Tree-riffic-Tree Travels!

Print Lesson


Students will create a diagram to identify the correct location for trees to survive.

Big Idea

How does a tree’s location make a difference?


5 minutes

I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’. Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the last Science lesson in our unit about trees. To engage the students, I often start the lesson with a question because it provides quick engagement and sets a positive and collaborative tone. I hold up a globe we used in a recent lesson, “How many of you know where you’re from?” “Japan!” “Korea” “San Jose” “Every place is different. We learn that people, animals, or plants need a location that provides you what is needed to survive. Let’s explore this more...”  

Large Group Instruction

15 minutes

For this lesson, I introduce a book titled Pacific Coast Tree Finder. My husband gave me this book for another lesson. While it wasn’t what I needed then, it gave me a great idea for this lesson (it helps to show that you’ll never know how the inspiration will strike!). It has a section on tree locations that provides me with guidance as I teach this lesson.  

I review the first few pages of this very small book, I highlight the parts that refer to a tree’s environment. “Remember when we learned that a tree’s affected by the season?” “Yes!” “OK, so what did we learn about trees and the seasons?” “Trees have no leaves in the winter.” “Right”, I wrap my arms around my body as a visual cue for the students, particularly the English Language Learners, “Trees lose their leaves in Winter to conserve energy for the new growth in Spring.” I review this terminology to deepen the experience. I keep it to one Science term here though to keep things simple.  This time provides a great opportunity to connect to prior knowledge, so I review the KWL chart from a previous lesson.

I begin the new instruction piece.  It's important to me to keep the instruction both kid-friendly and scientifically correct.  Hence, while the material below may sound complicated, the students are ready for it and apply it in botanically correct ways during the application piece below.  “Based on our lessons on tree shapes and structure and our other lessons on soil, what do you think might be a reason that some trees would survive in certain kinds of areas?” “They have roots.” “Great place to start. Who can point to ‘roots’ on the chart?" I chose a Daily Helper who comes up to help.  "What else?” “They grow from a trunk?”  “They do. Let's point to ‘trunk’ is on the chart.” “The crown gives the tree its shape.” “ ‘Crown’ is a common feature, so we’ll point that too.”  Trees have leaves.” Right againAll these things are important parts of a tree."

"Trees depend on certain factors to create a habitat where they can survive:


Sandy soil means that it doesn’t hold water well.  It needs a tree that’s very fibrous, with shallow roots in order to find and conserve water. Some trees like sandy soil because it’s easy to grow and they don’t need much water

Loamy soil is the best soil for trees because it’s moist.  It’s easy trees to grow deep roots for long term growth. Other trees like loamy soil because it’s easy to take root, grow strong, and get lots of nutrients.


Hills and soil some trees grow better on angles because their roots make a stable foundation.  It’s easier to stay up in wind and find water that drains down to it.

Flat and sandy some trees grow better on sand because it’s easier to find and keep water with shallow roots that have room to spread out.


Crowded environment there are tree varieties that grow better with lots of plant life.  The organic matter helps each other grow.

Spacious environment other trees need space to set a wide network of roots to get as much water as possible.

Individual Instruction

10 minutes

As a review, I briefly go over the tree habitats we discussed. “We observed that different trees grow better in different places. Who can share one of these elements?” “Some trees need more water.” Righto we’re going to return to our tables and create a diagram of two tree habitats, one for a pine tree that grows in the forest and one for a palm tree that grows in the desert. We’ll put the parts together like a puzzle to make it easier to see how these parts create the best habitat for certain trees.” I dismiss them to their tables and finish up the instruction.   

 I show them the worksheet and begin the direction: 

• First, chose a habitat for the tree to grow.

• Next, give the tree the kind of soil where it will grow best.

• Then, decide if they need a crowded habitat or one with few other trees

• Last, explain to your partner the reasons for your choices.

With these not too specific instructions, I review the differences of tree locations. The diagrams essentially act as a pass/fail formative assessment because they showed mastery over the material by accurately depicting a tree habitat. Then, I add some answers to anticipated questions:

• “Yes, you may color it, as long as it’s…” “Accurate!” (They’re used to hearing that from me!)

• “Yes, you may take this home, as long as you….”  “Explain it to someone!) (They’re used to hearing that from me too!)

The process for the students to create their tree diagram takes about eight to ten minutes. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a handclap pattern. I ask the students to take their papers and return back to their carpet squares.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once we are gathered, I ask, “Can anyone identify the tree habitat they created?”  “Mine was a pine tree.” “What makes the pine tree habitat different?” “It has a hill.” "Why was a hill the best habitat for your pine tree?" "Because there's lots of water and good soil." I realize that this was a challenging lesson for some so we take a minute to share their tree habitat diagram with a partner, both to make the material more concrete and access an opportunity to have the students reteach each other. This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and describe their diagram to a partner, thus making the material more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime and asked the students to put their papers in their bag and return when they were finished.