Exploring the Secret Life of Trees

Teacher's Guide

Exploring the Secret Life of Trees is designed to help 3rd – 5th grade students gain an appreciation of trees, observe trees in their everyday lives, and develop an interest in discovering more about trees. It is intended for adults to work with children to explore the secret life of trees.

If this website is not the right level for your students, please check out our other websites focused on trees -- Trees Are Terrific (K-2 grades) and Dr. Arbor Talks Trees (6-10 grades).

If you complete our online request form, we will send you a poster for your classroom featuring 'Exploring the Secret Life of Trees.'

Statewide Learning Goals for Fourth Grade

Students will be able to:

  • Have a working knowledge of the principles of scientific research and their application in simple projects.
  • Understand the processes, techniques, methods, equipment, and available technology of science.
  • Understand the sensory, formal, technical and expressive quality of art.
  • Make and use measurements.
  • Use mathematical skills to estimate, approximate, and predict outcomes and to judge reasonableness of results.
  • Understand environmental health.
  • Perform a variety of complex motor activities.
  • Apply the skills and knowledge gained in this study to decision-making in life situations.
  • Read, comprehend, interpret, evaluate and use written material.

Systemwide Objectives

Biological and Physical Sciences

Students will:

  • Identify the basic parts of a tree and its functions.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of conservation and protection of renewable and non-renewable resources.

Language Arts

Students will:

  • Read and write about trees.
  • Have a basic vocabulary of trees and forestry.

Social Sciences

Students will:

  • Understand the utilization of trees in everyday life.
  • Understand the importance of being a good steward in our environment.


Students will:

  • Collect and organize data to formulate and solve problems in mathematics through measurement and planning.

Fine Arts

Students will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and skills to create visual works of art using eye-hand coordination, building and imagination.


Here are additional activity ideas for you to use in your classroom to help children continue to explore the secret life of trees.

Red Celery Test

Mix red ink with water in a jar or clear glass vase. Stand a stick of celery in it and watch and see what happens over a 24-48 hour period. The stalk and leaves should turn pink. We can compare this activity to how water is carried throughout a tree.

Bark Rubbings

You will need a sheet of paper and a big, dark colored crayon. Lay the paper on top of the bark of a tree’s trunk and gently rub all over the paper with the crayon. Try to get rubbings from different types of trees and compare the results. Students can keep a notebook of their findings.

Pressed Leaves

Collect leaves from as many different types of trees as you can. Place the leaves on paper and press them between two heavy books. You may want to pile additional books on top of each other to add extra weight.

Leaf Scars

Collect branches with leaf scars from different trees. Compare and discuss the differences. Make an exhibit or bulletin board display of all the different leaf scars the students find.

Parts of the Trunk

To show the parts of the trunk, take different sizes of cans and paper tubes and color them to reflect the phloem, cambium, xylem and heartwood. Place the tubes around each other to build your own tree trunk.

Plant a Tree

Plant a tree to celebrate Arbor Day or to simply celebrate the importance of trees in our environment and our world.

How Old Are You?

Find a log or a tree that has been cut down at the trunk and count the rings. Each ring represents one year of life for the tree. Compare the age of the tree to the students.

How Big Is a Cord of Wood?

Use a tape measure or yardstick and string to outline how much space in the classroom would be taken up if you were to store a cord of wood. Students can hold the string from end to end to demonstrate the length, width, and height of a cord of wood. You can then call your local home supply store and investigate the cost of a cord of wood.

What Do I See That’s Been Made from a Tree?

Brainstorm and list everything in the classroom that has been made from trees. You will be surprised how many things we use each and every day that come from trees. The students can do the same activity at home.

Tree Mural

Make a wall mural of the four seasons of a tree.

Postage Stamp

Design a postage stamp to celebrate trees or the seasons. Place the stamps together on the wall to create a mural or quilt.

Pencil and Paper (Both of which have come from trees!)

  • Write a poem or story about trees or the seasons.
  • Write about your favorite tree.
  • Think about what the world would be like without trees. Write a story or poem.
  • Choose one type of tree and research its origin, description, where it grows, and how it is used.

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