It’s about fourth grade when every Nebraska student starts learning about Nebraska history. Inevitably, they learn about J. Sterling Morton and Arbor Day. In 2021, Arbor Day’s 150th anniversary will be on April 30, the last Friday in April. Here’s how to celebrate at home or around Nebraska.
What is Arbor Day?
But first, for those of you who missed that lesson in fourth grade, a quick primer in Arbor Day.
Arbor Day is essentially “The Tree Holiday.” Not to be confused with Earth Day, Arbor Day is about encouraging people to plant more trees. The history of the Arbor Day dates back to 1872 when J. Sterling Morton proposed a tree planting holiday during a meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture.
Where is the home of Arbor Day?
It all started in Nebraska City. Neb. You can plan a day trip or overnight trip to explore the town, and specifically, all things Arbor Day Farms. Nebraska City is one of my favorite day trips!
My top recommended stop for families is the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure. There are a lot of learning opportunities there, plus it’s just all around fun. Take the tour to the apple orchard to hear more about the farm’s history and also try some heirloom apples!
And as a bonus, visit the Tree Adventure’s greenhouse to get your own free sapling to bring home to plant.
The Morton Mansion at Arbor State Park is pretty interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend it for families with little ones since it’s pretty hands-off. If there are outdoor activities there, those would likely be better suited for youngsters.
When is Arbor Day celebrated?
Arbor Day is held annually on the last Friday in April in Nebraska, and that’s when National Arbor Day is. However, some states celebrate it on different days, so you can check the map here to see when your state celebrates it.
The pandemic will throw a wrench into any big celebrations, but there are a few tree related activities to find in the state.
Arbor Day events in Nebraska 2021
- Outdoor Studio Arbor Day Theme – The Schramm Education Center, 21502 W. Highway 31, Gretna, holds Outdoor Studio sessions on the first Wednesday of the month, exploring art and nature. One April 7, they will celebrate the month of Arbor Day with a workshop focused on drawing trees. Supplies are provided. The program is free with paid admission or family pass. Pre-registration is required at least 24 hours in advance of the class due to limited numbers and have Covid regulations in place, including distancing and a mask requirement. Register here.
- Virtual Investigate – Terrific Trees: Arbor Day – University of Nebraska State Museum – Morrill Hall will have a virtual will have a virtual program about Arbor Day on April 10 at 10 a.m., during which you can learn about the history of the holiday, the importance of trees in our ecosystem, and common native trees. Then, participants will make a rubbing journal so that they can head outside later and explore trees in their neighborhood. Cost is $8 per member household and $10 for non-member households.
- Arbor Day Celebration in La Vista – There will be an Arbor Day proclamation, tree planting, storybook walk around the pond and a chance to take home a tree sapling (while supplies last) on April 30 from 6 to 7 p.m. at 8305 Park View Blvd., La Vista, Neb. Masks will be required for this event and social distancing will be observed as well. FREE
- Arbor Day Celebrations at Arbor Day Farm – Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City celebrates the tree planter’s holiday all weekend. Arbor Lodge Mansion will have FREE admission April 30-May 2. Hands-on activities, orchard tours, and more activities will be held around the farm all weekend. Admission to the Tree Adventure may be required.
- TREEmendous Arbor Day Celebration – Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St., Omaha, will have an Arbor Day celebration on April 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy tree-themed educational activities for families and a free tree seedling will be given to the first 100 households visiting that day. Don’t skip walks through the arboretum and the woodland trail! This event is included with regular garden admission and is free for garden members.
Interesting tree facts for Arbor Day
Read these facts to get a better understanding about the importance of trees and why celebrating Arbor Day is a big deal:
- The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- One acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and puts out 4 tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
- There are about 60–200 million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year and saving $4 billion in energy costs. (National Wildlife Federation)
- Shade from trees could save up to $175 per year (per structure) in air conditioning costs. (Dr. Lowell Ponte)
- The planting of trees means improved water quality, resulting in less runoff and erosion. This allows more recharging of the ground water supply. Wooded areas help prevent the transport of sediment and chemicals into streams. (USDA Forest Service)
- In laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. (Dr. Roger S. Ulrich, Texas A&M University)
Facts courtesy Arbor Day Foundation.
Printables & more ways to celebrate Arbor Day
I pointed out earlier, Arbor Day celebrations may be a little smaller or completely virtual in 2021. So, how can you celebrate?
- Plant a tree. The special day is about planting trees, after all. You can purchase trees for planting at local garden stores like Mulhall’s, 3615 N. 120th St., Omaha, and Trees, Shrubs & More, 3803 Cornhusker Road, Bellevue, Neb. Or get your free tree to plan at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure. One other option is to order a tree growing kit.
- Hike or visit an arboretum near you. Sure, you can go to Nebraska City. Or try one of my favorite hikes near Omaha.
- Go on a tree hunt. Mr. Majestic, a huge swamp white oak, is found in Elmwood Park in Omaha. It was once designated the Nebraska State Champion Swamp White Oak for its size. Go on a trek with your kids to find it (Tip: There will be a plaque near it.)
- Printables. Whether you’re homeschooling your kiddo or simply want another way to teach about Arbor Day and learn more about trees, here are some printable activities to try at home: Earth Day/Arbor Day Study Unit by Brilliant Bungalow; Tree Studies Bundle by Honeycomb Cabin; Seasons of Trees (preschool or kindergarten) by Green Urban Creative; and Earth Day & Arbor Day coloring bookmarks by M2M Party Designs.
- Show your love of trees. A few of the more creative items include T-shirts (this one’s handmade in Omaha), sweatshirt, or get the little one in your life an organic tree baby teething ring (sold by an Omaha-based small business!).