Connecting Children With Nature — Learning About Trees
- Grades: PreK–K
Our playground is surrounded by an abundance of beautiful trees, which always seem to captivate my very curious kindergartners. Who would have guessed that a group of five- and six-year-olds would find trees more intriguing than slides and swings? Read on as I share the lessons I created to capitalize on my students' natural enthusiasm for trees.
1. Start with a discussion about trees. For this discussion, I use prompts like:
- What is a tree?
- What do you like best about trees?
- Why do people like to have trees in their yards and parks?
- What would our world be like without trees?
2. Then read the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It is a great introduction to how trees help us.
3. Next, discuss the specific ways that trees help us.I choose three of these gifts and illustrate them with tree-related activities.
a. Trees give us food.
Students were surprised to find that many of the fruits and nuts we enjoy come from trees.
- Brainstorm a list of things people eat that come from trees.
- Sample foods that come from trees.
- Graph favorite edible tree products.
- Make maple syrup.
- After reading The Apple Pie Tree, allow students to sample apple pie.
b. Trees give us wood.
Many of the products we use on a daily basis are made from the wood we get from trees.
- Have students go on a scavenger hunt throughout the school identifying objects that are made of wood.
- Invite students to bring things from home made of wood or to cut photographs of wooden things out of magazines. During share time, have your students discuss the importance of these objects.
- Let students use wooden popsicle sticks to build houses and picture frames.
c. Trees are a home for animals.
Discuss how trees provide a home for many animals. I like to begin this discussion by reading Tree Homes. This book will help students learn about the different types of animals that make their homes in trees.
- Go on a nature walk to observe some of the animals that live in and visit trees.
- Have students use a T-chart to distinguish animals that live in trees from those who do not.
- Imitate your favorite tree animal.
4. Adopt a tree.
My students adopted a tree near our school as a special friend. We took a photograph of the tree and posted it in our classroom. Students learned about this type of tree, what kind of life goes on around it, and how it changes from season to season. We also discussed ways we can help our new friend stay healthy (e.g., watering it, protecting it from bicycles, lawn mowers, vandals, etc.) We plan to visit our tree periodically and watch for changes. Students will record their observations in their tree journals.
We also used cubes to measure the thickness of our tree trunk. The children placed the cubes around the trunk and counted how many it took to complete the circle.
5. Other tree-related assignment include:
- Count how many trees you see on your way to school.
- Take a picture with your favorite tree.
- Draw a picture illustrating trees of the four seasons.
- Explore the various shapes of trees.
- Plant a tree outside your school.
- Label the parts of a tree.
6. For more on trees, visit:
- Trees Are Terrific: A child-friendly site from the University of Illinois Urban Programs Resource Network.
- Mrs. Jones' Room: A page full of tree-related lessons, songs, and links from another kindergarten teacher.
- First-School: Tree-related crafts and activities for kindergarten and preschool classes.
- FOSSweb: The Trees Module from FOSS, of the National Science Foundation and the University of California at Berkeley.
- Real Trees 4 Kids: A wealth of information and resources for children grades K–12.
7. Take a look at more of my favorite books to use during a study on trees:
Kindergartners respond well to nature-inspired curriculum. Trees provide opportunities for children to learn about math, science, and more while exploring one of nature’s wonders. I hope the activities I’ve provided will inspire you and your students!