An Intern’s Perspective: It’s More Than Trees
Editor’s Note: We asked our intern, Hanna, to write a blog post about her Arbor Day Farm experience this summer. Below is her contribution. Thank you, Hanna, and may you touch many more lives in nature in the years ahead.
“What is Arbor Day all about?” I ask this question of the visitors during my tours at the Tree Adventure and Arbor Day Farm. As you may expect, I get a variety of answers: anywhere from planting trees to Johnny Appleseed to saving the planet. I tell them that they all are close, and explain the need to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees.
Throughout my summer as a Nature Interpreter Intern I have learned a lot, starting with the Arbor Day Foundation’s mission and now ending with heirloom varieties of apples. My time this summer, however, has taught me that Arbor Day is about more than just trees.
By working with groups of children from inner-city neighborhoods, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with those who rarely venture beyond their front door. I grew up with a tremendous exposure to nature and the outdoors, but many students, especially from urban areas, did not. They spend their days inside with the many screens (TVs, computers, videogames, etc.) keeping them occupied. This is often because it is safer inside than out, and because they don’t know what to do outside. When they get off the bus at Arbor Day Farm and learn they are going to be outside all day, they quite literally are on “sensory overload.” This can even entail screams, tears, and clinging to the interpreter. To these children, being outside for more time than it takes to walk from the house to the car is terrifying, and this is not an irrational fear on their part. They have never had the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time outside, and we fear what we don’t know.
Thanks to the Arbor Day Foundation and the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, I had the privilege of leading children through significant time in nature. We had lots of “first” experiences: seeing deer for the first time, being “actually in the woods” (as they would say), and learning that yes, woodchips really do come from trees. Most of the children left wishing they had more time in this natural setting. The children I worked with this summer left with some knowledge of the world around them, and an introduction to the lessons nature has to teach. (My favorite lesson? Nature does not discriminate: a mosquito will suck anyone’s blood.) Without J. Sterling Morton and his yearning to plant trees, these children would have spent another day inside.
So what is Arbor Day all about? To me, Arbor Day is about a lot more than trees. It is about appreciating the nature that surrounds us. Through the time I spent with children this summer at Arbor Day Farm, this lesson became apparent, it also became apparent that they would never look at nature the same way again. These little steps, child’s play, are helping to move cultures back to nature, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Hanna Pinneo is a Nature Interpreter intern at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, majoring in Parks and Recreation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She enjoys hiking, playing outside with her nephew and dog, and spending time with her friends. As a National Team member of the Natural Leaders Network, Hanna is dedicated to reconnecting all children with nature.