An Educational Model to Facilitate Mandated Environmental Behavior Change

Michael S. Orfanedes, Angelina C. Toomey


Concern over widespread ongoing tree abuse that was creating safety hazards for the public and threatening the health and longevity of the tree canopy in Broward County, FL, led the Board of County Commissioners to adopt an ordinance regulating the tree trimming industry in 2000. Known as the Broward County Tree Trimmer Licensing Ordinance, this legislation mandated that each organization that performs tree trimming obtain a license. One of the requirements for obtaining a license was passage of a mandatory training class that included a competency exam. Through extensive grass roots planning, a hands-on training curriculum for basic pruning was developed by UF-IFAS Broward County Extension. Curriculum materials were prepared and instructors were recruited and trained. Classes were conducted in English, Spanish, and Creole to meet the needs of this diverse industry. The combination of field-savvy instructors, lots of visual presentations, and outdoor “hands-on” pruning demonstrations has served the industry well. To date, nearly 5000 individuals have been trained. Special accommodations in the form of verbal exams, free retakes, and skills demonstration exams have been popular with learning impaired and functionally illiterate students. Continuing education classes have been developed to provide training in tree biology and hazard assessment, storm preparedness, and recovery pruning and safety. In a random sample of 104 trained tree trimmers, 94% (98) described the classes as providing a significant benefit to their business operations. Nearly the same percentage reported sharp reductions in hat-racking, over-lifting and flush-cutting of hardwoods and over-pruning of palms. This model of education has been successful because of its service orientation and relentless commitment to making every student’s experience a positive one. It has professionalized the industry and made the tree canopy safer and healthier.


environmental behavior change, pruning demonstrations, tree abuse, tree trimmer training

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283