By Connie Yoon

As much as people appreciate nature, in an urbanized world, greenery often gets overlooked. Trees sustain our livelihood, yet we designate them decorative features of increasingly concrete landscapes. With the worsening conditions of the climate crisis, it is more important now than ever to start rectifying deforestation and restoring native greenery—not only for ourselves but for future generations. Your Children’s Trees (YCT) at UCSB is an organization with exactly this purpose, and its members do meaningful work planting trees and educating the community. 

YCT at UCSB is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring urban forestry around UC Santa Barbara’s campus, as well as around restoration areas in Goleta and Santa Barbara. Its main mission is to plant trees for the next generation in a sustainable manner. Erika Chan (she/her/hers, 4th-year Environmental Science major), the current president of YCT at UCSB, shares that members do a wide variety of work. On the tree care side, the work they do depends on the season. Over the summer, members prioritize tree care maintenance—making sure irrigation is running, checking that trees are staked and tied properly, and generally ensuring that trees are growing well. Fall is their planting season for little acorn and oak trees. Members of YCT start planting acorns into little pouches that are placed in growing grounds for two years before being planted outside. During the spring, they host large planting events. In the upcoming quarter, they are planning on organizing multiple plantings at elementary schools and North Campus Open Space (NCOS). 

Planting trees that are native to the area is an important aspect of their work. Coast Live Oaks are adapted to the dry and arid climate of California; YCT prioritizes planting these trees. When planting on NCOS, they try to plant other native native trees including sycamores, cottonwoods, and willows. They can also plant more diverse trees on elementary school campuses, according to Erika Chan. Your Children’s Trees works with a board certified master arborist to ensure that trees are planted properly. As part of their mission, the organization wants trees to benefit both people and the environment. Trees provide shade in large areas. For example, NCOS has many benches with no shade. Recently, members of YCT dug holes to install an irrigation system here. With this irrigation system in place, they will be able to plant Coast Live Oaks in the near future.

Your Children’s Trees also promotes environmental education within the community. Members teach elementary school students about nature, teaching topics like science and math through the lens of tree care and nature. Pre-pandemic, members would attend science nights on elementary school campuses, bringing hands-on activities to teach students about nature. For example, they would demonstrate whether an acorn is viable or not based on whether it floats. They have been able to re-focus on this interactive education aspect this quarter with the return to in-person learning. Some other activities that YCT hosts are tree walks. QR codes linking back to the YCT website are placed on a large biodiversity of trees on elementary school campuses in Goleta. Students and parents can walk through the trees, scanning the QR code to learn about the tree—what species it is and where it originates. 

Erika Chan (she/her/hers)  became involved with YCT during the spring quarter of her freshman year at UCSB. As a first-year, she was searching for opportunities to explore her interests. She was unsure what exactly she wanted to do but YCT caught her attention because she did not need prior experience to get involved. Additionally, YCT provided hands-on experience for tree care and overall field experience. She loved the environment; she was immediately able to get started on accomplishing meaningful work with people that shared the mindset of planting trees for the environment and community. Erika gained valuable knowledge during her time with YCT—not just regarding tree planting but also about collaboration and coordination. Over time, her passion for trees broadened through the experience she gleaned. Her interest, which started with tree care, now extends to general conservation and habitat restoration and the organisms that will benefit from it. She shares that having hands-on experience was monumental in building a foundation for her current interests. 

“We are celebrating Arbor Day all the time, always thinking about planting trees for the people and the community. We are always trying to plant trees in a sustainable way so they can grow for the next generation,” says Erika regarding the upcoming Arbor Day. This year, Your Children’s Trees is planning on planting trees at elementary schools to celebrate the day and provide a tangible experience for students. 

The work that Your Children’s Trees does showcases the importance of urban forestry within our community. For Erika, bringing people together to plant a tree is symbolic of how they are trying to protect and restore the environment. Watching community members, especially children, come together to plant new life has been an extremely gratifying part of her college experience. 

“Overall, we’re a really small organization in terms of California and nationwide. But our efforts in the local community have really big implications for restoring our urban forestry and combating deforestation that is happening globally,” shares Erika. These local efforts provide a global impact, one tree at a time. 

If you are interested in getting involved with Your Children’s Trees, you can volunteer at any of their planting events. More information can be found on the Your Children’s Trees at UCSB website