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Tree Campus K–12

Case Study: Palo Verde Magnet High School


School Profile

Type of School: Public magnet high school with emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).
Location: Tuscon, AZ
Mascot: Titans
Champion: Patricia Wheeler, Science Teacher

On Palo Verde Magnet High School’s Tree Campus Team — a.k.a. Arbor Force — student leadership shines. This passionate group motivated fellow students to get involved and brought their recommendations on how to better nurture campus trees to school and district authorities, resulting in earned trust to plant a new tree on campus.

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

  • Goal: Tree Campus Team

    In addition to several students, Palo Verde Magnet High School’s Tree Campus Team included a science teacher, the principal, and a representative from the Arizona State Department of Forestry. The group conducted most of their meetings during lunchtime. By centering the team around a student club instead of class curriculum, they saw greater buy-in from students. They communicated results to friends, and now more students are interested for next year, said Wheeler.

  • Goal: Education Plan

    From the Palo Verde Magnet Focus newsletter

    As part of Palo Verde Magnet High School’s STEM goals, students set out to conduct a tree inventory and use data collected for analysis. As a group, participating students aimed to determine how the tree inventory was relevant and to establish goals for the school campus based on the results. These results were then communicated to the student body via school announcements and a bulletin board.

    It was exciting to see students involved with using real data for an authentic purpose. The experience overall contributed to increasing science literacy and I (as the lead teacher) will strongly encourage STEM teachers to take this to their students next year. The returning Tree Club (they enthusiastically called themselves ‘Arbor Force’) will continue to motivate and encourage fellow classmates to get involved. We took inventory in a very specific region on campus but will possibly expand to the greater area next year with more student involvement.

  • Goal: Hands-On Experience

    After learning the value of campus trees through their inventory and i-Tree exercise and receiving education on proper care techniques, the Arbor Force team approached the campus and district authorities responsible for the care and maintenance of campus trees to make some informed recommendations regarding campus trees, including:

    • Create more flexible guidelines for getting new trees planted on campus.
    • Meet with and attend training with Department of Forestry staff to determine the right trees to plant in the right place and how to properly care for existing trees (especially pruning).

    Despite previous challenges in gaining support for new trees on campus, the students gained permission to plant a new tree after presenting this plan to the Palo Verde Site Council — an excellent example of students leading the way to create a greener campus and earning consideration through thoughtful learning and preparation.

  • Goal: Arbor Day Observance

    Palo Verde Magnet High School has a tree in its namesake, so what better way to celebrate Arbor Day than the planting of a native blue palo verde tree? This tree was donated by local nonprofit organization and Alliance for Community Trees member Trees for Tucson. Department of Forestry staff joined members of the Arbor Force team to plant this tree, and the student body was invited to attend the ceremony.


Prior to participating in Tree Campus K–12, students were unaware of the value urban trees provide to the overall environment. Instructionally, it was a fantastic opportunity to incorporate STEM skills for an authentic scientific purpose.”

Patricia Wheeler, Science Teacher

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