Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Elizabeth. Elizabeth Wonders, “Why do we need trees?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Elizabeth!

Have you seen a tree today? Maybe there is a tall pine growing in a local park. Perhaps you live near an orchard where farmers are growing fruit trees. Or maybe you pass a shady elm on your trip to school. Wherever you live, there are likely trees growing nearby.  

Trees can live anywhere on Earth if there is enough water, heat, and air to keep them alive. They inhabit six of the seven continents. Antarctica is the only one that is not home to trees. Deserts and mountaintops are other places that trees cannot survive. 

Trees are very important to life on Earth. The roots hold soil in place and prevent erosion. Through photosynthesis, trees also clean carbon dioxide out of the air and produce the oxygen that humans breathe. Trees also provide homes for many animals such as birds, squirrels, and insects. They give shade and help keep the planet cool.

Humans also get many resources from trees. Fruit, such as apples, oranges, and avocados, grows on trees. People use wood from trees to build homes, make paper, and create furniture. Some people burn wood to heat their homes. Trees are a renewable resource because people can replant them.

Arbor Day is an annual holiday that celebrates trees. The name comes from the Latin word for tree—arbor. Each Arbor Day, people honor the day by planting and caring for trees.

Arbor Day began in Nebraska. J. Sterling Morton wanted to encourage individuals and civic groups to plant trees. When he was secretary for the Nebraska Territory, he suggested a tree planting holiday. People celebrated the first Arbor Day on April 10, 1872. They planted about one million trees across Nebraska on that date. Today Morton is known as the Father of Arbor Day.

Morton’s idea spread. People in other states began celebrating Arbor Day. President Richard Nixon declared Arbor Day as a national holiday in 1972. Nationally Arbor Day is on the last Friday in April. However, many states observe Arbor Day on another date. Weather is different in each state, so celebrations are held based on the best time to plant trees. This map shows when each state celebrates Arbor Day.

Planting trees is as important today as it was in Morton’s time. In many areas of the world, people cut down trees and forests. They harvest some of them for timber. Others are removed to clear land for agriculture or construction. When people remove all trees from an area at once, this practice is called “clear cutting.” Sometimes, people plant new trees. Scientists call this reforestation.

Deforestation is when trees are clear-cut but not replanted. It can harm the environment. Soil erodes when roots no longer hold it in place. Animals, who have lost their habitat, may become extinct. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, raising the temperature of the Earth.

Fortunately, Arbor Day focuses people’s attention on planting trees. It also helps people look to the future. When trees are planted, it takes many years for them to mature. So a tree planted today will offer shade, clean the air, and provide animal habitats for future generations. 

But Arbor Day is only once each year. Trees are important every day. You can make a difference! What might you do to care for the trees around you? How might you reduce your use of paper and other wood-based products? Who might help you plant a tree?

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.4, CCRA.L.5, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.8, NCAS.PR.5, NCAS.PR.6, NCAS.CN.10, ESS-2

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will have you on your feet and dancing!