- Ask your students: In what ways do animals and other living things depend on trees? What animals have you seen in, on, or under trees? What were the animals doing? (Their answers may include eating, making a nest, resting, and so on.)
- (Optional) Read passages from Good-Night, Owl! (Grades K–3), Ancient Ones (Grades 1–5), or any one of your favorite books about animals that live in trees. Discuss: How did each of the animals use the tree? What were they getting from the tree?
- Lead students to an area with one or more trees.
- Invite students to describe what they see living on each tree’s trunk and branches. Provide copies of the Tree Observation Checklist or Tree Observation Bingo student page to focus and record their observations. Point out that the pictures on the student page are examples and that they might find signs that look different. Explain that they may use magnifiers to get a closer look and digital cameras or electronic tablets to take pictures of the tree, the plants and animals living on and around it, and the surrounding area. Students may also use binoculars to see high into the tree.
- Give students plenty of time to make their observations. Encourage them to think about what the different organisms get from the tree and how the tree might benefit from the organisms.
- Back in the classroom, lead a discussion about students’ findings. What plants and other animals seem to depend on trees? In what ways do trees help other plants and animals?
- Invite students to use presentation software to make a detailed report of how animals and other living things depend on trees, based on their findings. Their reports should include how the tree and the other plants and animals in the ecosystem function together to support each other. They may use their checklist as well as any photographs they took to help with their presentation. They should also construct a scaled picture graph or bar graph from their observation data showing the numbers of plants and animals they found.
- Lead a discussion about the presentations, asking: What plants and animals did you observe in and around your tree? How does your tree help these plants and animals live? How do these plants and animals help your tree?
- Have students share their presentations with the rest of the class or with a younger grade class.
- Following everyone’s presentations, have students draw a living tree and a decomposing log, and show plants and animals that may be interacting with them. Instruct them to include a Venn diagram showing which organisms interact with either the living tree or the log, and which interact with both.