Leaf Shapes (pdf) – Use these leaf outlines with the “Dance with leaves” group experience. If you are unable to collect real leaf examples from your home or schoolyard, consider using these colorful photographed alternatives.
Video Demo: Adopt A Tree
Watch the Adopt a Tree Demonstration video (13 minutes), developed by Page Hutchinson, Virginia PLT Coordinator. PLT’s Adopt a Tree allows students to explore their adopted tree through poetry.
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.
Read Tree Dreams, an eco-literacy coming of age novel for grades 8-12, written by award-winning Kristen Kaye. The story emerged from a campaign to bring tree tagging to life. Kaye’s vision was to tag trees with dreams about the way we connect to nature, to each other, and to our future. She explains that “like trees that share chemical messages through their root system for the benefit of the grove, Tree Dreamers’ tags share” messages of community that connect us all—kindness, wonder, stewardship (Kaye, treedreams.net/about). Read the book with your high school students and connect with nature by tree tagging.
Science of Seasons
Check out the Science of Seasons page from the Forest Service Northern Research Station. This extensive resource includes podcasts, research stories, and publications related to the impacts winter has on forest ecosystems. Learn why you should resist the temptation to call winter the “dormant season.” From the soil to hydrology to wildlife, there is much more going on in winter than meets the eye!
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.
Tree Flip-Up Diagram
Use this tree diagram to create a flip-up diagram by cutting along the dotted orange line on page one and setting page two underneath it. Or, have students create their own using this as an example portraying various elements of their adopted tree’s life, including tree parts, potential inhabitants, or life among the roots. For more information, see the activity Adopt a Tree in the Explore Your Environment: K-8 Activity Guide or from the Environmental Education PreK-8 Activity Guide.
Tips for Taking Students Outside
Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center has put together some short, simple, and practical recommendations to help effectively incorporate use of an outdoor classroom. Suggestions include finding an experienced mentor, scheduling a set time for taking students outdoors, and examining learning standards to see what are best taught outside.
A Forest Year
Check out this video, which captures 15 months of a forest’s life. This 3-minute time lapse video was created from 40,000 photographs. Photographer Samuel Orr took pictures out of the same window in his home to create this forest montage. This forest snapshot is just outside of Bloomington, Indiana and was photographed between 2006 and 2008.
Leafsnap is a free app that can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. Leafsnap uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from individual leaf photographs you take in the field. This application contains high-resolution images of bark, flowers, fruit, seeds, and more. Currently Leafsnap specializes in tree species found in the Northeastern United States, but expansion to include all US regions is underway.
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.
Dr. Don Leopold, State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry professor, has identified a total of 135 tree species on YouTube. These 2-minute, high definition videos briefly summarize how to identify each tree species, its ecological characteristics and importance, and communicate fun facts. While the list of native and non-native tree species is familiar to Northeastern landscapes, many western U.S. tree species are also covered. These vignettes are also all available for free on i-Tunes.
A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. AllTrails helps users to get out and discover the outdoors. Use it to plan a national park visit, find a hiking path near home, or map a new trail of your own! AllTrails can help you find local places to run, hike, bike, fish, and more in the outdoors. You can even upload photos and images to trails you create.
Using Scratch, educators of all ages and levels can program interactive stories, games, and animations and share their creations in an online community. Click on For Educators to access tips and resources for using Scratch in the classroom, including an introductory video, how-to tutorials, and a webinar. Teachers can also join the ScratchEd community to connect and collaborate with other educators using Scratch.
Create Your Own Book App
Be the author, illustrator, and editor of your own literary adventure with Book Creator, an app that can be downloaded for the iPad from the iTunes store. Book Creator allows anyone to create and share their own journals, text books, children’s picture books and photobooks that can be designed with a multitude of text and image formatting options. This app offers a variety of printing and electronic sharing options that help its customers of all ages distribute their books to relatives, friends, and colleagues.
Digital Notebook Template
Want to go paperless in your classroom and experiment with digital note keeping? Read educator Nick Mitchell’s Scientific Teacher blog for ideas to transform the way you and your students take notes. This blog details using digital notebooks in the classroom, including basic information on why digital notebooks are useful and how to get started with free existing, provided templates.