MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Seasonal Changes of a Tree

Seasonal Changes of a Tree

Karen M. Johnson, Minnehaha Elementary School, Two Harbors, MN 55616
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The students will observe/adopt a tree in the school yard. They will observe the tree in late summer, fall, winter, and spring and draw in a teacher-made booklet their observations each season. They will observe and talk about the parts of the tree and later discuss who uses the tree. Literature stories, an art project booklet, and poetry will also be included.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for the students to make observations using their five senses on the changes a tree goes through during the seasons. They will make drawings of what they see and help write a class poem. They will answer teacher-led questions as well as pose their own questions as to what or who benefits from the tree. Some key vocabulary will be "bark", "roots", "leaves" and "photosynthesis".

Context for Use

This activity is intended for Kindergarten, but could be adapted for first or second grade. It would be good if the class size was under 20 students. This is a project that is intended to be done both outdoors and indoors and would require going outside 4 times during the school year on the school grounds. Each observation would be about 20 minutes. The child would need a clipboard, pencil, and teacher-made log book for recording. Before beginning the child would have heard the book "Have You Seen Trees? By Joanne Oppenheim, discussed the five senses and made a KWL chart (What do we know about trees, what do we wonder and at the end of the unit, what have we learned.) If a tree that loses its leaves does not exist on the school grounds, it could be done with a tree nearby.

Subject: Biology
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Primary (K-2)

Description and Teaching Materials

Introduction -Use a K W L chart, What do we know about trees? What do you wonder about?

-Read "Have You Seen Trees?" By Joanne Oppenheim, Scholastic Books 1967; illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng, 1995.

-Have five or more different students draw a picture card from an envelope (ear, eye, hand, tongue or nose) Tell one thing in the book according to the card (ie. Ear card—"I can hear the "SNAP" of the winter branches.")

I. Observe/ Adopt a tree in the schoolyard - In late summer (before Sept. 21)
a. Ask "Do you think the tree will stay the same?"
b. Give out 8 page stapled booklets (four folded sheets) labeled with "Summer", "Fall", "Winter", "Spring". Title the booklet "Our Changing Tree, by __________"
c. Draw what you see on the "SUMMER" page
d. Close your eyes," Is the tree making any sound? "
e. Select several leaves to smell and touch and then press and later make a leaf rubbing with a crayon on the opposite page from "Summer"
f. Optional activity would be to also make bark rubbings. Touch the bark. What does it feel like?
g. Optional: Make the summer page in a pre-printed tree booklet (from Mailbox Magazine) using green tissue paper cut in squared, put on the bottom of a pencil and put on with glue to make the leaves.)

II. What are the parts of a tree?
a. Why bark? (for protections)
b. What is underground? (roots for drawing food and water)
c. Why do trees have leaves (through a special process of "photosynthesis", the leaves make food from sunlight.)
d. Read selected sections form "Tell Me, Tree, All About Trees for Kids" by Gail Gibbons, Scholastic 2002

III. Who Uses a Tree?
a. Read "Once There Was a Tree" by Natalia Romanova, Dial Books 1985 ISBN 0 12 0.54677 4
b. Ask, Who did the tree belong to?
c. An optional activity would be to draw 8 pictures for an 8 page little booklet titled "Whose Tree Is It?" illustrating each of the 8 insects or animals who used the tree (woodsman, beetle, maggots, ants, bird, frog, earwig and man)

IV. Fall Observation
a. Draw what you see on the booklet page marked ''FALL"
b. What color are the leaves now? Why? (Talk about how they are getting less light and the green color is not being made as much)
c. Do you see any signs of anything else using the tree?
d. Read "Fall Leaves" by _____________
e. (Optional) Make a Fall page in the booklet (Mailbox) with torn colored paper of red, orange, yellow and brown.

V. Winter Observation
a. Draw what you see on the booklet page marked "WINTER"
b. Ask , "Where are the leaves"
c. "Is the tree dead?" "How do we know?"
d. "Is anything using the tree now?"
e. Optional: Make the winter page in the booklet (Mailbox) using small amounts of spread out cotton for snow and add a little silver glitter

VI. Spring Observation
a. Draw that you see on the booklet page marked "SPRING"
b. Ask, "Do you see anything on the branches?"
c. Cut a budding branch and put it in water in the classroom by a window
d. Optional: Make the spring page in the booklet (Mailbox) using a Q-tip to dip in green tempera paint and either pink paint for buds, or a lighter green depending on your tree.


-Make a Front cover for your outdoor observation book. Include the tree parts (roots, bark and leaves)

-Read "Be a Friend to Trees" by Patricia Lauber, Scholastic Books 1994

-Walk around a two block radius of your school. Count all the trees you see! Are there animals or insects using them?

-Revisit the KWL chart What did we learn?

-Optional: Make a short class poem about your tree. Make a copy for the last page of their "Our Changing Tree" Booklet.

Teaching Notes and Tips

In the past I had my students make a tree booklet, but we never went outside to observe a tree! This lesson will be much more interesting for the students and provide opportunity to use most of the five senses (probably not taste).

So that the tree observation will go smoothly, I would have the students dress appropriately and carry a clip board and pencil/ and or/ crayons with the booklet already clipped on the appropriate page. In order for all to see, have an inner circle of children sit around the tree and another circle sit behind them or stand.


The assessment would be looking over the students' books when they are completed. Are they complete? Did they include all the parts of the tree? Can they identify the different parts. Can they tell you some of the animals or insects that use trees?


Kindergarten Strand IV. Life Science Sub-strand g. Human Organism
Standard The student will understand that people have five senses that can be used to learn about the environment.
Benchmark l. The student will observe and describe the environment using the five senses.

References and Resources