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Edwardsville Children’s Museum to break ground on ‘micro forest’

The community is invited to help plant 100 trees on March 20

According to the U.S. Forest Service, 36 million trees are cut down in the U.S. each year. While it can’t fight deforestation on a national scale, the Edwardsville Children’s Museum has discovered a way to affect real change in our neck of the woods — through a micro forest.

Thanks to a donation of land from Dover Development and Cedarhurst Senior Living and financial support from Phillips 66, the museum will plant 100 trees on Saturday, March 20, to populate Edwardsville’s first micro forest, located along Route 143, next to the Cedarhurst location (7108 Marine Road).

The public is invited to lend a hand that day starting at 9 a.m. to help ECM get its new environmental effort off the ground.

Interested volunteers can show up that day and bring shovels. They or those who wish to sponsor the project can also contact museum executive director Dr. Abby Schwent at education@edwardsvillechildrensmuseum.org or (618) 692-2094.

Influenced by Japan’s Miyawaki forest restoration movement, micro forests are miniature urban woodlands grown on empty brownfield sites. When native trees are planted closely together, they mature into a diverse ecosystem in just 20 years, compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own.

ECM’s goal is to add 100 trees each year over the next 12 years to grow the greenspace into a two-acre forest preserve by 2033.

“ECM worked closely with Forest ReLeaf in St. Louis to identify those native Illinois trees that will have the biggest impact on the area’s biodiversity, including Black Gum, Bur Oak and Hawthorne varieties,” said Schwent. “In fact, micro forests are home to 20 times as many species as non-native forests, including different pollinators, songbirds and animals.”

To maintain the preserve’s natural integrity, the ECM Micro Forest will not be available for recreational activities. However, it will benefit the community from the moment the first tree is planted by helping to improve air quality, manage stormwater runoff, reduce urban heat islands, and lower ozone levels.

As part of its mission to serve the needs and interests of children, ECM will tie the micro forest into its new Phillips 66 STEM Forest Exhibit opening this summer. This hands-on exhibit brings the outside indoors, giving kids the chance to create their own woodland creatures, explore ECM’s Canopy Tree House, and discover steps they can take to protect the natural ecosystem.

In addition, information for parents and caregivers will be available at the exhibit so they can learn more about the ECM Micro Forest and get tips to selecting the right native trees and plants for their own home mini-forests. More information about the upcoming exhibit will be available at www.edwardsvillechildrenmuseum.org in the next few weeks.

“Since opening our Discovery Garden in 2018, ECM has been dedicated to helping kids grow their love of the great outdoors through free play and exploration,” said Schwent. “The Phillips 66 STEM Forest Exhibit and the ECM Micro Forest are taking that mission to the next step by not only providing new resources for learning, but also protecting the environment so every kid in Edwardsville can have a healthier future.”

For more information, visit www.edwardsvillechildrensmuseum.org.

The micro forest site, planned along Illinois Route 143, next to the Cedarhurst Senior Living facility.

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