Have You Ever Met a Tree?

About this Lesson from Nichols Arboretum
Recommended Age Level: Pre-Kindergarten and Early Elementary

Guiding Questions

  1. Have you ever met a tree?

  2. What are some of the characteristics or features of different trees?







    A tree for every child or pair

  1. Drawing paper and something to put paper on so you can draw and write outside

  2. Pencils, crayons, or colored markers

  3. Clear contact paper

  4. Optional: may want to have seat cushions or something to put on the ground to sit on if children go out on wet or muddy days to examine and draw/write about their trees./

  5. Bag or box to keep their materials in

Room Preparation

Safety and Precautions

Procedures and Activities


Ask children the guiding questions:

  1. Have you ever met a tree?

    Listen as children share the kinds of trees they have “met ” — trees they have at home, have climbed, have picked fruit from, have seen bird nests in, have watched squirrels climb and scamper on, have sat under on a hot and sunny day, have swung beneath on a swing, have raked and played in the fall leaves of, may even have planted....

    Lead discussion to basic understandings that we know many different kinds of trees and that they offer us many different things, from shade, to play, to food.

  2. What are some of the unique characteristics or features of trees?

    No two trees are exactly alike, just as no two people are just alike. Think about and share characteristics of some favorite trees. Some ideas:

  3. Today, you are going to “meet a tree ” and be a scientist who observes and studies a tree to learn what special characteristics it has. Then you are going to draw and write about your tree so you can introduce it to others.


Getting Ready to Go Outside & Meet a Tree

Briefly go over what we are going to do with our trees, including

  1. Make observations like a scientist —check it out!

    Carefully use your eyes to study the whole tree, from the very top to the very bottom of it! Your eyes are like a camera taking snapshots of how tall or short your tree is, what kind of branches it has, whether it has needles or leaves, if there are any critters in it or any evidence that critters do come and use or live in it...

  2. Look to see what its physical features are.

    Does your tree have a smooth or rough trunk? Long willowy branches or short stumpy branches? Does your tree “weep ” or have a rounded top or a pointed, narrow top? Are there leaves or needles? What exactly do the leaves or needles look like? Do you see any flowers, nuts, pine cones or other things growing? Do any critters use the tree or even live in it?

  3. Document your observations like a scientist.

    Scientists have to figure out ways to remember what they did and saw and to share their findings with other people. Here are some of the ways you can document your observations:

    Make a bark rubbing. Make a rubbing of a leaf or needle. Draw a picture of a leaf, taking special note of the pattern of its “veins. ” Draw the entire tree, paying attention to how it branches and whether its leaves grow in groups or on single stems. Draw the flowers, nuts or other interesting parts. Draw a picture of any critters you see visiting or living in the tree. (If you watch carefully, you may see ants carrying aphids up and down the trunk.) Draw a picture of any critter homes you see —birds ’ nests, squirrels’ nest, hornets’ or bees’ nest. Seal leaves, needles, and twig samples in between pieces of clear contact paper.

    Note: You may need to show children an example and demonstrate how to do some of the strategies, such as how to seal leaf and twigs in contact paper or how to do rubbings.

Give children a sack or box that contains the materials they need and go “meet a tree.” Have them share what they are going to look for and do before they go outside to their trees.

If children are working in pairs, let them get together before they go outside. They can talk about whether they are going to split up tasks or if they will each do every activity.

Go outdoors and let children “meet their trees.”

You might give them some guidance such as every 10 minutes or so share that they should move on to drawing their tree, doing bark rubbing, doing leaf or needle rubbing, sketching critters and nests, etc.

Children may need some extra time to document their observations and to complete their activities inside the classroom. Also give them time to practice making a presentation and sharing their drawings, rubbings, sealed samples. and writing.


Back in the classroom, ask again:

  1. Have you ever met a tree?
  2. What are some of the characteristics or features of different trees?

Let children make their presentations and share their drawings. Listen for evidence that they understand characteristics of all trees, physical features of different kinds of trees, how people and critters enjoy and use trees....

Extension Ideas

Careers Related to Lesson Topic

Prerequisite Vocabulary

Living for several years, often growing larger every year

Let us know what you think! Mail to webmaster

Back to Lessons by Age & Subject
Back to Reach Out! Home