activity, earth day, Education, homeschooling, Nature in Education, outdoors, Parenting, Sustainable Education, teaching

The Many Roles of Trees

“Children can achieve the full potential of their humanness only through direct, active, personal communication with natural phenomena”-Makiguchi

This lesson was designed with educating for sustainability in mind. Although the content includes language connected with the country of Belize, where the lesson was designed to be taught, you can easily modify the lesson so it is meaningful in any country you live in. Just be sure to change the language to meet the needs of your learners!

Enduring Understandings: Organisms must share resources to meet the needs of living things equally, across places and generations.

Learning Goals: The learners will describe the many roles of trees. The learners will experience the importance of trees through observation and exploration.

Age Range/Time: Kindergarten through 2nd grade—> 60-90 minutes



  • “A Tree is Nice” by Janice May Udry
  • Youtube video of story read aloud (optional)
  • Large Anchor Chart
  • Nature Journals (handmade with recycled paper bags/scrap paper OR regular journals)
  • Large Outdoor Area
  • Scrap paper
  • Crayons


  • Gather the students to a comfortable area. Show your students the cover page of the book, “A Tree is Nice” by Janice May Udry.
  • Ask your students, “Why are trees important?” Record their ideas (words & pictures) on the large anchor chart and leave their ideas up in front of the room.
  • Hand your students a small sheet of scrap paper. Put a few containers of crayons on the ground. Ask your students to draw a picture of a tree. Draw a large tree on the anchor chart. Discuss & label the parts of the tree. Ask the students what a tree starts out as, and how it gets so big. You may want to make a connection to all living things. You can ask your students, “Do all living things grow?”
  • After students draw their pictures, encourage them to share their ideas. Discuss with students the types of trees they drew. Prompting questions include:
    • Which trees do we have in Belize?
    • Which trees have you seen outside of Belize?
    • Why would trees look different in different places? How do you know?
  • Read, “A Tree is Nice” by Janice May Udry
  • During the read-aloud, pause and ask students to describe what the pictures show on each page. Prompting questions include:
    • Are the humans using the trees for the same purposes? (define purpose in student-friendly language for students as the way something is used)
    • Do trees have other purposes?
    • What would happen if we took the tree out of the picture? Would the humans fall? Be comfortable? Have shade? Would the baby be able to nap? Would the cows munch on grass in the comfortable shade?
  • When you are finished reading the story, discuss the many “roles” the tree played in the book. Ask the students to share their favorite activities to do with trees. Allow students sufficient time to share.


Brain Break (Sing 3-5 times with movements)

“I’m a Little Tree” (Tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”)

-I’m a little tree, short and strong (students squat down and make muscles)
-Here are my roots and here is the ground (students point to their feet)
-I need water (students sprinkle fingers from head to toes)
-Good soil (students jump twice)
-And lots of sun (students put their hands up over their heads and connect finger tips) so I can give you oxygen and you can have fun (students point fingers out and give a thumbs up)


  • When you are finished with the brain break, get students ready to head outside.
  • Students should bring their nature journals & pencils.
  • Walk around the schoolyard and observe the diverse trees you see. Ask students prompting questions like:
    • Do all the trees look the same?
    • What do you see in the trees?
    • Does anything make the tree its’ home?
    • Why would a tree be a good home for some animals?
    • What about insects?
    • Do animals live only on the outside of trees?
    • What might we find if we cut the tree in half?
    • Are the trees the same color?
    • Which tree is your favorite? Why?
    • What would happen if we didn’t have any trees in our schoolyard?
    • What do the trees smell, feel, look, and sound like?
  • Give the students about five minutes to sketch a picture of a tree.
  • Gather them together in a circle and have them share their sketches.
  • Allow your students 15-30 minutes to play outside amongst the trees.

Extension Ideas

  • Prior to the lesson, find out the names of various palm trees outside the classroom.
  • Choose 3-5 types of palm trees that you find and make a large bar graph.
  • Discuss the types of trees prior to going outside and draw a picture (or print a picture) to show your students the types of trees in a visual manner.
  • Explain to the students that you will be taking data (define data in student friendly language by explaining that data is information) about the different types of palm trees outside the classroom.
  • Ask the students to make predictions about which type of palm tree they will find the most or least.
  • Head outside on a nature hunt and have the students color in a square every time they find on of the palm trees. Prompting questions include:
    • Which tree did we find the most? The least?
    • Were our predictions accurate/correct? Why?
    • Which tree is the biggest? The smallest? The roughest? The smoothest?
    • What do leaves look like on the trees? Do they remind you of certain shapes?
    • What does the bark look-feel-smell like? D
    • o all the trees have the same role in the environment or are certain trees used for certain things? For example, what are coconut trees used for? Use examples from your own life to justify your response.
  • When you are finished, encourage students to think about something else they could gather information about. Ideas may include types of flowers, soil, sticks, stones, animals, etc.

I hope you enjoy this free Educating for Sustainability lesson plan!

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