Tree Talk festival caps off University’s Earth Week celebrations

In celebration of Earth Day, the University is offering a variety of activities that connect us to our planet and each other. Throughout April, students, faculty, and staff who are passionate about environmental sustainability and justice are gathering to help plant trees and pollinators, clean up our treasured riverside, and learn about community-engaged tree equity projects.

Tree Talk

The University’s Institute for Human Health and the Environment (IHHE) and Enrico Fermi School No. 17 have come together to form Tree Talk, a collaborative project addressing issues of public health inequity in Rochester. Tree Talk is a project aimed at increasing awareness about the relationship between trees, human health, and equity. The project supports youth in building social networks for a topic they care about, and promotes tree equity in areas of Rochester with lower tree equity scores.

Launched at the Rochester Makerspace in October 2023, with the School 17 Garden Club and their families, Tree Talk’s goal is to plant 40 trees across various Rochester neighborhoods and encourage action around the impact trees have on community health. Students and mentors made decisions about tree species selection and planting locations based on data from the Racial Equity Index and leading public health and research. Students determined the planting sites for the new trees in several locations based on the following criteria:

  1. A place where a tree died and was not replaced
  2. A neighborhood with a lot less trees than others
  3. A sentimental spot to a student.

The collaborators have also done research on what trees species are native to New York and recommended several varieties of trees in different sizes for each planting location

Tree Talk is led by science teacher Ellie Faugh, a Warner School alumnus, and April Leuhmann, associate professor at the Warner School and pillar leader in IHHE. Guest educators and partners that provided additional support to Tree Talk include TeJay Chess from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County  and John McIntyre from University Horticulture and Grounds.

Tree Talk students, teachers, and families invite the community to learn more about their project and how to get involved at the Festival of Trees. Festival attendees can explore the connections between trees, human health, and equity and even participate in tree planting in nearby locations. Anyone is welcome to come help plant a tree, IHHE only asks you to bring a child with you.

Festival of Trees

Saturday, April 27, at School 17 (158 Orchard St. Rochester, NY 14611)

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Celebrate Earth Week
All members of the University community also have a chance to celebrate Earth Day together by joining Green Reps, UR Bee Campus, and University Horticulture and Grounds for a tree and pollinator planting and riverside clean up.

Pollinator Planting & Riverside Cleanup
Wednesday, April 24, at Hill Court Rd (see map)
12:00 – 3:00 pm: Tree and pollinator planting
1:00: River clean up group departs

Though this event, the University is participating in the nationwide Clean Earth Challenge, a partnership that supports volunteers toward collecting millions of pieces of trash and debris that litter the land, oceans, and waterways. Those interested in the riverside clean up can meet at the planting site on Hill Court Rd and will depart at 1:00 p.m. to pick up trash on the Genesee Riverway Trail along Wilson Blvd. Pickers, gloves, and trash bags will be provided. Please register in advance.

Check the schedule of Earth Week events for details and updates including EarthFest April 15 – 21 hosted by Grassroots and a local foods dinner on April 24 hosted by Dining Services.

Questions about Tree Talk can be sent to
Questions about Earth Day celebrations at the University can be sent to

Written by Sarah Woodams ‘24(T5)
Photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester