Resources for Grades K-2 Activity – Trees as Habitats

From their leafy branches to their tangled roots, trees provide habitat for a host of plants and animals. Students will inventory the plants and animals that live in, on, and around trees and discover how plants and animals depend on trees in many ways.

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.

STUDENT PAGES

Download the copyright-free student pages that are included with this activity:

Tree Observation Bingo (PDF)

What's the Connection? (PDF)

RECOMMENDED READING

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:

FAMILY ACTIVITY

Try a simple variation of this activity to engage children in the outdoors at home. Download this fun and easy-to-do family activity.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

The following tools and resources may be used to enhance the activity.

  • Video Demo: Tree’s as Habitats

    Watch the Trees as Habitats video demonstration (10 minutes), developed in partnership with Alaska PLT and PBS Kid’s Molly of Denali for a day in the Boreal Forest. 

  • America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell: Wisconsin Northwoods

    This full-length 26:17-minute video is an episode of the series America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell, hosted by Rolling Stones keyboard player and Georgia family tree farmer, Chuck Leavell. Following are approximate time stamps and possible connections to specific PLT activities:

    • 2:00-7:07 – Overview of Wisconsin Forests. Chuck meets with a forester, and they talk about their personal connection to forests and how working forests can serve a variety of purposes, from wood products to recreation. Use with “If You Were the Boss” and “Our Federal Forests.”
    • 7:20-11:42 – Chuck meets with young folks in the Job Corps, and we hear about the history of the Conservation Corps and about how many people find meaningful work in forests. Use with “My Green Future.”
    • 12:00-18:40 – Chuck meets with a tree farmer who is interested in maximizing habitat for ruffed grouse. We also meet a lumber “jill” who participates in competitive timber sports and works with the tree farmer to cut a tree for grouse habitat. Use as a supplement to “Trees as Habitats” and “My Green Future.”
    • 18:56-23:00 – Chuck meets with Marshall Pecore on the Menominee Indian Reservation, which has 200,000 acres of sustainably managed forests. Pecore describes how the Menominee believe that in terms of forest management, the forest is first before profit. For example, they cut the worst trees in the forest first, not the best trees, and look at forest management from a 7th generation perspective. Use with “If You Were the Boss” or “Our Federal Forests.”

     

  • A City in the Forest

    How is a forest like a city? This 4-minute video, A City in a Forest from PBS Plum Landing, explores a child’s perspective of a forest and what they see living and growing on trees—from the top of the canopy to their roots in the ground, to dead trees lying on the forest floor. Aligned to several Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) standards, use this video to teach your students about ecosystems and engage them in conversations about their own community and urban forests. This video is one of many resources offered by PBS Kids through Plum Landing, a multi-platform, indoor-outdoor, science exploration adventure for kids.

  • 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.

     

  • Poster: Animals at Risk from Climate Change

    Animals at Risk from Climate Change is an educational poster developed by the Global Education Project. The poster presents a succinct overview of the fundamental impacts of greenhouse gases and features 25 animals currently at risk because of climate change. Through illustrations, symbols and brief explanatory text, learn about the biological traits and environmental conditions that cause a species to be susceptible to climate change. This 24″ x 30″ poster is available in folded, flat, and laminated formats.

  • Disneynature Explore

    The free Disneynature Explore application for iPads and iPhones combines an augmented reality experience with animal behavior gameplay to encourage young students (grades PreK-3) and their families to get outside and connect with nature. In the app, 3D images of animals appear in the camera’s viewer, providing students with “wild adventures” in their own backyard. For example, students can see their surroundings through a butterfly’s eyes, follow tracks with a bear to find its cub, and crack a nut like a chimpanzee.

  • Paper Plate Habitat

    Use Florida PLT’s Paper Plate Habitat template as the basis for learners to create their own microhabitats.

  • Junior Ranger Activity Book

    In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) celebrated a milestone birthday, 100 years! In celebration of its centennial, NPS created the Centennial Junior Ranger Activity Book. Explore the history of the National Park Service and complete fun activities with this printable book. While this book is geared for 4th-grade students, all are welcome to enjoy it.

  • Go Plant a Tree!

    In this short video from PBS Plum Landing, see how students work with a local arborist to plant a tree in their community. Underneath the video, you’ll find some simple conversation starting questions and additional resources to inspire your students.

  • Living with Wildlife: Snags

    What is a snag? How do dead and dying trees benefit the ecosystem? Learn how dead trees can actually provide more habitats for wildlife than when they are alive with Snags—The Wildlife Tree, published by Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife. The article highlights species that use snag trees to survive, what kinds of trees make the best snags, and how to create a snag tree for wildlife. For more species fact sheets and ways to attract wildlife to your yard, check out this Living with Wildlife series.

  • Identify Trees from Leaves

    Leafsnap is a free app that uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from leaf photographs you take in the field. Leafsnap currently focuses on tree species found in the Northeastern United States and Canada, but expansion is underway to include all U.S. regions.

  • Create a Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat

    The Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gives step-by-step recommendations for creating a wildlife habitat at site, based on on-the-ground experience from successful projects.

  • Bird Sleuth

    The BirdSleuth Guidebook from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers step-by-step instructions to enable families, school groups, and others to get outdoors and connect with nature. Use this booklet in conjunction with PLT lessons, for example, go on a habitat scavenger hunt (Trees as Habitats), create a sound map (Sounds Around), and identify backyard species (Schoolyard Safari and Name That Tree). The BirdSleuth program helps K-12 students participate in citizen science bird projects by guiding them through several tasks, such as using online resources to find your state bird, looking for birds that fit into different groups, practicing bird counting and entering data online, extracting data from eBird about local birds, and taking action to improve bird habitat in your area.

  • Color the World!

    Coloringnature.org offers more than 500 realistically illustrated coloring pages that can be downloaded and printed for use in PreK-8 classrooms. Choose from categories such as amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, insects, animal homes, biomes and habitats, and trees. Consider pairing the pages with PLT activities as diagrams, models, or assessment tools.

  • Earth from Space

    This Smithsonian Institution website provides students (and teachers!) access to views of conditions and events on earth that are nearly impossible to document from the Earth’s surface. The site proves interactive; explaining how satellite imagery is gathered and used to better understand the world around us.

  • Ordinary Extraordinary Junco

    Introduce yourself to one of North America’s most common groups of songbirds, the Juncos. Readily observed in backyards, city parks, and forests alike, these little gray birds—sometimes called “Snowbirds”—can be easily overlooked. But for scientists who study animal behavior, ecology, and evolutionary biology, the Junco is a rockstar. Use these video shorts from The Junco Project and a pair of binoculars to get outside and make some Junco friends!

  • Encounters: Wild Explorer

    The public radio program Encounters: Radio Experiences in the North explores the natural history of Alaska and the Far North. An accompanying website offers K-12 teachers links to the episodes as well as resources, such as slideshows, videos, and sound clips, introducing the animals and habitats of the regions: beavers, bears, caribou, humpback whales, boreal forests, moose, and others.

  • Schoolyard Habitat Program

    This US Fish & Wildlife Service initiative helps teachers and students create wildlife habitats at their schools. Their Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide offers teaching and learning opportunities in many discipline areas and provides opportunities for long-term data collection. Additionally, schools and organizations serving K-12 students may apply for grants of up to $8,000.

  • WildLab Bird

    A free app that can be downloaded onto any Apple device (try iBird Lite for Android). Use WildLab Bird to learn the basics of bird identification. This application uses audio, photographs, maps, and the process of elimination to help identify over 200 bird species. Sightings can also be entered into a national bird watching database for comparison. 

  • Forests, by Cathryn Sill

    Look to Forests by Cathryn Sill to introduce early learners to forest habitats and the organisms found there. Each page presents one sentence describing a particular forest habitat: boreal forest, tropical rain forest, cloud forest, temperate rain forest, deciduous forest, or tropical dry forest. Each description is accompanied by a realistic illustration. The afterward also contains more information about each habitat, which might be helpful for educators. This book supports Next Generation Science Standard 2-LS4-1 (ISBN: 9781561457342, Grades preK-3).

  • Habitat the Game

    The Wildlife Conservation Society and Rainforest Alliance have created a free, new app designed for students 7-12. Habitat challenges students to care for virtual endangered animals while they earn points by completing real-life missions, like recycling or visiting a park zoo. 

  • PBS Kids Plum Landing

    A PBS KIDS environmental science project, PBS PLUM LANDING offers educators fun and engaging resources to get kids outside and connected to nature. Encourage kids to explore their local water systems, find out what happens to life in the desert, and investigate nature’s sounds and smells. Download PLUM LANDING’s free summer camp resources, including interactive games and videos. Furthermore, all of PLUM’s lesson plans are Next Generation Science (NGSS) standards aligned and easy for educators to plug and play throughout their summer programming.

  • Bears of the World: Interactive Range Map

    Blue Raster and Bear Trust International’s interactive world map shows students and educators in grades 9-12 where eight different species of wild bears live. The map includes photos and facts on American and Asiatic black bears, brown bears, giant pandas, polar bears, sloth bears, and sun bears.