For the past six years, Northeastern Illinois University has been recognized as a Tree Campus by the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit conservation and education organization with more than a million members, donors and partners dedicated to making the world greener and healthier. As part of this designation, students in Conservation Psychology (GES 308/PSYC 369) design an Arbor Day activity.
This year, as Northeastern prepares to commemorate National Arbor Day on April 29, the class is inviting the University community to participate in an event called “Wishing on the Leaves of Change” on April 28 from 12:15-1:30 p.m.
The group will meet in the lobby of Bernard J. Brommel Hall then walk over to the Solitary Oak, a swamp white oak tree on the Main Campus that is more than 200 years old. Participants will then be invited to take part in an environmental meditation and write down their hopes for the future on paper leaves that will be displayed around the tree. Those who are unable to attend the event in person are welcomed to submit a hope virtually, which will also be added to the display.
Associate Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies Melinda Storie has been teaching this course each spring term for 10 years. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the course took a bit of a turn.
“Since the pandemic started, the course has really pivoted to understanding the therapeutic nature of the environment,” Storie said. “We’ve been through a common, global trauma. This course has encouraged students to think critically about the role nature plays in our overall health and how we treasure the health of our environment as well as the health of humans.”
Storie, who’s been a part of the committee to obtain Northeastern’s Tree Campus designation since its first year, said conservation is really a community effort and hopes that, in the future, Northeastern’s Main Campus may be able to be designated as a level one arboretum.
“It’s really up to all of us to ensure we do what we can to protect the beauty of our campus and cherish it,” Storie said. “Connecting with nature provides us with the opportunity to reflect and explore its healing power, which is something many of us need right now.”