written by: Pamela Martin
• edited by: Amanda Grove
• updated: 9/15/2013
Joyce Kilmer may have said it best when he wrote, “I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree." Help your students appreciate that loveliness with Arbor Day lesson plans for the classroom.
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Lesson Plan Objectives
Students will understand the history and significance of the Arbor Day celebration.
Students will explain the importance of trees to the natural environment.
Students will recognize what trees need in order to thrive, and they will know the proper way to plant a tree.
Students will identify different trees by their characteristics.
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Branching Out in Science
These Arbor Day lesson plans for the classroom help younger students understand the difference between deciduous and non-deciduous trees. Check their understanding by having them create Venn diagrams to compare and contrast the two types.
Pair students and assign them to research the basic needs of different types of trees, including the amount of water, light and types of nutrients they need. Ask them to find out about common concerns with trees (insects, dropping leaves, yellowing leaves, curled leaves), causes for the problems and possible solutions, including non-chemical answers. Allow them to create a set of mini-posters to show what they know.
Group older students and ask them to create a field guide for identifying common trees in your region. They should include pictures of each tree, the leaves, flowers (if appropriate) and identifying characteristics, as well as a checklist of characteristics for differentiating one tree from another.
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Social Studies Celebrations
Provide students with information about the origins and expansion of Arbor Day celebrations. Invite them to plan a special ceremony for the school or the community at large. The ceremony should help those in attendance understand why trees are important, why Arbor Day is celebrated, and how the students or community members can be involved in maintaining trees in their environment.
Assign students to research famous arborists and write bio-poems about them to share with the class.
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Out on a Limb With Language Arts
Students should work in groups to write and perform skits for the Arbor Day celebration. Alternatively, they will write, enact and film scripts for Arbor Day documentaries.
Once the class settles plans for celebrating the holiday, students write and disseminate press releases about the ceremony. They should write them in inverted pyramid style, with strong leads that include the 5 Ws and 1 H of journalism.
Ask students to write persuasive essays in the form of letters to the editor(s) of local newspapers, encouraging readers to participate in Arbor Day activities and to help preserve and plant trees in appropriate parts of the community.
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Counting the Leaves
Help students practice measurement skills as they calculate how much fertilizer and water would be needed for different numbers of trees to be planted around the school, as well as how much dirt would be displaced when holes are dug for the plantings.
Have pairs of students create scale drawings or scale models of a proposed Arbor Day tree glade at the school or a local park.
With these Arbor Day lesson plans for the classroom, your students may join the ranks of those like John Chapman as champions of the lovely tree.
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Image credit: Pamela Martin
The ideas for this article come from the author's 17 years of teaching experience.