New PLT Activity Collections: Sensational Trees for Grades K-2

October 18, 2020

Project Learning Tree is excited to launch a new series of theme-based activity collections that focus on specific grade levels and topics.

Sensational Trees is the second collection of activities to be released as part of this new themed series for educators. It features three PLT activities for educators of students in grades K-2 that invite young learners to investigate trees using their senses.


orange-button-get-the-activitiesThe activity collection is available for purchase from PLT’s Shop as a downloadable PDF for $5.95.


PLT recently released Discover Your Urban Forest for grades 6-8. Another theme-based activity collection will be coming soon for grades 3-5 focused on biodiversity.


Trees as a Sensory Experience

Exploring nature is a complete sensory experience. It is filled with countless shades of color, an array of sounds made by wind or wildlife, various scents from trees and plants, and much more.

Sensory experiences with the natural world excite children’s imaginations and foster their inborn curiosity and sense of wonder, which are important motivators for lifelong learning. Introducing environmental education in early schooling reaches children at a key developmental period in their lives. It has the potential to influence lifelong attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior toward the natural world.

Trees are an essential part of life on Earth. They give oxygen and help to clean water. They provide food and shelter for countless creatures. For human beings, trees provide shade for our picnics, fuel for our fires, wood for our furniture, inspiration for our creativity, and lots more.

Trees also provide a natural focal point for sensory explorations. Using their five senses, young learners can investigate trees – and learn about nature – through:

    • Touching bark, seeds, and other natural objects
    • Seeing shapes and colors
    • Hearing birdcalls and nature sounds
    • Smelling flowers and leaves


Sensational Trees: Grades K-2 Activities

Sensational Trees features three PLT activities for educators of students in grades K-2. Designed to be flexible, the activities can be used as individual, stand-alone lessons, or all together as a cohesive unit of instruction using a storyline technique.

1. The Closer You Look

Even though students may be very familiar with trees, they may not have thought much about the actual structure of a tree. In this activity, students go outdoors or view pictures to take a closer look at trees and their parts.

2. Peppermint Beetle

Students explore their sense of smell and discover why smell is important to animals, including beetles and humans.

3. Adopt a Tree

Students select individual trees to observe over time, deepening their awareness of tree changes and developing a greater appreciation for their local environment.

Learning Progressions

Storylines provide connectedness and continuity to individual activities and can serve as the instructional glue that holds areas of knowledge and skills together. The activities in Sensational Trees may be linked together into a unit of instruction using a storyline technique, such as the one that follows.

Guiding Question: What can we learn about trees using our senses?

Storyline: Students use their senses of sight, smell, hearing, and touch to explore trees in their own community.

The sequence of individual activities supports this storyline:

  • Beginning with “The Closer You Look,” introduce the idea that each tree is individual and unique, and that we can use our sense of sight to learn more about a tree’s form and parts.
  • Use “Peppermint Beetle” to hone students’ sense of smell and to challenge them to differentiate various scents.
  • “Adopt a Tree” encourages students to conduct a variety of sensory investigations of a tree close to them. If possible, repeat the investigations over time so that they become increasingly adept at using their senses to collect data and also more familiar with “their” tree.


New Features Within Each Activity

In addition to the typical elements that educators have come to rely on from PLT, the following new features in our theme-based series will further help educators adapt the activities for specific groups and settings.

Academic Standards

Classroom educators and nonformal educators alike need to ensure that instruction helps diverse learners meet rigorous academic benchmarks. Each PLT activity displays explicit connections to practices and concepts mandated by the following national academic standards.

Here is an example from “Adopt a Tree:”




Take It Outside!

Describes how to extend student learning into the outdoors.


Differentiated Instruction Strategies


  • Cooperative Learning
  • ELA Skills
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Higher-Order Thinking
  • Multiple Solution Pathways
  • Nonlinguistic Representations
  • Personal Connections
  • Student Voice



Did You Know?

Forest Facts present interesting insights into forests as global solutions for environmental, economic, and social sustainability.


text-bubble-with-i-love-my-green-job!-insideCareer Corner

Introduces youth to forest-related careers.


Purchase Sensational Trees now from PLT’s Shop for $5.95.


Jackie Stallard

Jackie Stallard

Jackie is Director of Curriculum for Project Learning Tree. Jackie oversees the next generation of PLT’s PreK-12 environmental education materials, as well as other instructional materials and resources. She also directs strategic alliances that advance curriculum implementation with other environmental education and sustainability resource providers.