By Anne Lockhart
Many urban residents can overlook the importance and beauty of trees -- especially in densely populated spaces -- where they are not as abundant and green spaces are limited. Trees keep our air clean, contribute to better mental health, and regulate temperatures. PHS's S(tree)twork project recognizes the importance of greenery in metropolitan areas. It focuses on expanding the tree canopy in Philadelphia, raising awareness about the importance of a tree's life cycle, and recycling dead trees to create beautiful art and instruments. The S(tree)twork project uses trees to bring together communities and neighborhoods through workshops and planting events.
We last caught up with the S(tree)twork team in October to hear about recent events within the project's lifecycle, such as leaf printing classes and musical performances at the Schuylkill River Center for Environmental Education's “Forest Makings” exhibition. Here is an inside glimpse at what the S(tree)twork team has been up to since the fall, and what they are planning for the rest of 2023.
Since winter does not allow for tree plantings and many outdoor events, S(tree)twork has been busy developing innovative ideas to execute in warmer spring temperatures. One Tree Tenders leader of Heritage Community Development Corp (CDC), Ms. Ruth, plans to plant more fruit trees and pollinators throughout the neighborhood this spring. She will be hosting a Chat and Chew event in the spring, a social event meant to inspire more residents to support the Tree Tenders program and the future orchard coming to the neighborhood.
The benefits an orchard provides to a community are endless. Not only will these trees provide shade, clean surrounding air, and add more beauty to the area, but they will also provide community members with fresh organic produce. "When it comes to benefiting the neighborhood, it's always nice to have something where you reap the benefits when it is fully grown," says Kiersten Adams, a project manager and community organizer at S(tree)twork. These trees will not only support the generation that has grown them but will allow future generations to reap the benefits.
The life of a tree does not end once it has died. There are many ways wood from a diseased tree can be recycled and given a new purpose.
Kiersten Adams, project manager and community organizer of S(tree)twork, discussed the organization's passion for exercising the full life cycle of a tree when the team plans community events. They do this by using all parts of a tree after it has died rather than discarding them. She says: "We've taken fallen trees from Awbury Arboretum and turned them into drums, and we take those drums to some of the tree plantings, or we'll take a seesaw printing press to tree plantings and different events."
S(tree)twork held a tree planting this November, where two Germantown drummers, Rich Robinson and Karen Smith, brought out wooden drums made by Rich Robinson, Don Miller, and Gladys Harlow to be played for and by everyone at the planting. The exciting hands-on experience further amplified the level of energy at the event, while participants enjoyed being surrounded by people who care and want to protect their community, urban ecology, and forestry, along with those who are excited to use organic materials to create art.
Many of S(tree)twork’s goals for the New Year revolve around moving forward with the next set of project activities, including a new installation, Public Service Announcements, and a written publication detailing S(tree)twork's progress. They also want to strengthen current relationships with partners like UC Green, Heritage CDC, Nicetown, and West Philly, while also building new partnerships.
Raising awareness around the low tree canopy in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods and expanding that canopy is another goal the S(tree)twork team wants to accomplish in 2023. The project team has around 50 trees they intend to plant within this year's tree planting cycle.
S(tree)twork wants to continue getting the community involved in tree plantings and also focus on creating art. At the Awbury Arboretum, S(tree)twork has plans to build an installation that will provide space for woodworkers, plus hold events that would allow community members to craft their own wooden instruments to take home.
As spring begins to transition to summer, events and activities will begin again, including the release of a video announcement produced by the S(tree)work team to promote tree distribution day. Feel free to join the Chat and Chew this spring if you are interested in urban ecology and the expansion of the Philadelphia tree canopy.
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