Keywords: Compaction, Cultivation, Habit, Rate, Resistant, Susceptible, Tolerant; Lesson Plan Grade Level: ninth through twelfth grade; Total Time Required for Lesson: 3 hours (four or five 42-minute class periods); Setting: parking/common areas on school grounds.

Goals for the Lesson

  • Students will identify specific urban sites where trees are useful or necessary.
  • Students will Identify sites in urban environments where trees do or will not fit properly.
  • Students will explain considerations that trees must be adapted to for urban use.
  • Students will select specific tree choices for an urban site.

Materials Needed

  • notebooks
  • pencils
  • measuring tapes
  • flags or stakes to locate specific tree placement
  • soil pH results for the selected areas

State Standards Addressed: E&E standards: Environmental Health (4.3); Integrated Pest Management (4.5); Humans & the Environment (4.8)

Teaching Model: Experiential Learning Model

Subjects Covered: history, biology, environmental science, urban forestry

Topics: land use, plant growth habit, selection of varieties

Preparation (1 hour)

  1. Read Forest Stewardship: Backyard Trees .
  2. Find a location suitable for students to observe a need for trees based on the themes presented in the reading.
  3. Procure and organize materials based on the number of students and size of the site they will assess.

Doing the Activity

Day 1

Introduce the topic by asking students what they think is the biggest reason prospective students choose a particular college to attend. After listening to a few ideas, inform them that research has shown that students usually choose a college from their first impression, which are the buildings and grounds. This is why so many schools have made major improvements through landscaping public areas. This should transition into a discussion about why plants make such an impression on people. Specific items to discuss should include the aesthetic items listed in the reading.

Now that students have begun to see the value of using trees, tell them they are going to figure out how to make a specific location more pleasing by locating and choosing plants for that site. Tell them there are many considerations to be thought out in order to select the best plant that not only will look nice, but also fit well and thrive in the location. Have them read pages 1-9 from Backyard Trees and be ready to discuss considerations for choosing trees in the next class.

Day 2

Take the class to the site and place a stake in the ground to demonstrate where a tree should be placed. Then, using information on tree placement from the reading, have students decide whether or not this is indeed a place where a tree should be used. Measuring tapes should be used to determine the size of the planting area and the proximity to structures. If it is determined not to be an appropriate place for a tree, have them work together to find a location. Once a location is found to be satisfactory by the students, handout Planting Trees in Your Community Forest , and have them read pages 15-18 to determine if any of these factors may affect the site choose.

Day 3

Discuss the considerations from the reading and assign the students various areas close by to "spot" trees by marking them with a stake (or other appropriate marker, as stakes could be dangerous in areas of travel). Then, using reference materials already listed as well as others that may be available such as nursery catalogs that include this information or actual plant specialists, students should choose the type of tree for each spot and attach its name to each stake or marker.

Days 4 & 5

Each student should have at least one tree location to show the class and explain the site considerations and their plant choice. Depending on the size of the class this may be done by each student, or to save time by students who volunteer to explain their situations.


Various means of assessment can be used by this activity, however a test on the terminology and considerations would be a valuable record. Another alternative to the activity on days 4 and 5 may be to have the students each write out their reasons for their site selection and choice of tree.


Elmendorf, Bill, Shelby Chunko, and Rance Scott Harmon (2001). Forest Stewardship 14: Backyard Trees . University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University.

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

Gerhold, Henry, Willet Wandell, and Norman Lacasse (1993). Street Tree Factsheets. University Park, Pa.: The Pennsylvania State University. AGRS-056.


Larry Way, Clearfield High School