Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Rebekah Lund
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Celebrating Earth Day with tree hugs


April 30, 2020

Our students from Barnum High School celebrated Earth Day on April 22nd, by literally hugging trees and then sending the pictures to their Science and English teachers digitally. The idea came to Jodi Zhukov and I after we read about the Forestry Service in Iceland recommending the act of hugging a tree during the pandemic as a way to connect with nature and still get some physical contact with another living thing. Since we can't hug each other due to social distancing protocol, the idea seemed like a fun, simple task to have the kids complete as part of their recognition of Earth Day. Students sent in creative photos, videos, and public service announcements to us for this assignment. It was fun to be working from home during the day or hanging out at home at night, and then to get a notification on our phones or computers that a student had sent in their Earth Day picture or video.

Jodi and I often team up on different projects at Barnum, because we are trying to promote cross-curricular learning and we believe that collaboration between teachers is a good way to model teamwork for students; also, it's more fun to work with other teachers! Distance learning still offers opportunities for collaboration between teachers and students, although it may look different. Teachers and paraprofessionals are using virtual means to connect with students and parents through Zoom, Google hangouts, email, Schoology, and with other platforms and programs.

Using technology to help students capture and then share their experiences in nature is an interesting combination of past and present coming together. As we navigate these new waters of COVID-19, it seems that we are rediscovering those things, like nature, that we didn't always make enough time for before. While we try to get the kids outdoors during "regular" school, the new distance learning format is offering more flexibility with encouraging the kids to get outdoors. Last month, the students earned credit for their classes if they took pictures of the "super" moon.

As the pictures of super moons and tree hugs are turned in to teachers online, it's a fun way to realize that we are all in this together, even though we are separate. The kids in Barnum certainly captured some fun moments in nature through their tree hugging assignment. Some kids even kissed trees! (I guess it gets lonely out in rural Kettle River) If we continue to connect with each other with available technology or while observing social distancing guidelines, and to nature as much as we can, it seems we will get through this tough time. Stay safe and go hug a tree!


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