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Happy Arbor Day! This year’s National Arbor Day falls today, April 29th, while Colorado’s Arbor Day was celebrated on the third Friday in April: April 15th. Arbor Day is known as the “tree planter’s holiday” because many people celebrate by planting individual trees or organizing large-scale tree planting activities in their communities.
In honor of this year’s 150th celebration of the first American Arbor Day, let’s take a look back at how Arbor Day was celebrated in Colorado’s schools at the turn of the 20th century. The State Publications Library holds a series of lesson plan books for Arbor Day that were sent to teachers from 1899-1913 by the Colorado Department of Public Instruction (now the Department of Education). As the 1901 version states:
“We send you this little book for Arbor and Bird Day, with the hope that it may offer you some practical help in your school work, not only in assisting the celebration of this particular occasion through tree planting and appropriate exercises, but to further the greater mission of the day, in bringing our boys and girls nearer to Nature…so that in the years to come Colorado may, at least in part, be relieved from the harm that has been done through the careless destruction of her plant and animal life.”
These beautifully illustrated lesson plan books helped teachers to achieve this goal by providing suggestions for Arbor Day lessons for students of all ages. These lesson ideas include teaching about Colorado’s trees and flowers, telling stories about the forest, singing songs, and reciting poetry (there’s quite a bit of poetry).
Below are some of my favorite highlights from the Arbor Day books, but they are worth a closer look in our digital repository. The lesson plans provide both an historical perspective on teaching environmentalism and plenty of charming little poems about bumblebees! Click on the images below to view larger versions.
Have these books gotten you into the Arbor Day spirit? Watch the Colorado State Forest Service’s video titled “How to plant a tree” and get started!