Keywords: bud scale, leaf bud, twig; Lesson Plan Grade Level: sixth grade; Total Time Required for Lesson: 40 minutes; Setting: wooded area just outside of the school playground in early spring (location in mind is Charles W. Longer Elementary School)

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will explore leafless twigs
  • Students will identify leaf buds as the sights where leaves will begin to grow.
  • Students will become aware of how hardwood trees regenerate their leaves each year.

Materials Needed

  • handout with pictures of slender twigs, stout twigs, single bud scale, and multiple bud scale (page 12 of Trees + Me = Forestry )
  • composition book for each student
  • 12-inch piece of yarn for each student
  • 3 x 5 inch file card for each student
  • plastic recipe card cover for each student
  • waterproof markers
  • hole punch
  • pencil for each student

State Standards Addressed: E & E Standards: Ecosystems and Their Interactions (4.6.7.B); Science and Technology Standards: Biological Sciences (3.1.7.A)

Topics: leaf buds, leaf identification, tree identification

Teaching Model: Focus-Explore-Record-Reflect

Methods: Explore and focus on specific findings

Doing the Activity

  1. Students will assemble at the forested edge of the playground. This activity needs to be done in early spring before the leaves have begun to emerge.
  2. Students will be given boundaries for this activity. They will be told to find a live twig within the given area that they will adopt. It will be explained that leaf buds must be present as proof that the twig is alive. The students may work individually or with a partner. When they have found their twig they are to draw it carefully with pencil in their notebooks and date the drawing. Students are also instructed to loop a piece of yarn around the twig that they have chosen.
  3. Students return to the staging area on the edge of the playground to make a nametag for their twig. The tag is to include the twig's name (i.e., Tina the Twig) and the student's name. Colorful decorations are encouraged. The cards are placed in plastic covers and a hole punched in two adjacent corners.
  4. Students then return to their adopted twigs and tie their name tags through the two holes to the ends of the yarn that is loosely looped over the twig.
  5. Again assembled at the staging area students are given the twig handout (see materials needed) and are asked to identify their twig as slender or stout and having single bud scales or multiple bud scales. This is to be noted in their notebooks beside the pencil drawings.

Conclusion & Assessment (Evaluation)

  1. This lesson is the first in a series of lessons that will deal with the adopted twig. Student notebooks will be important to the ongoing lesson.
  2. In the next class the students will be on the computers at the Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources Web site where they can search through pictures of twigs or 51 common trees of Pennsylvania to see if they can identify their twigs.
  3. Students will revisit their twigs once a month till the end of the school year (remove tags in June). Each visit will include a drawing to be added to the notebook along with creative writings and searching for and identifying insects, birds and/or any other life found in the tree.


Common Trees of Pennsylvania.

Hansen, Robert S., and James C. Finley (1996). Trees + Me = Forestry. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University.

Project Learning Tree Supplementary Activity Guide for Grades K through 6 (1977). The American Forest Institute, Inc.

Smith, Sanford S. (2003). "History of PA Forests." Lecture in FRIT (Forest Resources Institute for Teachers, The Pennsylvania State University).


Connie J. Frazier, Hollidaysburg School District, Hollidaysburg, PA