Become a Tree Steward

The Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards is an all-volunteer organization. We are one of about a dozen Tree Steward Chapters across the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Tree Stewards are trained community volunteers committed to promoting healthy urban and rural forests. To increase public awareness of the value of trees, we deliver training classes, tree walks, and other educational programs. We also conduct a wide range of projects in a five-county area around Charlottesville, Virginia. With training and hands-on practice, tree stewards are equipped to identify trees, counsel on tree selection, plant and demonstrate proper tree planting, pruning and follow-up care, and guide removal of invasive plants that threaten trees.

Each person who becomes a Charlottesville Area Tree Steward makes a commitment to return a minimum of 25 volunteer service hours annually. Active tree stewards average around 140 hours annually. We are a positive force for change in our communities and our projects are tailored to meet the needs of these communities.

We encourage you to take our class and advocate, educate, and participate in planting and protecting urban and rural trees. The course will train you to accomplish these goals. We will match your skills and interests in trees with a wide range of activities to support urban and rural forests.

The class is required for anyone to become a Charlottesville Area Tree Steward unless you have comparable training (e.g., you are a certified arborist or have a degree in tree-related sciences). Also, if your schedule conflicts with the training class, we will work with you to find other ways to satisfy the education requirement. Please contact us at if either of these situations applies to you.

For the past several years, our new Tree Steward Training Program has taken place in the fall.  In 2020, while in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we do not plan to hold a class, but in 2021 we hope to hold the class in the fall. Please check this part of our website periodically as we will post updated information as we learn more.

The class is anticipated to involve a combination of online training sessions and field activities. Class size is usually 32. The class will likely have a 16-week duration, with online classes preceding field activities held on every other Saturday at various locations in the Charlottesville area. These sites will be identified at the time of registration. Tuition is $135 and includes textbooks and other training materials, a Tree Steward carrying bag, and your first-year membership dues.  Membership dues in subsequent years are $20 per year.

The training program has four parts:

  • A series of 20 online narrated slideshows to develop your stewardship knowledge.
  • Six field activities to put into practice the concepts and principles learned in the online slideshows dealing with tree identification, forest ecology, pruning, planting and invasive plant identification and treatment.
  • Optional homework assignments to practice your skills.
  • A wide range of out-of-class activities over the duration of the course to experience and participate in Tree Steward work. These activities will allow you to match your interests to what we do.
    • Out-of-class activities may include Tree Steward events (walks, short classes, projects and committee or member meetings), or events held by organizations with similar missions such as Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists, etc.
    • Time spent in these activities will count towards your annual volunteer service hours requirement.

Your volunteer service as a Tree Steward can be made in three areas:

  • Educating the public through classes, walks, plantings, and table events.
  • Hands-on work planting trees, pruning and caring for them, and removing threatening invasives.
  • Administering our organization, managing our website or library, communicating with our constituencies or planning and supporting a wide range of tasks, much of which can be done from home.

To graduate from this course, you will need to:

  • Complete each of the online topics in the curriculum and achieve a score of at least 70 on the quizzes included with the topics. You can take any quiz multiple times to improve your score.
  • Attend at least 5 of the 6 field activities included in the course (field sessions 1-6). If you miss one of the six, you will need to make it up by participating in a comparable Tree Steward activity outside the class period. See the class schedule here.

To become a certified tree steward, you will need to:

  • Meet the course requirements listed above.
  • Complete a minimum of 25 service hours before the end of the year conclusion of the class period.

Our online classes are hosted on a learning management system called MOODLE -Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. You will be provided instructions on how to access class materials in MOODLE. For each topic covered, there are several parts:

  • An introduction explaining why Tree Stewards need to know about the topic and a biography of the presenter.
  • A narrated slide show that comprises the main content.
  • A quiz designed to assess your learning progress.
  • A summary of the topic’s key points; and
  • Some have references, additional review materials and brief assignments.

During the course, you will have ample opportunity to ask questions about content. One way is to use the MOODLE forum. This function allows you to pause the slide show and type a question. Everyone in class has access to the forum and will see your question and our response. Also, there will be a question and answer session at the beginning of each field activity, typically with the topic presenter.

You will be given access to MOODLE two to three weeks prior to the first field activity. This will allow you plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the online learning program and complete the assignments required prior to the first session.

Each field activity is preceded by viewing a few online topics which relate directly to the subject covered at the subsequent field activity. The two-week period between field activities provides adequate time to cover the required materials when it is most convenient for class members. Typically, each module includes three main topics. In some cases, there are more, but if so, some are short subjects, e.g., how to record your volunteer hours on the Tree Steward website.

Help will be available if there are any issues accessing or using the training materials.

For field activities, the 32 class members will be divided into smaller groups so that all can readily hear presenters or conduct the day’s activities. There will be four tree walk leaders working with 7 or 8 class members each. For planting, pruning and invasives removal, class members will form groups of three with an experienced tree steward or outside instructor present in each group to demonstrate best practices and provide guidance.

We are looking forward to meeting you, assisting you with the training program, working side-by-side with you and enjoying Piedmont Virginia’s beautiful urban and rural forests together as you progress through the class toward becoming a Tree Steward.

To learn more, you can reach us at

Stay safe!