From their leafy branches to their tangled roots, trees provide a habitat for a host of plants and animals. In this activity, students inventory the plants and animals that live in, on, and around trees and discover how trees meet their needs for survival.
Safety: Carefully check for any hazards in the study area before taking students outside to observe.
- Describe the ways in which animals and other plants depend on trees.
- Investigate a tree and observe what is living on its trunk, branches, and leaves.
- Develop a presentation on the findings from the study area.
- A copy of Good-Night, Owl! (Grades K–3) by Pat Hutchins, Ancient Ones: The World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir (Grades 1–5) by Barbara Bash, or another book about animals that live in forest trees (optional)
- Tree Observation Checklist or Tree Observation Bingo student page
- Digital cameras or electronic tablets (optional)
- Magnifiers, 1 per student
- Binoculars (optional)
- Field guides (optional)
- Access to computers and presentation software
- Getting Ready: 15–30 minutes
- Doing the Activity: Two 50-minute periods
- Evaluate: 30 minutes
- Obtain a copy of Good-Night, Owl!, Ancient Ones, or other book.
- Choose which student page you would like students to use and make copies of it.
- Locate an area with both living trees and decaying branches or trees. Be sure to check for any potential safety hazards.
- If you choose, obtain one or more field guides to help students identify the animals or animal signs they find. Possible kid-friendly guides include Fandex Family Field Guides: Birds and the Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists Series.
- Decide what material from the Background page to share with students. For example, you might present some of the information in the Explain part of Doing the Activity, or use the suggested Discussion Questions to support a casual conversation on the topic.
- See Additional Resources to find other supports for teaching this activity.
You may use the Key Vocabulary: A Home for Many student page to introduce students to the following vocabulary terms or to review or assess their mastery of these terms. Note that the definitions below are geared for students, while the definitions that “pop up” within the activity text online are geared for the teacher.
|Decomposer||An organism that eats dead material and causes it to break down.|
|Decomposition||The process of breaking down dead material into smaller parts.|
|Ecosystem||A community of living things interacting with their environment.|
An organism that gets nutrients by absorbing materials from it
|Habitat||An area that provides an organism with enough food, water, shelter, and space to live.|
|Nutrient||A substance needed for health and growth.|
|Snag||A standing dead tree that has lost most of its branches.|
A group of organisms that share the same characteristics and can
PLT Conceptual Framework
- 1.1. Living components of the environment interact in predictable ways with nonliving components, such as air, water, and geologic features.
- 1.2. The arrangement of living and nonliving components within a habitat determines the organisms it can support.
- 2.1. Organisms are interdependent and depend on nonliving components of the Earth.
See Standards Connections in the Appendices for a list of standards addressed in this activity.