Talk About Trees Home> Lessons and Activities> Additional Curriculum> Tree Investigation
"Educating children about the responsible management and use of California's most renewable resource"


Author: California Women In Timber

OBJECTIVE: Students will understand the value of the urban forest in their neighborhoods.
SUBJECT AREAS: Science, Language Arts, Fine Arts
PROCESS SKILLS: Observing, communicating, comparing by two or more attributes, categorizing, relating, applying
MATERIALS: Copies of Activity 1, paper, pencils, clipboards (optional)


Some of your students enjoy the forest regularly and for others it's a far-off place rarely seen. Even if your students have never visited a forest, they can learn about the wonders by investigating them in their own neighborhoods.
The forests in your neighborhoods are called 'urban forests.' Urban forests may include trees within city parks, school grounds, residential areas, and even empty lots. Few of us realize that the trees, plants and wildlife in these forests are part of an interacting ecosystem.
These forests provide many important benefits. Trees purify the air and provide oxygen for us to breathe while they make their own food. They make their own food during a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis works like this: Carbon dioxide enters the leaves through tiny holes in the leaf surface called stomata. Water is absorbed by the tree's roots and travels upward through the xylem (small tubes) to the leaves. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, captures the energy from sunlight, allowing the process of photosynthesis.
During photosynthesis, carbon removed from the air is stored in the tree as cellulose. By removing carbon dioxide from the air, trees help reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases that are believed to cause a rise in global temperatures known as the 'greenhouse effect.' Leaves trap and filter dust particles and other pollutants from the air. In addition to purifying the air, trees reduce erosion, block wind and noise, cool the air, and provide beauty and joy.
1) Explain to students that they will become reporters for the day and will research and create an article for the local newspaper.
2) Brainstorm with the class how trees in urban areas benefit our neighborhoods. Accept every reasonable answer, such as trees are fun to climb and they provide shade. Help students develop other values, such as trees provide food and homes for animals and birds, provide fruit and nuts for people, and hold the soil in place. Explain that trees take in carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaled by people and animals and release oxygen into the air during the process of photosynthesis. Trees also clean the air by removing dust and some pollutants, and they cool and humidify the air as well.
3) Hand out Activity Sheet 1.
4) Take the students on a walking tour of their school grounds or neighborhood to help them understand the benefits of the urban forest.
5) Have the students examine a tree and record their observations on Activity Sheet 1.
6) Students will return to the classroom to write their news articles. They should include a description of the tree and all observations they recorded on Activity Sheet 1, and incorporate the tree facts listed on the bottom of the page to produce a news article. Remind them that the theme for the article is: "How are trees important to our neighborhoods?" They should come up with their own original headlines. Encourage creative ideas and illustrations.
7) For closure, pose this question: Why are trees important in your neighborhood?
1) How do trees control soil erosion?
Answer. Tree roots hold the soil in place, make the soil more permeable (able to absorb water), and prevent runoff and flooding in storm drains.
2) How is wildlife dependent on trees?
Answer.- Birds and animals find shelter and make homes in trees. They get berries, fruits, nuts, acorns, insects, and other food from trees. Water can also be found in crevices and on leaves.
3) In what ways do you think urban forests are important to people?
What would your life be like without them?
Answer. Remember the focus is urban forests. We typically do not get wood or paper products from these trees, but fruits and nuts can come from them. They provide recreational areas, places to play and picnic, shade, and beauty. They cool and clean the city air, absorb and block city noise, and create feelings of relaxation and well-being.