides trees and support for community tree planting projects throughout southern California.

The Shadetree Nursery Program provides guidance to communities and volunteer coordinators on planting, site selection and provides tools, volunteer training and education at no cost.  The work volunteers do is essential to providing quality nursery stock to be planted on public lands, whether it’s repotting trees or weeding and raking.

The Shadetree Nursery Program successfully led the way in expanding the local tree canopy through volunteer efforts with more than 30,000 shade trees planted during the past 19 years through volunteer tree planting projects.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Excellence in Urban Forest Leadership Award

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Excellence in Urban Forest Leadership Award—Forest ReLeaf of Missouri:

The Excellence in Urban Forest Leadership Award is given to an exceptional individual or organization whose work provides innovative leadership in advancing sustainable community forestry efforts at a local, state, or national level.

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Donna Coble of Forest ReLeaf and Missouri state forester Lisa Allen plant a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

Forest ReLeaf has helped in reshaping the tree canopy in communities across Missouri through civic engagement. Forest ReLeaf has collaborated with city and state forestry officials in creating volunteer management programs such as TreeKeepers and ForestKeepers.“Forest Releaf has been a key partner working with the Missouri Department of Conservation for over twenty years to improve our Missouri tree resources in communities large and small.  Their primary mission of growing container-sized trees that are available to communities free of charge has provided the support many towns needed to increase their tree canopy cover for the benefits of all citizens,” said Lisa Allen, Missouri state forester.

The joint effort has resulted in growing, planting, and management of more than 120,000 trees across the state. More than 4,000 of these trees are part of the Joplin Community Tree Recovery campaign replanting efforts.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Forest Lands Leadership Award

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Forest Lands Leadership Award—The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency:

The Forest Lands Leadership Award is given to an individual or organization whose outstanding work provides leadership in advancing sustainable forestry efforts on public forest lands.

Brant & Patricia Miller, Damon Hollis and Jason Maxedon of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency plant a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park.

Brant & Patricia Miller, Damon Hollis and Jason Maxedon of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency plant a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

 

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service partnered to develop the West Tennessee Wildlife Resources Conservation Plan. By focusing on the habitat needs of wildlife and fish resources in West Tennessee, the partnership intends to reconnect fragmented forests into a continuous travel corridor for wildlife. Approximately 3 million trees have been planted to date and tens of thousands of acres of natural forest has been restored.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Promise to Earth Award

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Promise to Earth Award—Physicians Mutual:

The Promise to Earth award recognizes sustained commitment and leadership by a corporation that partners with the Arbor Day Foundation on special projects.

Left to Right: Chris Johnson, Kim Holzapfel, John Rosenow, Deb Walton and Bob Gunia

Left to Right: Chris Johnson, Kim Holzapfel, John Rosenow, Deb Walton and Bob Gunia at the Arbor Day Awards ceremony.

One of the most successful insurance companies in the world, Physicians Mutual found a way to memorialize the lives of their customers and contribute to forestlands. Through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Trees In Memory program, Physicians Mutual helps to plant a tree in memory of customers at the time of their death. And through the Trees in Celebration program – also carried out by the Arbor Day Foundation – Physicians Mutual helps to plant a tree in honor of a customer’s birthday. The programs have left a profound impact on both forestlands, and the families of customers.This year also marks the 10 year anniversary of the partnership between Physicians Mutual and the Arbor Day Foundation. As a way to commemorate this important anniversary, Physicians Mutual launched the “Plant One, Celebrate Many” tree pledge—an initiative to plant one tree in the Oglala National Grasslands in Nebraska for every “like” the company’s “Plant One, Celebrate Many” Facebook page receives.

“We believe this new campaign is a great addition to our company’s commitment to restore and sustain our environment for future generations, while creating a lasting tribute to every life they represent,” said Bob Gunia, Physicians Mutual senior vice president.

During the past decade, Physicians Mutual has helped with reforestation efforts in Ocala National Forest in Florida, Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan and is currently planting trees in Bastrop State Park in Texas.

In partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, more than 250,000 trees have been planted in forests across the country.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

 

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Excellence in Partnership Award

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Excellence in Partnership Award—Tree Canada:

Presented for the innovative, strategic, and/or pioneering collaborative efforts of organizations to advance forestry efforts on a local, state, national, or international level.

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Michael Rosen of Tree Canada plants a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

As Canada’s largest nonprofit tree planting organization, Tree Canada has successfully facilitated high impact programs through its creative collaborations with public and private partners. Tree Canada has worked with universities, cities, and corporations such as BC Hydro, TD Bank, and Canadian National Rail Lines to create programs like Operation ReLeaf that helps communities recover from natural disasters and the Alberta Mountain Pine Beetle infestation project—a joint initiative with the government of Alberta and TELUS Corporation to replace trees damaged by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.

Arbor Day Award Winner Highlights: Rachel Carson Award

Each year the Arbor Day Foundation recognizes outstanding individuals, environmental leaders, and innovative organizations for their sustainable conservation efforts on an international, national, state and community level through the Arbor Day Awards Program. The 2014 Arbor Day Awards were presented April 26 at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City. During May we’ll highlight the award winners.

Rachel Carson Award—Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD):

The Rachel Carson Award recognizes programs, individuals or organizations whose exemplary leadership and efforts guide the nurturing of young children’s inborn sense of wonder about the natural world.

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Chief facilities executive Mark Hovatter of LAUSD plants a tree at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Photo by Carrie Benes.

LAUSD is taking a national leadership role in making meaningful connections with nature part of the daily lives of the children it serves. Through the creation of Nature Explore Classrooms at these centers, asphalt playground areas are converted into nature-based learning environments. The projects enable children to connect with the natural world as a regular part of their healthy growth and development.

The Classrooms feature learning stations with hands-on activities, music, climbing and crawling, building, art, and gardening.

The impact of the experience is evident in the first classroom that was completed three years ago. Children are calmer and more focused on learning, have fewer injuries and improved problem-solving skills.

The district has committed to develop 11 Early Education Center Nature Explore Classrooms in areas that lack parks and green space. Three Nature Explore Classrooms are in operation, eight are currently in design, and many more are planned for the future.

Are you aware of an outstanding individual or organization that is an exemplary steward of our Earth?  If so, please consider nominating them for our 2015 Arbor Day Awards.