On Nov. 23 the Ontario Forestry Association (OFA) celebrated the 60th anniversary of their yearly Tree Bee event in which Grade 4 to Grade 6 students take part in a friendly competition to learn more about trees and conservation.
Children from multiple schools across the GTA were scattered throughout the audience, while slides of different trees were put up on the screen. The students were given test papers where they would jot down the name of the tree. The answers were then graded by the schools’ teachers.
The Scarborough elementary schools that participated in this event were Cardinal Leger, St. Ursula, Holy Spirit, St. Boniface, St. Agatha, Epiphany of Our Lord and St. Dominic Savio.
Think of a spelling bee, but instead of words it’s pictures of trees
When asked to describe Tree Bee, Carly Grant, the executive director of OFA had this to say about the background of Tree Bee:
“It is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to awareness building and education on issues concerning forests and trees,” Grant said.“[To find out why it’s called Tree Bee] you’d have to ask someone in 1952, but the way I always describe it is that think of a spelling bee, but instead of words it’s pictures of trees.”
Grant says it’s important for children to feel comfortable in nature when they’re young.
“The idea behind it is to get students more familiar with the trees around them and to get that connection and it creates a lifetime connection,” Grant said. “It’s a connection that they have and it’s an understanding. Students who are learning are gaining this knowledge that empowers them to go forward and feel comfortable in nature.”
When asked about the reaction of the kids to the event itself, Grant said they get deeply involved.
“When we collect their tests we go back through and we play all the slides and they yell out the names of the trees,” Grant said. “The excitement and the buzz just shows.”
Grant says children as well as parents have to understand that trees take a major part in everyday life.
“It has a goal of teaching kids conservation and sustainable forest management,” Grant said. “They have to understand that modern things that we value come from trees and we have to manage those things responsibly.”
Some of the prizes given out to the children are t-shirts with the Tree Bee logo and tree magnets.
“It’s a friendly competition,” Grant said “They’re working in teams working on their dynamic as teamwork and we don’t just reward the teams, we also reward the schools.”
Stephanie Miller, a volunteer for Tree Bee, was once a participant.
“I’ve participated in Tree Bee for three years and I have coached before,” Miller said. “This is the first year I haven’t coached because of university, but I still want to stay involved so I come to help out.”
Miller says she feels people need to fully understand conservation.
“I’ve always enjoyed Tree Bee and I think it’s really important to teach kids the environment,” Miller said. “It’s kind of in the media now, but people don’t fully understand it and how fun it can be.”
When asked about the importance of Tree Bee, Miller said there is a need for kids to understand the effects of their actions.
“In today’s time it’s really important to be eco-friendly and to understand the world and how people have effects on it,” Miller said. “It’s another route that people and children can involve themselves in. It’s kind of like a sports team, you can still compete, win a trophy and have fun, but at the same time it’s still learning.”