Keywords: hazard trees; Lesson Plan Grade Level: sixth through eighth grade; Total Time Required for Lesson: entire morning session of 2.5 to 3 hours; Setting: classroom and in a wooded recreational area outside classroom

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will work cooperatively with their peers in small groups to complete a stated goal (to make a wooded recreational area safe).
  • Students will use their knowledge of the various parts of a tree to determine the relative health and safety of trees in an outdoor recreational area.
  • Students will work as part of a team using an evaluation rating form to identify hazard trees.

Materials Needed

State Standards Addressed: E & E Standards: Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources (4.2); Environmental Health (4.3); Integrated Pest Management (4.5); Ecosystems and Their Interactions (4.6); Humans and the Environment (4.8)

Subjects Covered: earth science, ecology, math

Topics: identifying hazardous trees in a wooded recreational area.

Teaching Model: The 4MAT System (Motivation, Information, Practice, Application)

Introduction (15 minutes)

  1. This lesson is designed to follow introductory lessons about trees--the component parts of trees and how trees grow.
  2. Using the glossary , review the parts of a tree.
  3. Explain that since the school facility has recently erected a ropes course in a wooded area on the top of the mountain adjacent to the school property, it is necessary that the area be cleared of any hazardous trees.
  4. Inform the students that they will serve as evaluation teams to scout the area to determine which trees are safe and which are not.
  5. Prepare ahead of time by having four trees in varying degrees of condition labeled for evaluation; mark the trees with numbers 1 through 4.

Lesson (40 minutes)

  1. Distribute copies of "How to Recognize and Prevent Hazard Trees" and "Field Guide for Assessing Potentially Hazardous Trees."
  2. Read and discuss terms and concepts relevant to the lesson.

Activity (60 minutes)

  1. Divide class into six groups.
  2. Distribute copies of "Guide for Judging the Condition of Landscaping Trees."
  3. Have all students make their way to the wooded recreational area.
  4. Explain that each group will evaluate the labeled trees using the guide and after doing the evaluations the groups will compare their ratings.
  5. Demonstrate the procedure by having the entire class work as one group to evaluate the tree labeled "#1."
    • Use the evaluation form and step-by-step ask the students to rate the parts of the tree giving reasons for the point values selected.
    • Total the points to determine the overall rating for the tree.
  6. Answer any questions about how to conduct the evaluations.
  7. Start by assigning two groups each to trees #2, #3, and #4.
  8. Have the groups rotate from tree to tree until all three trees have been evaluated by each of the groups.
  9. Gather the groups together and share their results.
  10. Discuss similarities and differences in how and why certain trees were rated as they were.

Assessment (40 minutes)

  1. Have each group scan the surrounding area and select at least three unlabeled trees to evaluate.
  2. For each tree the group evaluates have them complete an evaluation form, label the form with their group's letter, place the evaluation form in an envelope and place it by the base of the tree. Instructor will circulate and review each completed evaluation form.
  3. As time allows, conduct class discussions about any particularly significant trees or completed evaluation forms.


Share the evaluation results identifying potentially hazardous trees with the facility's head maintenance person. He/She can use the input to make decisions about which trees to remove.


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

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

"How to Recognize and Prevent Hazard Trees," from Tree City USA Bulletin No. 15, edited by James R. Fazio (available from The National Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410)

FRIT course handouts supplied by Bill Elmendorf:

"Risk Assessment Guidelines for Hazard Trees: An Easy to Use Field Guide" "Tree Structure Evaluation," by Bruce Fraedrich, Ph.D., in Sylvan Communities, 12/98 "Guide for Judging the Condition of Landscape Trees"


George Ness, BLaST IU17; LaSaQuik Alternative Education Program