The Hastings Museum often works with separate entities to accomplish shared goals. Two new projects that have just been announced highlight projects in which we have found Natural Partners!

Project 1:
Thanks to the Free Trees for Fall Planting program, an effort of the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, the Hastings Museums has just received 5 free shade trees for its patio renovation project. The project’s primary components are new landscaping, an enlarged patio, and the installation of an outdoor classroom.

Despite providing a wide range of social, economic, and environmental benefits, most Nebraska community forests have been in steady and sometimes dramatic decline. Many challenges contribute, including extreme weather, insects, disease and lack of diversity. The Emerald Ash borer is the latest major challenge added to the list.

In an effort to stop this decline and increase community forest resilience, the Free Trees program grants up to 10 high-quality trees for tree-related educational events and community celebrations promoting trees and fall planting. In addition to simply planting more trees, the program goals include increasing appreciation and awareness of the value of community forests in Nebraska. Special emphasis is placed on species diversity and higher impact projects, especially street tree planting and projects in neighborhoods of highest need. Free Trees for Fall Planting is supported by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s Trees for Nebraska Towns Initiative funded by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and a U.S. Forest Service Landscape Scale Restoration grant received by the Nebraska Forest Service.

Join us! On Saturday, October 2, at 9 a.m. the Museum will host a tree planting party to get these new additions in the ground. We hope you can join us! BYOS: Bring your own shovel! We have 11 trees to plant and many hands make light work. See you there!

Project 2:
The Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) and Hastings Museum have entered a new partnership to bring the best in environmental education to Hastings and the central Nebraska region.

The new program called “Affiliate Education Centers,” will provide Project Learning Tree and Project WET (Water Education Today) materials to Hastings and surrounding communities. The Hastings Museum has agreed to house these various activity kits — aptly titled ‘Tree Trunks’ — to be made available for check-out by local teachers, educators, and the public. Each kit includes curricula and materials to lead environmental education lessons with for students. Additionally, the Museum will host educator professional development opportunities focused on each resource.

“Our hope is to provide unique environmental learning opportunities for both teachers and their students, in order to inspire the next generation of tree planters in our great state,” said Jack Hilgert, Conservation Education Assistant at NFS. “This partnership aligns our goals with the excellent educational programming the museum provides to youth, educators, and general public. The Hastings Museum is showing its commitment to being the go-to organization in the region for environmental education,” he said.

If you are interested in checking out a Tree Trunk from the Hastings Museum contact Russanne Hoff, Curator of Education, at 402-461-2399.

Becoming a Nebraska Forest Service certified Affiliate Education Center is a special designation for museums, nature centers, state parks, and other educationally invested organizations that are especially focused on environmental and STEM education. The Nebraska Forest Service is piloting this new program in communities found in western and central Nebraska.

This year, NFS and the museum will partner to host the first of many professional development opportunities at this new Affiliate Education Center. During the inaugural year of the program, NFS hopes to establish four or five of these regionally focused partnerships. Eventually, the agency hopes to have a community-level presence in all regions of the state.

Project Learning Tree uses forests as a “window to the world” to increase understanding of our complex environment. Project WET advances water education to understand global challenges and inspire local solutions. Both programs cultivate awareness and appreciation for Nebraska’s natural resources while stimulating the ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues, the commitment to take responsible action, and the aptitude to select sustainable choices to conserve these resources for future generations.

During the inaugural year of the program, the NFS plans to establish four or five of these regionally focused partnerships thanks to grant funds provided by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Eventually, the agency hopes to have a community-level presence in all regions of the state. Any organizations interested in becoming an Affiliate Education Center should contact Jack Hilgert, at jack.hilgert@unl.edu or 402-472-4749.