Trees have the potential to develop structural defects, which may include a circling or girdling root system, a leaning or damaged trunk, included bark, codominant leaders, and branches that are the same size as the trunk to which they are attached. These defects can cause a tree to become hazardous and more likely to fail, potentially causing injury or death to people or damage to property. Structural defects in trees can be costly, dangerous, or maintenance-intensive, and thus it is advisable to identify and correct these defects before a failure. In an urban environment, trees require more care than those in natural settings due to the presence of targets, or the people and property that can be harmed by tree failure (Matheny and Clark, 1994). For this reason, people need to understand how trees grow in an urban environment and how to recognize structural defects. Hazard trees can be recognized and often corrected at a young age so that proactive measures can be taken to correct the defects. People who live in association with trees, such as homeowners or property managers, benefit when they obtain appropriate education so they can recognize significant defects at each stage of trees’ lives (Shigo, 1989).
Trees are the foundation for healthy social ecology (Kuo, 2003) and have proven to be beneficial for children socially, physically, and emotionally. Teaching about them is beneficial and results in educated adults with sensitivities to trees and nature (Lohr and Pearson-Mims, 2005). A deficiency of horticultural and arboricultural curriculum is available to students, yet recent additions of these fields have been well-received (Meyer et al., 2001), and further research into the incorporation of arboricultural and horticultural topics is being encouraged (Smith and Motsenbocker, 2005). As an added benefit, these topics have been shown to facilitate the instruction of other subjects (Dirks and Orvis, 2005; Nyenhuis, 1994), and can improve critical life skills in children (Robinson and Zajicek, 2005). Education in horticulture and arboriculture is considered highly important, and tree structure has been stated as one of the top five most important educational topics in urban forestry and arboricultural education (Elmendorf et al., 2005).
Neither adults nor children are regularly introduced to the important topic of structural defects in trees. We sought to begin a discussion on when and how this essential subject could be presented. The first objective of this study was to explore the feasibility of introducing structural defect recognition as a potential curriculum enhancement for sixth grade students. The second objective of this study was to evaluate two methods of teaching about this topic. Sixth grade is offered as a starting point for when this subject may be best introduced.
ElmendorfW.WatsonT.LilyS.2005Arboriculture and urban forestry education in the United States: Results of an educators’ surveyJ. Arboricult.313138149
Florida Department of Education2006Florida comprehensive assessment test (FCAT) 2006 sunshine state standards state report of district results grade 05 science. Florida Department of Education Tallahassee FL
Florida Department of Education2007Assessment and accountability briefing book. 9 May 2013. <http://fcat.fldoe.org/pdf/BriefingBook07web.pdf>
KlemmerC.D.WalliczekT.M.ZajicekJ.M.2005Growing minds: The effect of a school gardening program on the science achievement of elementary studentsHortTechnology15448452
LohrV.I.Pearson-MimsC.H.2005Children’s active and passive interactions with plants influence their attitudes and actions toward trees and gardening as adultsHortTechnology15472476
LouvR.2005Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill New York NY
MainellaF.P.AgateJ.R.ClarkB.S.2011Outdoor-based play and reconnection to nature: A neglected pathway to positive youth developmentNew Directions Youth Dev.201113089104
MathenyN.P.ClarkJ.R.1994Evaluation of hazard trees in urban areas. 2nd ed. Intl. Soc. Arboriculture Savoy IL
NordvikH.AmponsahB.1998Gender differences in spatial abilities and spatial ability among university students in an egalitarian educational systemSex Roles J. Res.3811-1210091024
RobinsonC.W.ZajicekJ.M.2005Growing minds: The effects of a one-year school garden program on six constructs of life skills of elementary school childrenHortTechnology153453457
ShigoA.L.1989A new tree biology: Facts photos and philosophies on trees and their problems and proper care. 2nd ed. Shigo and Trees Durham NH
SmithL.L.MotsenbockerC.E.2005Impact of hands-on science through school gardening in Louisiana public elementary schoolsHortTechnology15439443