Online Learning: Austin’s Urban Forest Video Series

TreeFolks is proud to partner with EcoRise to provide extended learning activities to deepen student understanding. EcoRise inspires a new generation of leaders to design a sustainable future for all. Even through remote learning youth can be inspired and empowered to tackle real-world challenges in their communities.

To extend student learning, click here use the EcoRise Community Engagement guide.

Part 1: A City Made for City Shade


Through a partnership between TreeFolks and EcoRise, we have developed a 4-part video series to introduce students K-12 to Austin’s amazing urban forest. Austin’s urban forest is both essential and threatened. Trees provide services that make our city lives easier but are being lost due to drought and development. Our urban forest needs our help so we can have a green, growing city well into the future.

Part 2: Numerous Juniperus, but Neither Were Cedar!

Ashe juniper, or cedar in central Texas, is also known as Juniperus ashei. It is not a real cedar and neither is its sister species the Eastern Redcedar, Juniperus virginiana. Regardless, they are greatly maligned for their perceived flaws despite the ecosystem services they provide. These trees are distinguished from one another with some difficulty, but there are a few obvious traits to use to tell them apart.

Part 3: A Realm with Elm at the Helm!

The cedar elm, or Ulmus crassifolia, is one of several native elm species in Central Texas. While most elms in the country were lost last century to Dutch Elm Disease, Central Texas managed to hold on to ours. Cedar elms can be easily identified, but may be confused with a winged elm. Overall, cedar elms are equally loved and hated by central Texans, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-suited shade tree for our area.

Part 4: Holy Smokes, There’s Two Live Oaks!

The Live oak is probably one of the most quintessential trees for central Texas, but what looks like one species is actually two! The two species of live oak in Central Texas are the Southern Live Oak, Quercus virginiana, and its sister species the Plateau Live Oak, Quercus fusiformis. Both trees are nearly identical except for one obvious physical trait and several habitat requirements. Can you tell the difference?

Learn More With EcoRise:

Teachers can extend this learning and pair these activities with EcoRise lessons:
Kinder: Seed Guardians- students learn why seeds are important and how to plant and care for them.
1st-2nd: Public Space Detectives- students can explore the space around their home and create a plan to improve it.
3rd-4th: I am a Public Space Guardian- students explore living and non-living things and make a plan to protect them.
5th-6th– Green Cities- students research how “green” their city is including green landscapes and trees.
7th-8th: Green Mapping- students learn about the Green Mapping movement and create a plan for change.
9th-12th: Planning Smart Spaces- students take on the roll of Urban planners to improve their neighborhood


EcoRise is an educational non-profit that serves K-12 teachers with STEM-based, project-based learning ready curriculum (in English and Spanish), teacher training and support, and Student Innovation Funds to support students as they tackle sustainability challenges on their campus and in their community. You can learn about their work here and see their students in action here. EcoRise serves schools across Texas with major hubs in Central Texas, Dallas/Ft Worth, Houston, San Antonio, the Rio Grande Valley, and Rural teachers throughout the state with their Rural Initiative.

Austin’s Urban Canopy as a Tool for Campus Improvement:

PBL/Capstone Experience: Using the Urban Canopy as lens for Campus Improvement, use our Eco-Audit Grant Guide (hyper link) to help students use their learning from the Tree Folks videos and activities to create plan to improve the Urban Canopy on their campus. Students can evaluate their campus canopy by using the Austin ISD Urban Forest Tree Inventory.