What is Arbour Day, anyway? In Alberta, it’s a walk through the wild and a 70,000 seedling march

If you were out and about this week, you might have noticed some new additions to our urban jungles. To celebrate Alberta Forest Week, almost 70,000 seedlings were delivered to Grade One students throughout the province. These seedlings have now been planted in backyards, on school-grounds, and in many other places by students who now have a hands-on understanding of the power of conservation.

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Receiving a seedling gives students a first-hand experience with the power of conservation.

Many people see conservation as a twenty-first century value – but the traditions of Alberta Forest Week and Arbour Day date all the way back to 1884, before Alberta was even officially recognized as a province. The goal of the week is to celebrate the important role our forests play in our daily lives – and to inspire stewardship in young Albertans, so that they can protect that legacy for the future.

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Bertie the Beaver showed up to help with the festivities at Avondale Elementary school yesterday. Photo credit: Grande Prairie Daily Herald Tribune.

Grande Prairie takes a walk through the wild 

ESRD staff in Grande Prairie have a history of taking this opportunity and running – err, walking – with it. Their annual Walk Through the Forest event gives older kids – from grades four through six – the chance to experience forest ecosystems firsthand. Conservation education has an important place in Alberta’s classrooms – but nothing can compare with seeing a forest ecosystem or the impact of a wildfire up close. Students have planted over 9000 trees through the program over the past 3 years.

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Ultimately, these events – like Alberta Forest Week itself – are about promoting good stewardship. Stewardship requires knowledge, but it also benefits from first-hand experience. When people have seen the beauty of the forest – and the importance of their own actions – an obligation to take care of the environment can quickly become a passion. And over time, that passion has just as much potential for growth as the thousands of seedlings that were planted this week by thousands of small hands.

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