“My gorgeous tree is located in the back of my house on my lawn, so every morning when I wake up, I see its beautiful smile. It makes me feel like the tree is trying to keep me happy.” This is an excerpt from 8th Grade Growing Works of Art Contest winner, Cassandra Johnson.
Cassandra’s experience highlights the importance her tree plays in her life every day, and although she expresses what this tree means to her very well, she is just one of many people who have experienced variety of benefits that nature and trees provide. This is a relatively new area of research, but this growing field supports how important trees and nature are, and the wide range of effects that influences our physical, mental, and social lives.
In 2018, the US Forest Service published a summary of how urban trees and green space improve human health and well-being. This comprehensive report summarizes current research and makes a persuasive case for “maintaining and expanding nature-based outdoor environments in cities and bringing people closer to nature”. Highlights of this summary include reducing pollution, improving physical health, stress reduction, improving social health, cohesion and resilience.
Trees are intricately linked into our social and emotional well-being. To highlight and celebrate those connections, the VT Urban & Community Forestry Program hosted the Growing Works of Art Contest. This annual contest is an opportunity for students in grades 1-8 to research trees, share their stories, and create a work of art about what their tree means to them. This year’s theme “Trees are terrific in every shape and size: share your tree story.”
One poignant piece is from Cassandra Johnson, highlighted above. Here is another excerpt of her story: “This tree makes me feel joy, passion, strong, truthful, and beautiful inside and out. It makes me feel like there is actually something to live for. My tree improves my life for the better because I see the true beauty in nature. It helps me understand life has its ups and downs and that I’m a warrior and will make it out alive. I make special visits to this tree, so I don’t feel so broken and lost. It helps me when I feel depressed. It’s my best friend and towers over my house like a Greek guardian god sent from heaven. The tree stands out as a brilliant mind reader in the light blue sky, and like a mysterious black figure in the starry night.”