By “adopting” a tree and observing it over time, students practice their observation skills, look for patterns, and develop a personal connection to the adopted tree. Students at the different levels also use their tree as a living laboratory for science exploration:
- Level A students collect weather data, in addition to tree data, to help see the connection between changes in the seasons and in their adopted tree.
- Level B students collect daylight data, in addition to tree data, to help them understand the relationship between the changes in daylight and the seasons.
- Level C students collect temperature data and compare their adopted tree’s habitat to another habitat to help them identify the diversity of life among different habitats.
50 minutes, and then periodic visits through the year
- Tree journals (see Getting Ready)
- Project Learning Tree Adopt a Tree Certificate student page (optional)
- Large sheets of construction paper
- Crayons or colored pencils
- Photo of adopted tree (optional)
- For Level B: Digital clock (optional)
- For Level B: Copies of Daylight Hours student page
- For Level C: Thermometer and copies of Comparing Habitats student page
- Paper plates (optional)
season, weather, temperature, sunrise, sunset, daylight
- Find an area with several trees on or near the school grounds. It should be a place that your class can revisit over time to make ongoing observations. SAFETY: Check the site for any hazards such as deep holes, sharp objects, or poisonous or irritating plants.
- Plan to visit the site at regular intervals, from every other week to once each season.
- Create tree journals:
- Print copies of the My Tree Journal student pages, or gather blank pages or notebooks if you want to make your own pages. You may wish to include all of the student pages, or choose the ones that are most appropriate for your students.
- Print copies of the appropriate My Tree Today student page using the following links. Make enough copies so that students will have one for each visit they will make to their adopted tree over the course of the year. Place these pages behind the My Tree Journal front page.
- For each journal, fold a large sheet of construction paper in half. Setting aside the front page of the My Tree Journal, insert the other student pages or blank pages into the folded construction paper, and staple along the folded edge. (If you like, you may include the Adopt a Tree Certificate at the front of each journal, or complete one certificate as a class.)
- Glue the front page of the My Tree Journal onto the construction paper cover. You may have students draw or glue a photo of the adopted tree on the cover.
- Plan to discuss appropriate outdoor behavior as necessary. You may choose to introduce a rule such as “Look, learn, and leave alone,” which reminds students to treat all living things with respect, including plants and animals and their sources of food, water, and shelter.
- For Level B: Get the day’s sunrise/sunset data in your town by looking at the National Weather Service website.
- For Level C: Identify a different habitat to compare to the habitat around the adopted tree, such as a grassy area or shrub border. The class can also compare the adopted tree to a different tree in a shadier or sunnier location.
Doing the Activity
First Visit to Tree
- Before leaving the classroom, discuss appropriate behavior for working outside (see Getting Ready), and then take the class outside to the area you have chosen. Give students a few minutes to use their senses of smell, touch, hearing, and sight to get acquainted with the area. Choose a particular tree to observe.
- Ask students to turn to their neighbor and describe the chosen tree, using first their sight and then their other senses.
- Invite students to draw a picture of their tree on the first My Tree Today page and to complete the sentence, “Today, my tree is_________.”
- Help students describe the day’s weather, using the icons on the My Tree Today student page or other descriptors.
- Direct students to conduct other observations of the tree, as suggested in the My Tree Journal student pages.
- Discuss the following questions to help students deepen their understanding about trees, or use them as prompts for writing about trees:
- How are all the trees around here alike?
- What is special about our adopted tree?
- What plants and animals live in or around our tree?
- For Level B: Back in the classroom, ask students whether they think that days are the same length all year. What makes them think so? Explain that students will be collecting data over the course of the year to find out. Help them record the day’s sunrise and sunset times on the My Tree Today—Level B page of the journal. Using a digital clock or other method, help students calculate the number of daylight hours for that day, and record the number in their journal.
- (Optional) Have students fill out the Project Learning Tree Adopt a Tree Certificate or complete one certificate as a class. You may also have students draw or paste a photo of their adopted tree on the cover of their tree journal.
- Take students to revisit their adopted tree at regular intervals throughout the remainder of the year. For each observation day, students should use a fresh copy of the My Tree Today student page to record the weather and any changes in the tree they notice. For Level B, students should also calculate the number of daylight hours that day.
- After several visits to the adopted tree, or at the end of the year, wrap up the tree observations with one or more of the following:
- For Level A: Provide students with a large piece of construction paper or a paper plate folded into two to four sections, depending on the number of seasons the class has visited the tree. Have students label the sections with the seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer). Using their journals as a guide, have students draw their tree in each season. Underneath each picture, have students note the weather that they observed during that season, using icons as in the journal pages.
- For Level B: Help students compile and graph their daylight data using the Daylight Hours student page. Assist them in comparing the data with their observations of how the tree changed over the course of the year.
- For Level C: Have students visit a second site, comparing it with their adopted tree’s site. Direct them to complete the Comparing Habitats student page, indicating the similarities and differences they observe between the two habitats.
Remember to visit the Enrich tab for recommended children’s books that support the science concepts covered in this activity.