Trees come in many shapes and sizes. Students become familiar with tree structure and scale by using different methods to measure them and by making comparisons. They learn the importance of standardized measurements and proper measuring techniques.
For the complete activity and more like this, purchase the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide at Shop.PLT.org and/or attend a professional development training in your state.
Below are some supporting resources for this activity.
Download the copyright-free student pages that are included with this activity:
How Big Is That Tree?
Expand your students’ learning and imaginations. Help students meet their reading goals, while building upon concepts learned in this activity, with the following children’s book recommendations:
Try a simple variation of this activity to engage children in the outdoors at home. Download this fun and easy-to-do family activity.
The following tools and resources may be used to enhance the activity.
Convert Tree Measurements into Carbon Measurements
Michigan State University Department of Forestry Forest Carbon and Climate Program (FCCP) has produced a Tree Measurement Video Series. This collection of free educational videos demonstrates various tree measurements and how to convert these field measurements into carbon measurements.
Video: Cool Tools that Foresters Use, Part 1 and Part 2
“Cool Tools that Foresters Use, Part 1 and Part 2.” Part 1 (7:47 minutes) shows how to measure tree diameter with a diameter tape, height with a Merritt hypsometer, and age with an increment borer. Part 2 (6:40 minutes) shows how to measure stand density with an angle gauge and basal area with a wedge prism. This two-part video is part of a series of BeLeaf It or Not! videos by Michigan State University Extension, which are geared for students.
Video: How Does a Tree Grow? Hint: It’s Not What You Think
“How Does a Tree Grow? Hint: It’s Not What You Think.” This 7:06-minute video describes how a tree’s twigs, trunk, and branches grow longer and fatter, explains how to count tree rings on a tree cookie, and shows some different stories a tree cookie might reveal.
Video Demo: How Big Is Your Tree
Watch the How Big Is Your Tree Demonstration video (10 minutes), developed by Matt Schnabel, South Carolina PLT Coordinator. In PLT’s How Big Is Your Tree, students measure trees in different ways and become familiar with the tree’s scale and structure. Another video demonstration is available here.
Adopt a Tree Journal
Encourage children to “adopt” a nearby tree. It could be a tree in their backyard, in a city park, on a street in their neighborhood, or at school. Ask students to keep a journal about their tree they have “adopted” to study. Share or adapt this Adopt a Tree Journal, suitable for grades 1-4, with your students. This 28-page guide, developed by Minnesota PLT with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, provides students a template to record and analyze information they collect over time. Use it to help children really get to know about that special tree in their lives over the course of a school year, or a semester. Pages include:
- ART: Drawing a tree from different perspectives.
- SCIENCE: Making scientific observations about a tree’s leaves, twigs, and fruits. Looking for animal clues around a tree.
- MATH: Measuring perimeter (circumference) around a tree trunk.
- MATH: Measuring crown spread and learning about averages.
- ELA: Applying different poetic forms writing about their tree.
Skype a Scientist
The Skype a Scientist program matches more than 500 scientists with classrooms worldwide. Available for any level along the K-12 spectrum, a typical Q&A-style video chat lasts between 30 to 60 minutes and covers topics in the scientist’s area of expertise and what it’s like to be a scientist. Follow the link to browse scientists and sign up!
A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple devices (SmartMeasure for Android). EasyMeasure uses the height of the camera lens and its tilt angle to calculate the distance to objects of your choice. Simply aim your mobile device at any object, and this app displays the distance towards that object on top of the camera image. Upgrades can be used to also calculate object height.