Trees come in various shapes and sizes. In this activity, students will measure trees in different ways and become familiar with the tree’s scale and structure. They will also learn the importance of standard units of measure and measuring techniques.
This is one of 96 activities that can be found in PLT’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide. To get the activity, attend a training either in person or online and receive PLT’s PreK-8 Guide. 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?
Spanish Student Page(s):
Que Tan Grande es Ese Arbol?
Engage students in real-world applications of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education.
Try these STEM Connections for this PLT activity:
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.
PLT’s 12 Green Job Fact Sheets
Learn more about the wide array of jobs related to forests with PLT’s 12 Green Jobs Fact Sheets, which highlights the following green jobs: Forester, Environmental Educator, GIS Specialist, Indigenous Relations Specialist, Forestry Technician, Park Ranger, Hydrologist, Silviculture Technician, Urban Forester, Machine Operator, Wildlife Biologist, and Sustainability Manager. Green jobs offer opportunities for people with diverse backgrounds, skills, interest areas, and personal qualities. Youth and adults alike might be surprised at the range of green career opportunities. These jobs help sustain forest ecosystems and ensure that forest products are produced in the most sustainable way possible also ensure that wildlife habitat is conserved, trees are replanted, and workers are treated fairly.
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.
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.
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.
A free app that can be downloaded onto Apple devices. This is a good tool for teachers and classrooms. Easily create bar, line and pie charts that you can customize, save and e-mail or upload. The charts you create can be saved using multiple color schemes and in multiple sizes. The app also works without an internet connection.