Keywords: tree, planting trees, tree environments; Lesson Plan Grade Level: seventh through ninth grade; Total Time Required: one 45-minute period (does not have to be continuous); Setting: classroom, computer lab/library

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will use a dichotomous chart to identify five trees.
  • Students will identify the environment in which each tree is growing.
  • Students will use the Internet or library to identify climate for their area.
  • Students will use the Internet or library to identify conditions needed for success for their five trees.
  • Students will analyze information to decide if the trees are placed appropriately.
  • Students will write a paragraph for each tree summarizing their findings.

Materials Needed

  • dichotomous tree identification charts
  • Internet access or climate data for local climate information
  • Internet access or tree information books for tree information
  • table to record information

State Standards Addressed: Pennsylvania Department of Education Academic Standards for Science and Technology: Biological Sciences (3.3); Technological Devices (3.7); Pennsylvania Department of Education Academic Standards for Environment and Ecology: Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources (4.2); Environmental Health (4.3); Ecosystems and their Interactions (4.6); Humans and the Environment (4.8)

Subjects Covered: general science, biology, environmental science, ecology

Topics Covered: conditions necessary for tree growth


Students have learned that living organisms need certain things to survive.


"You have learned that all living organisms need certain conditions in order to survive. But not all living things prefer the same conditions in order to thrive. You will identify five trees, investigate the conditions that those trees need, and study those particular trees to see if their preferred conditions are being met."

Activity 1

Students use a dichotomous chart, such as Summer Key for Pennsylvania Trees , to identify five different trees, trying to identify trees from a variety of growing conditions. Students note the growing conditions of each tree on a chart , with respect to:

  • location (city park, city street, park, backyard, along stream, orchard, etc.)
  • water supply (precipitation only, irrigation, nearby body of water, surrounded by concrete)
  • purpose (supply shade, supply food, aesthetic)
  • special problems (insects, dying, lots of traffic, behind first base, lawn mower chips at base, etc.)

This step could be homework to provide the maximum variety in environments.

Activity 2

Students use the Internet (or library sources) to identify the climate for the area (maximum and minimum temperatures, annual precipitation), for example, using United States Climate Page or World Climate .

Activity 3

Students look up and record the preferred growing conditions for their five trees, using the Internet or books such as All about Trees .

Activity 4

Homework assignment, started in class if there is time: For each tree, students analyze whether their five trees are placed appropriately. In a paragraph for each tree, students should review the environment in which the tree is found, the preferred environment for the tree, whether those preferred conditions are met, and how any unfavorable conditions could be remedied.


  1. Assign the students the position of community arborist with the task of deciding what trees should be planted in particular environments.
  2. Collect the information and compile it in a binder describing trees that are appropriate for local environments.
  3. Write to the community arborist about trees the students have identified that are not in their preferred conditions.


  • Collect student work and check for accuracy and consistency.
  • Have students discuss their findings in a later class.


Elmendorf, William F., and Sanford S. Smith (1999). Planting Trees in Your Community Forest . University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University.

Ferguson, Barbara, ed. (1982). All about Trees. California: Ortho Books.

Smith, Sanford S., Paul Brohn, and James J. Grippo (2002). Summer Key for Pennsylvania Trees. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University.

United States Climate Page

World Climate Web Site


Colleen M. Serencsits