Keywords: watershed, forest layers, canopy, understory, shrub layer, forest floor, shade tolerant, non-shade tolerant; Grade Levels: 4; Time: 40 minutes; Setting: indoors

Goals for the Lesson

  1. Recognize that a forest has multiple growth layers.

  2. Identify trees and plants that may be found in each forest layer.

  3. Determine relationships and dependent connections within various layers.

Materials Needed

  • Paper sandwich bags

  • tree cards

  • forest layer cards

  • selection of tree identification books

State Standards: Renewable/Non-renewable Resources

Subject: Science

Topic: life cycle, forest structure

Teaching Method: Experiential Learning


  1. Cut out magazine and web .jpg pictures of a wide variety of trees.

  2. Paste pictures on index cards. Laminate - optional

  3. Prepare a paper sandwich bag for each group (3-4 students) filled with a tree cards from each layer of the forest.

  4. Present information about each forest layer to the class.

  5. Allow students to explore and investigate each tree card.

  6. Using the selection of tree id books, have each group identify the trees within their "forest" and place them within the correct forest layer.


Each group will construct a pictorial chart of the forest layers.


Sallie Gregory, Lancaster County Conservation District