Conifers and Arbor Day

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Students will be able to understand the external structures of conifers.

Big Idea

After receiving their own pine tree, students learn about conifers and understand why Arbor Day came about.


10 minutes

To get students engaged about pine trees, I explained that our local Garden Club would be coming in to bring us a story about Arbor Day and bring us a surprise. I told them that to prepare them for the experience I emailed a website that I asked them to research. I brought the site up on the SB and showed them that they could click any area of interest, but the Driving Question, ( written on the white board) was: What makes a conifer a conifer?

I told them to look at site for a few minutes and decide what areas on the site would best answer the Driving Question.

Soon it was time to head to the cafeteria to meet the garden club. 

Arbor Day

25 minutes

All three fourth grades gathered in the cafeteria for a story about why we celebrate Arbor Day and a question and answer session. They received their pine trees from the Genoa City Garden Club with instructions on how to plant the tree. Most students asked questions about how to plant the tree, how old it was and how big it would grow. Soon we headed back to class with our trees.

I asked them to log onto The Arbor Day Foundations's website to learn more about the history Arbor Day. We spent about ten minutes looking at the site and talking about the importance of planting trees. I informed them that our state managed to completely destroy all of the Northern Forest in a matter of 50 years to produce lumber for our developing state. I told them how we learned to replant after the bare fields of tree stumps really were not producing any other crops. I located the Chequamegon National Forest in our state and explained that it is the restored forest, but it still contains areas that never produced the size trees that originally were cut. I pulled up a map of Wisconsin on the SB so they could see exactly where the forests were located.

This familiarized my students who are mainly transplants from Illinois about the great restored forests about seven hours north of us. To adapt this to your classroom, you can follow what applies to your state by simply finding the national forest website for your state.

What Makes a Pine Tree a Pine Tree?

15 minutes

It was time to focus back on the Driving Question: What makes a conifer a conifer? Students created KLEWS charts in their notebooks to help with their research. I simply had them turn their notebook sideways and create the chart. It is a great way to research information!

I asked them to return to the "Real Trees 4 Kids" website and start researching about conifers. The room was engaged as I roved around the classroom. I stopped them for a moment and asked what kinds of "wonderings" they had. One student shared that she wondered if any pine trees shed their needles? One student wanted to know how tall the tallest pines are? 

The KLEWS chart provides a very nice column for their wondering and I encouraged them to continue to write questions in that column and see if the page answered any of them. This inquiry research allows independence and drives their interest far better than any presentation on pines trees that I could have put together!

Closing and Assignment

10 minutes

I gathered my students together to share the information that they had gathered about conifers from their reading. They quickly shared what external parts of the tree made their tree a pine tree.

We listed on the board: 

  • Needles 
  • Cones ( we are predicting that our young trees will develop them) 
  • Seeds
  • Tap root system
  • Tar or sticky sap

It was that simple at this point. So, to assess their understanding and promote the follow through of planting and caring for their young tree, I asked them to email photos of their tree at home and I assigned a Story Kit that they could design. I listed suggestions for the successful Story Kit, but I allowed them to choose. I only asked that they have more than three pages and that they are creative in their presentation. They needed to have all or any of the following.

1. Photos

2. Any information about the conifer.

3.  The story of planting the tree or putting it in a container.

4. Measuring the height so that it can be compared next year.