Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TREEmendous!

WHOOPS, I kind of forgot to write a blog this week (and last week). I've been so busy with the garden since the rain stopped, which is really a perfect segue into the topic I'd been meaning to get to. There is all kinds of fun stuff going on around St Louis for the Missouri Botannical Garden's TREEmendous Celebration of Trees, part of the UN's International Year of Forests!

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The main TREEmendous activity is the Great St Louis Tree Hunt. I first ran into this when I found Tree #8 while looking for a geocache in Bellerive Park. The owner of that geocache just told me the other day that there is a whole series of geocaches that go with the Tree Hunt! Two activities in one!

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As you can see from the map in the first picture (and online here) the 30 trees are scattered through the St Louis area. I think the pictures I'm using here were just for the Forest Festival a couple weeks ago, perhaps a mini tree hunt. There are only two "Official" Tree Hunt trees in MOBOT, and they should have a marker with a QR Code that you can scan with your smartphone. If anyone has recommendations for reliable, free QR scanner apps for iPhone and Android, please leave a comment!

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The way the Tree Hunt works is like this: download the guide, find at least 15 of the 30 trees, take a picture of the sign with your smart phone (or write down the information on the sign in your guide), and then take your findings to the TREEmendous Interactive Discovery Center to claim your tree-themed prize!

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And if you are doing this with a smartphone, don't forget to download the Groundspeak Geochaching app so you can see if the tree you found is part of the St Louis Geocachers Association's TREEmendous series! The Groundspeak app is $10 (one-time charge), but it is totally reliable and worth every penny ten times over. Francis and I both have the "pay" app on our phones and use it all the time.

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The reason we went to MOBOT on the Forest Festival weekend was to check out the Extreme Tree Houses, which will be on display through August 21, 2011. Much like CANstruction, Extreme Tree Houses is a competition of local architects, designers, artists, and schools that combines design/build with education. In the interests of space, I'm not going to be able to talk about every single tree house (and why would I spoil all the fun of seeing them for yourself?) Since we were kind of disappointed that none of these Extreme Tree Houses were actually up in trees, I'm going to show you the ones that most embrace the spirit of the tree house without leaving the ground.

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First we have "Inside the Tree House" (design team), one of my favorites. As you can see, it has a "house" part, as well as a back porch/gazebo. This was extremely popular with the kids and some of them were very territorial about it. I thought that was pretty awesome, since it said to me that their imaginations took off as soon as they set foot in it.

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Next we have "The Amaze-ing Rings" (design team), which is super cool in a multitude of ways. First, it's a maze, which means that the very design gives that closed-off feeling one is looking for in a tree house.

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Second, the circular maze represents the rings of a tree, and the wood plaques throughout the maze explain the composition and science behind the formation of tree rings. Fun and science! I expect nothing less from Wash U!

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Speaking of fun and science, I have to give an honorable mention to Christner and Engraphix for "Mouse + Tree = Phi". It seems a little fragile to be considered a tree house, but we admit to some nerd squee over their incorporation of da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, and the Fibonacci sequence (my favorite sequence!)

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Last but certainly not least, my favorite tree house of all, the Kansas City Art Institute's "Nomad Nest". In my semi-professional but unaffiliated opinion, this one embodies the spirit of the contest better than any other. It definitely has the feel of a treehouse, plus it really incorporated the tree into the design, and is made entirely of found/repurposed materials.

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Even the plants in the window boxes are both edible and locally sourced! What a great touch!

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Of course, since I can't do anything halfway, my goal is to find all 30 trees this summer, and I'm sure it will inspire lots of blog posts. The contest runs through September 30th, so get out there and hunt some trees and report back on your adventures!

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