Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Does One Tree a Forest Make?

Linda Kitner
Bay District Schools


Students take a walk around the schoolyard looking at and identifying the trees. One leaf for each tree is collected. A chart is developed that represents the population of trees on the schoolground.


The student reads and organizes information for a variety of purposes, including making a report, conducting interviews, taking a test, and performing an authentic task.

The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes.

The student asks questions and makes comments and observations to clarify understanding of content, processes, and experiences.

The student solves problems by generating, collecting, organizing, displaying, and analyzing data using histograms, bar graphs, circle graphs, line graphs, pictographs, and charts.

The student knows that a successful method to explore the natural world is to observe and record, and then analyze and communicate the results.

The student knows that to work collaboratively, all team members should be free to reach, explain, and justify their own individual conclusions.

The student knows that data are collected and interpreted in order to explain an event or concept.

The students uses maps, globes, charts, graphs, and other geographic tools including map keys and symbols to gather and interpret data and to draw conclusions about physical patterns.


-Map of school, one for each group of two
-Trash bag in case students find trash
-Plastic bags to put leaves in
-Clip boards to make writing easier
-Regional tree identification guide (You can obtain this guide from the U.S. Forestry Service located in your area.)
-1 pair of pruning shears for teacher use only (optional)
-Tree Information Sheet (see Attached File)
-Black crayon and white newsprint for rubbings
-Rubric (see Attached File)


1. Be sure all areas of school grounds are safe for students to explore.
2. Be sure everyone understands the directions before you begin collecting. They need to only pick one leaf per tree.
3. Decide who will pick the leaf and who will mark the map.
4. If you allow students to pick up trash be sure to tell them the safety rules for picking up trash.
5. Teaching science observation skills and cooperative skills beforehand would be very helpful.
6. Prepare materials needed to make the rubbings and press the leaves, and make the labels.
7. Tree identification guides can be obtained through your local U.S. Forestry Service.
8. Science journals need to be purchased or made.
9. Prepare an aerial view map of the school grounds and make copies for each pair of students.
10. Make copies of the Tree Information Sheet from the Attached File.


Paraphrase or read to students: We are going to learn all about the trees on our school grounds. First, we are going to walk around the school and take an inventory of all the trees. We are going to count the different kinds of trees. Each group will take one leaf from each tree. We also need to note its location, and the other trees around it. For example, is it near water, is it by itself, and are there baby trees near it? Also, what other kinds of trees or plants are near it? Then we will mark on the school ground map where it was found. Then you are going to choose a tree to adopt. You will observe it and fill out the information sheet. You will do a rubbing of the bark on the tree you choose. Before we go out remember to stay with the group and pick up trash if you see it.

Ask the students to:
-Predict which type of tree will be found most often.
-Notice the habitat that the tree lives in.
-Notice the other plants and animals in the area of the tree.
-Use their five senses appropriately while observing the tree

Day 1
-Review scientific observation skills for identification of trees, for example, use your senses, smell the leaves, feel the bark, notice the plants and animals on and around the tree.
-Demonstrate how to plot the location of the tree onto the school maps.

1. Divide the students into groups of two or three.
2. Give each group one clipboard, one map, one trash bag and one plastic bag for the leaves.
3. The students' goal is to take inventory of each type of tree on the school grounds and note on the map where it was located.
4. They carefully pick a leaf off each tree (one leaf per tree per student)
5. The students code the leaf with a number.
6. They then write the number on the location where it was found on the map.
7. Each child chooses a tree to adopt. They complete the information sheet about their trees. See attached document.
8. After the entire school grounds have been covered, the students take their leaves back to the classroom.
9. Be sure that only one leaf per tree per student is collected so the data will be correct.

Day 2
Teach students how to use a field guide for leaf identification. Review note taking techniques.

1. Each student identifies the leaves collected using a field identification guide or materials from the local extension agent or forestry service. The students should read about their trees and collect information as they complete the Tree Information Sheet.
2. The leaf rubbing on the information sheet should be done in the classroom at this time.
3. Press the leaves between stacks of newspaper and heavy books. Mount them on cardboard and label them.

Day 3
Review how to make a graph and provide graph paper. Teach or review how to figure percentages.

1. Put all the leaves together and sort them into like groups. Younger children can create a concrete graph with the leaves. Older students can use tally marks to collect the data that shows the diversity of trees on their school ground. This data can then be transferred to a graph.
2. Using the graph ask these questions:
(Older students can figure the percentages.)
· Which type of tree is found the most on our campus?
· Which type of tree is found the least?
· How many different types of trees are there?
· How many are deciduous? What percentage?
· How many are evergreen? What percentage?
· How many are native trees? What percentage?
· How many are landscape trees? What percentage?
3. Be sure the information sheets are completed. Journal entries at the end of each day can be used to summarize the information or reflect on the experience.

Day 4
Review listening and speaking skills in order to have an effective discussion.

1. Discussion about the habitat the trees were found in should be conducted. The predictions discussed before they went out need to be looked at again to see if they were right.
2. Using the maps look for patterns in the location of the trees. Why were they planted there? For example: shade, erosion control, wind blocks?
3. Does one area have native trees in a specific habitat? For example, wetlands.

Allow for time to discuss any questions or ideas the students have about the trees, their locations, and their habitat. Remember the object is that they begin to notice the world around them. They will focus on the trees and then move on to the other plants and animals that use the trees. Allowing them to talk about the experience will help them to focus and put their thoughts and ideas into words. The students help each other's thinking if they are allowed to talk about it.

4. After this discussion and interpreting the graphs and the maps, ask them to write about it in their science journals. Ask them to reflect on the leaf collecting experience.
· What special things did you observe?
· What do you think we could do next?
· Plant more trees?
· Take out invasive plants?
· Plant native trees?

Day 5

Review the outdoor experience along with the research gathered. Using the graphs and the information sheets, and the reflective pieces in their journals, the students write a 5 paragraph expository essay that describes their tree, its habitat, animals and plants that depend on it, its specific use in the natural order of things, and depending on the situation, any suggestions for improvement of the tree's habitat.


Group Accountability
1. Collect one leaf for each person in the group per tree.
2. Plot locations of the trees on the school map.
3. Press, identify and label the leaves.
4. Research information for adopted tree.
5. Make a graph of types of trees on the school grounds.
6. Contribute to class discussion.

Individual Accountability
1. Reflection of outdoor experience in journal.
2. Complete Tree Information Sheet on adopted tree.
3. Make drawings and rubbings of adopted tree.
4. Write 5 paragraph essay.
5. Contribute to class discussion.

See attached rubric for scoring.


Pairing students with exceptionalities with general students will give them a better chance for success.

This is an excellent activity for K-2 students. Create a concrete graph by laying each leaf on a baseline and creating a bar graph. The research is designed for older students. Reading non-fiction for information, math, and writing activities extend the learning.

Web Links

Web supplement for Does One Tree a Forest Make?
Missouri Botanical Garden

Attached Files

The Tree Information Sheet and Rubric.     File Extension: pdf

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