We are overjoyed to report that the AZSA-hosted 3rd Annual Urban Forestry Education Initiative Professional Development was a rousing success. This powerful summer session brought together educators from around the Phoenix Metro Area by providing them with the information and resources to incorporate sustainability and environmental education into their curricula. Three teachers were in our K–5 grade level group: Balsz Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, and Washington Elementary. For grades 6–12, there were nine teachers: one from a nonprofit, one from Whiteriver Unified School District, five from Phoenix Union (Chavez H.S., Carl Hayden H.S., Linda Abril Educational Center, and Alhambra H.S.), and two from Phoenix Elementary (Shaw Elementary and Kenilworth Elementary).

Through the leadership of our esteemed Programs Director, William ‘’Bill” Donato, and Education Programs Manager, Dr. Donna Jagielski, we are proud to offer this opportunity for professional development that exemplifies our commitment to fostering a sustainable future through education.

The first part of the summer session was in a hybrid format, combining in-person instruction held at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix, Arizona, with online elements to accommodate all participants’ needs. Teachers were encouraged to submit applications within their grade range, resulting in more specialized workshops for each cohort.

Engaging in outdoor hands-on application events gave teachers in grades K–5 a deep dive into urban forestry. Teachers participated in hands-on activities that illustrated the relevance of urban forestry principles in real-world settings. Through hands-on activities, they learned more and were inspired to find new ways to teach about the environment in their classrooms.

Teachers of grades 6–12 attended sessions, including an in-person instructional lesson held at the Cave Creek Regional Park in partnership with Maricopa Parks and Recreation that gave them an in-depth look at an urban forestry curriculum developed in Arizona that matches national standards. Educators delved into the theory behind urban forestry education and gained valuable insights into incorporating STEM learning strategies. Experts in the field spoke as guest lecturers, adding their unique perspectives and illuminating examples.

Participants in the professional development program were provided with a wealth of teaching resources and tools throughout the program, allowing them to incorporate urban forestry education into their existing lesson plans. The pre-made lesson plans freed up teachers’ time and ensured they had access to high-quality materials that met the needs of their lessons.

Participants received 10 hours of professional development, giving them the resources, expertise, and motivation to make a significant difference in their students, schools, and communities. Education Programs Manager Dr. Donna Jagielski and Programs Director William Donato worked closely together to design a novel and powerful educational opportunity. 

This year, we are expanding the tools available; teachers receive a modest stipend of $150, and they can check out instructional kits that include curriculum-related materials to dive deeper into the lessons. We will also hold a follow-up Zoom session in early October to discuss how these tools and lessons are integrated into the classroom and curriculum and their experiences leading the lessons with students and other teachers as part of their professional learning communities. Teachers will then receive two additional professional development hours for the follow-up.

AZSA’s unwavering dedication to sustainability education and our commitment to empowering educators as change agents were on full display at the 3rd Annual Urban Forestry Education Initiative Professional Development. We are confident they will inspire and nurture the next generation of environmental stewards by equipping them with the necessary skills and resources.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the educators who participated in this event and our partners and sponsors, whose investment allowed us to organize this activity. With your help, Arizona and the world will have a better, more sustainable future. More exciting educational initiatives will come as we move forward with our mission to raise awareness about sustainability and the environment.