March 21 is the UN’s International Day of Forests. This year, the theme is Forests and Sustainable Cities.
Forests make our environment better. The nature value of forests and trees can be significant in densely built-up urban areas. A green environment is also better for humans. Through photosynthesis, forests produce oxygen, and they reduce noise and remove harmful particles emitted by traffic. They also form privacy screens and create beautiful scenery in urban environments.
Time spent in natural environments has a positive effect on human health. Parks with trees provide pleasant shade, and the pathways and trails in urban forests can be used for physical exercise, encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
Local forests are also inspiring play spaces for children. In the forest, kids can play independently and creatively without adult supervision or special equipment.
Sowing project teaches how trees grow
Children celebrate the world forests by growing pines from seeds. Over 200 Finnish primary schools and daycare centres have registered more than 6,500 children for the My Tree project. During the project, each child will sow five pine seeds in pots placed on the windowsill.
Designing a more extensive learning event around the project is easy. At the time when the children do their sowing, forest trees also release their seeds. Pine cones spring open in the heat of the spring sun, and the seeds float down on to the drifts of snow.
Pines are slow to germinate, but are long-lived. Children can compare the growth of a pine to the rapidly-germinating, but short-lived ryegrass, which is a popular Easter decoration in Finland and will soon be sown on trays and pots in homes.
In early summer the children will take the tiny seedlings home and plant them out of doors, for pines do not thrive indoors. If all the seeds sown by the children during the project grew into trees in the same place, they would form a 15-hectare forest.
Long-lived trees that grow to a great size form large carbon storages. They are significant for mitigating the impacts of climate change. The carbon will continue to be stored even in products made of trees. There are plenty of wood-based items in schools and daycare centres, from learning materials and toys to desks and other furniture.
The sowing of small seeds can be used as an introduction to many quite extensive phenomena. Taking the children outdoors is also useful, for learning makes more sense in a forest or, failing that, next to a real tree in the urban environment.
My Tree sowing project (in Finnish)
The seeds for the My Tree project were donated by Siemen Forelia. The Finnish Forest Association’s cooperation partners for the project are the Suomen Latu association, the Metsämörriohjaajat association and Finland’s Swedish Sports Confederation. The activity is sponsored by the Finnish Forest Foundation.