The giving tree

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SWBAT communicate things that trees provide humans by looking for items around the classroom discussing ideas with a partner and recording information in a science journal.

Big Idea

This lesson gives kids an understanding of what trees do for us besides look nice. It touches on wood, paper, oxygen, shade and more!


5 minutes

This lesson begins with a "I used to be a tree" hunt!

I have the kids work together as table teams to hunt for objects around the room that may have come from a tree.

I do not provide them with any information before they go on their hunt. I want them to formulate their own ideas through discussion and sharing of prior knowledge. The teams can collect objects or they can draw them if the objects are too big to handle such as a table.

We begin this section by gathering together on the floor to go over the rules and expectations:


Walking only/work calmly

Using time WISELY/ working ONLY

work as a team


Behave like scientists...stay on task, follow directions, be recognized for being an excellent scientist

Collect examples of objects made from trees

Objects that are too large to carry are to be drawn on paper

everyone participates

Return to the floor as soon as the timer goes off


15 minutes

This is the best part of the lesson. The reading of The Giving Tree. There are two ways you can accomplish this:

1) read the actual book

2) watch the Youtube video

Either works. Just remember to stop and discuss at key points throughout the story. You have to decide that ahead of time based on your kids. For the class I have this year, I stop and discuss more often than I have in years past.

Points I stop:

  • leaves to play in
  • apples to get money
  • branches and wood to build a house
  • trunk to build a boat
  • stump

I prefer to read the book, but the video works just as well for some classes.

As I read the story, I ask the kids to think about the items that they found. I will ask them to share what they found after the story is finished being read.

As I read the story, I also stop and think aloud about what the story is saying. I reflect on the giving from the tree to the boy. I say, "The tree gave... when the boy was..." I do this for each spot we stopped at.


10 minutes

At this point, I begin to elicit what the kids know or have learned from the story or the hunt. It does not matter to me where the information they share comes from. It can be from the hunt, the story or prior knowledge to this experience. I only care that they share in complete sentences.

First, I have each team come up and share what they found on their hunt. As they share, I ask questions like, "How do you know that came from a tree?" or "What did a tree have to do with that object?" I call one table team up at a time. My table teams are labeled by color.

I expect all members of the team to participate in some way. Even if it is just whispering their ideas to another team member to say for them because they are shy. I find that by this lesson, the kids are excited to share what they have discovered or realized.

I list the objects on chart paper as the teams present them. By the end we have a HUGE list of objects. It begins to be clear to the kids how important trees are and we haven't even discussed the production of oxygen yet.


10 minutes

Now comes the strong science. I reinforce what the kids have already shared and learned. I then introduce to the kids the idea that trees breath in what we breath out and they breath out what we breath in! We are in the trade business with trees!

To demonstrate this, I pretend I am a tree. I choose a random student by pulling a name stick out of the name stick can.

I give that student a blue card. I hold a red card. I instruct the student to take a deep breath in and as the student does, I hand the student the red card. Then I instruct the student to blow the air out. As the student blows the air out, I take a blue card from the student. We have a very basic working model of gas exchanges.

Kindergartners can understand this and use this information when talking about the value of trees.


10 minutes

The evaluation is done in the science journals. I give the kids a cut and paste page that have pictures of items that come from trees along with objects that do not.

I have the kids cut out only the objects that come from a tree. There is a total of 6 out of 10. They cut those objects out and glue them onto the next open page in their science journals.

They label the adjacent page, "It came from a tree."

My procedure for handing out science journals is to call up one table at a time from the floor and hand the journals to them individually to the next available open page.

I hand the kids the cut and paste page as they receive their journals. I ask them to get to work as soon as they get to their tables.

Once everyone has their journal and is fast to work, I roam the room to answer questions, explain pictures that some might find confusing and ask questions like, "Why did you choose this object as coming from a tree?"

In this way, I can evaluate a student's level of understanding of the topic. When I encounter a student who is confused or not making accurate connections, I pull the student into a small group for further support and instruction to reinforce the science concepts being learned.

Once I collect the journals, I have the kids come to the floor and I solicit from the kids one thing they learned from this experience. I record what they say on chart paper.