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Tree Campus K–12

Case Study: Highland Park High School


School Profile

Type of School: Public high school serving 2,000 students in grades 9 through 12 in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Location: Highland Park, IL
Mascot: Giants
Champion: Howie Hill, Environmental Science Teacher

When Highland Park’s city forester connected with passionate environmental science teachers at Highland Park High School, a fruitful partnership was born. The result? High school students are the newest champions of the city’s extensive tree canopy through service learning.

Following is a breakdown of how the school approached each of the four program goals.

  • Goal: Tree Campus Team

    Highland Park High School’s existing urban garden team doubled as the Tree Campus K–12 team. This group consists of students who work in the school’s urban garden, including the fruit trees growing in the orchard. Meetings often include an educator from the local community college agriculture department, which creates an important connection between the students and the community.

  • Goal: Education Plan

    City of Highland Park foresters Keith O’Herrin and Ben Miller joined environmental science classes to talk first about urban forestry and its history and global context then to connect this learning to a local, place-based context to talk about current urban forestry efforts at home in Highland Park. Students were inspired in two ways as a result of bringing professionals into the classroom. First, they learned first-hand what it means to have a career in trees. Second, many were inspired to pursue opportunities offered by O’Herrin and Miller to support city tree efforts in a volunteer capacity as part of a service-learning requirement of the AP Environmental Science class.

  • Goal: Hands-On Experience

    Environmental science students embarked on field lab activities including tree identification, board-foot calculations, and island biogeography. With the direction of the city foresters, they also got outside and learned the practical skills of proper tree planting and mulching. Lessons on calculating the board-foot content of a tree – the total volume of usable timber – also brought students outside to perform real-world exercises on campus trees, making decisions in the shoes of a responsible woodland owner.

  • Goal: Arbor Day Observance

    Highland Park High School has established a model for their Arbor Day celebration that brings student learning to life in the community. At the city’s annual celebration, several students helped facilitate a tree giveaway in which community members take home free tree seedlings to further expand Highland Park’s canopy. Students are then able to help community members who need a hand planting their tree, putting skills from their environmental science class to work.


It is a goal of our teaching team to make our students more aware of their role in contributing to a sustainable community and to help nurture them to become lifelong learners in how to understand, interpret, and appreciate their environment.”

Howie Hill, Environmental Science Teacher

Tree Campus K-12 is an Arbor Day Foundation Program in collaboration with: