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Circle of Trees

A Multigenerational Tapestry of Faith Program

Circle of Trees is a multigenerational program of eight workshops that nurture deep connection with trees, nature, and all of earth’s living creatures. The program uses trees as an entry point to understand and connect with life on earth. Across many cultures, trees are recognized as a symbol for life on earth—for example, the biblical Tree of Life. Even young children understand trees as sustainers of life, fundamental engines of life on earth as we know it. Trees create and purify the air we breathe. They house and provide resources for myriad creatures, including humans. They bring us peace, joy, and delight.

About the Author

Julie Simon is a freelance writer specializing in environmental education, green energy, sustainable transportation, health, and technology. She serves as a naturalist at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, guiding students and campers to explore woodlands and wetlands, and wrote a chapter in the forthcoming book Developing Environmental Awareness in Children: A Nature Studies Guide for Parents and Educators. As a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, she has served on the Children's Ministry Team. She enjoys stalking wildflowers, mushrooms, and salamanders with her family in the North Georgia mountains. She holds an M.S. in Land Resources from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a B.A. in English from the University of Virginia.

Katie Tweedie Covey has been a Unitarian Universalist director of religious education (DRE) since 1984, serving children and youth in programs from mid-size to large. She currently serves the Boulder Valley UU Fellowship in Lafayette, Colorado. A lifelong UU, Katie grew up in faith communities including Devon, Pennsylvania; Charleston, West Virginia; Claremont, California; and Midland, Michigan. She is an author of Tapestry of Faith programs including Toolbox of Faith, a leader and trainer for the UU Identity and Curriculum modules of the UUA Renaissance Program, and an active member of the Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA). Katie has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. She holds an M.Ed. from Tufts University and B.A. from Connecticut College.

Pat Kahn is the Children and Families Program Director in the Resource Development Office of the Ministries and Faith Development staff group of the UUA. Pat served as the DRE for two Atlanta-area congregations for more than 15 years. She has served on the Board and the Integrity Team of LREDA, on the leadership team of the Southeast LREDA chapter, and in several capacities for the Mid-South District of the UUA. A Credentialed Religious Educator, Master level, Pat served as a mentor for the UUA RE Credentialing program. She holds a B.A. in Music from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge:

  • Charlene Brotman for permission to use the story "You're Saved by Something Green" from The Kid's Book of Awesome Stuff (Brotman-Marshfield Curriculum, June 2004). Available from the UUA Bookstore.
  • Charlesbridge Publishing Inc. for permission to use the text of the book Trout Are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre, text copyright 2008.
  • Dawn Publications for permission to use the text of the children's picture book The Tree in the Ancient Forest by Carol Reed-Jones, text copyright 1995 by Carol Reed-Jones.
  • David Densmore and Susan Osborn for permission to use the lyrics from the song "Winter" from Susan Osborn's recording Still Life; music by Antonio Vivaldi; lyrics by David Densmore and Susan Osborn.
  • Joyce Poley for permission to use the song "What Can We Do" from the Let Your Heart Sing! songbook and CD, available from Uni-Uniques.
  • Betsy Rose for permission to use the song "Standing Like a Tree" from the album In My Two Hands.
  • Jim Scott for permission to use the "The Rainforest Song," from the Earth and Spirit Songbook and the CD Sailing with the Moon.
  • Gretchen Sleicher for permission to use the arrangement of "The Simple Praise of Trees" on the Songs for the Great Turning website.

The Program

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  — Albert Einstein

Every part of the earth is sacred; every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every humming insect is holy.  — Anonymous

Roger Ulrich is an environmental psychologist who took advantage of a naturalistic experiment . . . What he found was that the patients with a view of a grove of trees left hospital on average a day sooner, needed less pain medication, and had fewer negative nurse’s notes than patients who had a view of a brick wall.  — Esther Sternberg in “The Science of Healing Places,” On Being, September 2012

Circle of Trees is a multigenerational program of eight workshops that nurture deep connection with trees, nature, and all of earth's living creatures. The program uses trees as an entry point to understand and connect with life on earth. Across many cultures, trees are recognized as a symbol for life on earth—for example, the biblical Tree of Life. Even young children understand trees as sustainers of life, fundamental engines of life on earth as we know it. Trees create and purify the air we breathe. They house and provide resources for myriad creatures, including humans. They bring us peace, joy, and delight.

Goals

This program will:

  • Provide a basic understanding of why trees are, literally, “providers of life”
  • Identify threats to trees and the web of life and provide inspiration to take action
  • Explore using methods that are spiritual, non-intellectual, with the hope of fostering deep connection
  • Provide meaningful ways in which participants can actively promote the health of trees and, by extension, the web of life
  • Reinforce the concept of interdependence as expressed in the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”
  • Affirm that stewardship of the earth is an explicit act of Unitarian Universalist faith.

Leaders

The most important qualities for leaders of this program are curiosity, joy, and an ethic of care for the environment.

Multigenerational programs are an excellent opportunity to engage youth co-leaders in the leadership team. Adolescents rarely find themselves in communities that welcome their leadership, and this program invites our congregations to be a sorely needed exception.

Participants

Stewardship of the environment is a crucial, timely topic relevant to people of all ages, who live in all kinds of family relationships. Using this program, congregations can build multigenerational community by engaging adults, youth, and children fully as Unitarian Universalists heeding the call to action in service to earth. When publicizing the program, be clear that everyone is welcome—indeed, needed: single people, families of any configuration, adults of all ages. The program serves children as young as eight or nine and youth and adults of all ages. The UUA website offers additional resources for multigenerational programming in congregations.

Anticipate the participant who simply must move in order to remain engaged, or the older person who must be near the speaker in order to hear, can help you create an inclusive program. No one should be excluded from the program or its activities by real or perceived physical or other limitations. The most essential tool in the process of inclusion is awareness that adaptation may be needed. Some activities offer specific adaptations under the heading Including All Participants, immediately after the Description of Activity.

Downloading the Document

You can download this program, save it on your computer, edit it, and print it. Or, you can download individual sessions or workshops.

Share, Print, or Explore

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.

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