Keywords: leaves, tree, trunk, bark, leaf formation, seasonal change; Grade Levels: first through fourth grade; Total Time for Lesson: 1 hour initially, then 30-45 minute lessons through the seasons; Setting: inside the classroom and outdoors near the playground


  1. The students will listen to The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree and discuss ideas and techniques for identifying trees.

  2. The student will keep a detailed journal of the changes that take place over time for the same tree throughout the school year.

Materials needed

  • The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

  • "My Tree" journal pages- four per student

  • Chart paper and markers

  • Pencils, colored pencils, tape, and clipboard

  • Class set of "Summer Key for Pennsylvania Trees"

State Standards:
3.2.4-A - Inquiry & Design: Describe objects in the world using the five senses.
3.3.4- A, B, and D - Biological Sciences: Know the similarities and differences of living things, know that living things are made up of parts that have specific functions, and identify changes in living things over time.

Subjects covered: Reading, Writing, and Science

Topics covered
: Simple tree identification, observation techniques, note-taking skills

Teaching Model: Direct teacher instruction, discussion, and inquiry


  1. The teacher will draw a simple picture of a generic tree and ask the class to share ideas about what it is and how it can be used in the world. The ideas will be recorded on the chart paper to refer to during all the initial lessons and the follow-up lessons through out the year.

  2. Read aloud the story The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons and discuss how the tree in the story changes over the different seasons and how the tree provided different resources to Albert over the months. Divide a second piece of chart paper into four sections and labels them Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The students can take turns sharing ideas to write in each section of the chart from the story about how the tree changed.

  3. Talk about the school playground and what the trees there provide for the school students. Brainstorm ideas of things to look at during a nature walk (ex. What do healthy trees look like? Do we have fruit trees on the playground? Are there any animals or insects around? What are the different parts of the tree?) Take the class for a walk around the schoolyard and have them look around. Find a shady meeting place and talk about what they have noticed.

  4. Distribute the "Summer Key for Pennsylvania Trees" to each student and explain how the key works. Using leaf examples from around the playground key out the leaves with the students so they understand how to use the dichotomous key works.

  5. Instruct the class to choose one of the three "pre-selected" trees on the playground and pass out the Journal paper and drawing materials. Give the students about 15 or 20 minutes to complete the journal page and select a leaf from the tree to tape onto the top right hand corner of their paper. Give the class time to share about their tree choices and what they know about their tree. This initial journal should be completed in the first week of the school year.

  6. Discuss how we will watch "our" trees over the school year and how they can help protect their tree. Additional discussions could include looking at what is near the tree, how old it might be, how might it be different if there were other trees nearby, and if insects and animals may affect the tree throughout the year. Encourage the class to be kind to their tree!


The teacher will check for completion of the journal entries and have the class continue keeping journals through the seasonal changes of the school year and keep them in their science binders.


  1. Have a tree planting ceremony on the playground after doing some research on which types of trees would thrive best in the area and observe the new tree through the seasons.

  2. Encourage the kids to explore the trees near their homes and identify which types of trees they are and how they change over time. Provide the necessary information for them to complete the "Adopt-A-Tree" booklet from the Penn State Cooperative Extension program if they are interested.


1. Gibbons, Gail. The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree. Florida: Harcourt Inc., 1984.

2. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and Extension. "Summer Key for Pennsylvania Trees". The Pennsylvania State University (2002).


Lisa McLaughlin, Radio Park Elementary School- SCASD- 4th grade