If Trees Could Talk

Overview: Module 7

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Time Frame
5 Class periods+
Field Work

Teacher Pages pdf
Student Pages

Arbor Day
Urban Blight
Urban Forests

Trees In Your Own Backyard

Trees in Your Own Backyard has students survey trees in
the schoolyard and itemize
their various benefits. They
will consider human impacts
on trees in the city landscape and the responsibility of
citizens for preserving the urban forest. 


Objectives Lesson Plan
Links References

Tree-lined city street.  Photo  courtesy of
City of St. Louis Department of Parks and Recreation and Forestry


Teacher Pages
Application Exercise
Reflective Exercise

Student Pages
Worksheet 1
Worksheet 2
Worksheet 3
1978 Forestry Act
Worksheet 4


Objectives  derived from

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National Standards

For History

  • The student will evaluate the effectiveness of domestic politics  in addressing environmental issues.  (Era 10, Contemporary United States: Standard 1A)

For Social Studies

  • The student will practice forms of civic discussion and participation consistent with the ideals of citizens in a democratic republic.  (Standard X, Civic Ideals and Practices, d)

State Standard Correlations: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY

Lesson Plan

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Teacher  Preparation:

Download and print Module 7 Teacher & Student PDFs using Adobe Acrobat.  

For Day 1 activity: Make copies of the Essay for each student in your classroom. Next make copies of Worksheet 1 and Worksheet 2 for each student.

Day 2 activity: Obtain a map fot he school yard (Aerial photgraphs can usually be found at www.mapquest.com or Google Earth.) Obtain a clipboard for every pair of students.

Day 4 activity: Make copies of Cooperative Forest Assistance Act of 1978 and Worksheet 4 for each student group.

Day 1
Set the stage for this activity by leading a group discussion answering the following questions. 

  1. How do you interact with the trees around you?
  2. Who takes care of the trees in your neighborhood?
  3. Which of the nation's trees are managed and protected by the U.S. Forest Service?
  4. Do you have any responsibility to care for the trees around you?

Have students read the Essay History of Urban Forestry and complete Worksheet 1 and Worksheet 2. This will give students an overview and foundation for the rest of the activity.

Day 2
In the classroom, number each tree pictured on the map.  Find each tree pictured and tag it with a number on the school yard.  (Draw in newly planted trees.  Cross out any trees that have been removed.)  Decide how you are going to divide up the trees to be surveyed.  Hand out clip boards, pencils and measuring tape. Go over Sample Tree Survey and Sample Tree Key.  Send students out to survey.

Day 3
Upon completion of the tree survey, have students present their most notable tree information and add their tree key to the map.

Day 4
Have students read Cooperative Forest Assistance Act of 1978. Then, using the Act and the Tree Survey results have the students as a group fill in the outline of the Tree Ordinance Brief for the school yard.

Day 5
Teachers can choose from one of three assessment activities.

  • The Application and Integration Exercise has been designed to allow students to integrate the content into broader contexts.
  • The Test  has been designed to measure how well students master the History objectives.
  • The Reflective Exercise has been designed to measure how well students master the Social Studies objectives. 


Class Extensions

  • Take a field trip to a local land trust sanctuary.  Have students ask questions of the land trust representative about how the land came to be preserved.
  • Invite a developer into the classroom to discuss issues such as tree buffers and cost of tree preservation on site.

Team Teaching Possibilities

Technology: Since Worksheet 3 has students conduct a tree survey and complete a sample tree key, ask students to transfer this information into a spreadsheet.  The information could be retained on cds or disks for future study.

English: Have students write a poem describing the schoolyard or local park.

Math: Ask students to use the results of their tree survey to draw a bar graph detailing the types of trees in the schoolyard or local park.  

Science: Worksheet 3 can be used in social studies and science classes.  For example, in conducting the survey of trees in the schoolyard or nearby park, social studies classes would focus on human interactions and the social value of trees, whereas science classes could concentrate on measurements, physical descriptions, naming species of trees, and the environmental value of trees to the school grounds.


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Forest History Society--Bibliographic resources on urban forestry, conservation and environmental history.

American Forests-provides several programs aimed at improving forest cover in urban areas.

National Arbor Day Foundation--helps people plant and care for trees and encourages the celebration of Arbor Day. Its website has information on the benefits of trees, tree identification, and tree care.

National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council is an organization that supports education, projects, and groups related to urban and community forestry. http://treelink.org/nucfac/

Trees Atlanta--is a non-profit citizens' group dedicated to protecting and improving their urban environment by planting and conserving trees. Their goals and methods might be useful for your community.

Tree Link--provides information, research, and networking for people working in urban and community forestry. http://treelink.org/

U.S. Forest Service. State and Private Forestry-- describes a technique for determining the economic value of community trees. http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/uf/techguide/values.htm

Urban Forestry Video Resources (at the bottom of the page)-- http://dnr.wi.gov/forestry/Publications/VideosWebcasts/


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Beveridge, Charles E. "A Park for the People." Natural History 92 (August 1983): 28-39.

Bradley, Gordon A., ed. Urban Forest Landscape: Integrating Multidisciplinary Perspectives.  Seattle: University of Washington, 1995.

Grey, Gene W. The Urban Forest: Comprehensive Management. New York, N.Y.: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.

Rosenzweig, Roy & Elizabeth Blackmar.  The Park and the People: A History of Central Park.  Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1992.

TreePeople with Andy and Katie Lipkis. The Simple Act of Planting a Tree: A Citizen Forester's Guide to Healing Your Neighborhood, Your City, and Your World. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990.

Wilson, William M.  The City Beautiful Movement.  Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

Zube, Ervin H. "The Natural History of Urban Trees." Natural History 82 (November 1973): 48-51.

Essay / Worksheet 1 / Worksheet 2 / Worksheet 3 / 1978 Forestry Act / Worksheet 4 / Application and Integration Exercise / Test / Reflective Exercise / Answer Key