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Celebrate Arbor Day - History & Ideas for Family Activities

Be green by planting trees on Arbor Day.
Be green by planting trees on Arbor Day.
Marcia Claesson

Do you know how and where Arbor Day started?

Arbor Day was created by J. Sterling Morton, a journalist who lived in Nebraska City in the 1800s. Mr. Morton and the other pioneers who traveled to Nebraska found that they missed the trees they had back east. Trees were needed for windbreaks, fuel, building materials, and shade from the hot prairie sun. Mr. Morton wrote about taking care of the environment and encouraged everyone to set aside a specific day to plant trees.

In 1872, at the suggestion of Mr. Morton, the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture declared April 10 as Arbor Day. (The word “arbor” means a place shaded by trees.) More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on that first Arbor Day. Today Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states, usually on the last Friday in April. In 2010 it falls on April 30.

How can you celebrate Arbor Day? Here are some ideas:

  • Plant a tree. Your family can choose a special tree to plant in your yard on Arbor Day. You can watch the tree grow from year to year.
  • Build a tree house and see the world from a bird’s eye view.
  • Choose a park of public area that needs cleaning up and pitch in to clear it of litter. Recycle what you can and dispose of the rest properly.
  • Gather newspapers and other papers in your house and take them in to be recycled.
  • Learn how to identify trees. Check with your local 4-H office for materials, or use the following: Tree Identification at a Glance, or National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees--E: Eastern Region
  • Take a walk in a nature center, such as Wilderness Park or the Pioneers Park Nature Center.
  • Make a craft item out of wood.
  • Have a snack of food that comes from trees, such as apples and walnuts.
  • Sit and appreciate the world of nature around you.
  • Visit Nebraska City for the National Arbor Day Celebration May 1-2. Special events at Arbor Day farm include tree climbing, cross-cut sawing, Arbor Day Farm wine tasting, face painting, hands-on crafts for children, tree planting demonstrations, live music, and other fun activities for all ages. Click here for more info.

For more information on Arbor Day, see the Arbor Day Foundation website.


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