Explore Your Environment Activity Guide

cover of PreK-8 Activity Guide

Contents:

50 hands-on activities about trees, forestry, and natural resources (land, air, and water). Every activity allows students to investigate environmental issues, using:

  • Detailed, step-by-step instructions
  • Academic correlations
  • Time and material requirements
  • Student worksheets
  • Career connections

Designed to develop students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Get the materials

Attend a PLT workshop online, or in-person.

Minnesota Resource pages for activities

Select a heading to expand the details. Select again to hide. Not all activities have Minnesota resource pages and will be added as they are developed.

Adopt a Tree

Overview: Students select individual trees to observe over time, deepening their awareness of tree changes and developing a greater appreciation for their local environment.
Objectives: Students will: 1) Choose a tree, observe it, and describe it using their observations, 2) Organize data they collect, and 3) Identify relationships between a tree and other organisms.
Subjects: Science ELA, Math, Social Studies, Visual Arts
Optional Resources

Backyard Safari (k-2)

Overview: Every organism needs food, water, shelter, and space. A place that meets all these needs is called a habitat. Students will explore a nearby habitat—their backyard, schoolyard, or other outdoor setting—to look for signs of animals living there.

Objectives: Students will 1) Identify signs of animals living in an outdoor site, and 2) Describe how this habitat meets the needs of the animals living there.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Visual Arts

Optional Resources

Birds and Bugs (k-2)

Overview: Camouflage is an essential survival strategy in the natural world. Students discover the value of protective coloration as they pretend to be birds in search of colored bugs.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Identify signs of animals living in an outdoor site, and 2) Describe how this habitat meets the needs of the animals living there.

Subjects: Science, Math, Physical Education

Optional Resources

Have Seeds, Will Travel (k-2)

Overview: A plant is a biological system containing processes and components that enable it to grow and reproduce. By observing, collected, and classifying seeds, students examine one aspect of a plant’s reproductive system.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Sort and classify plant seeds, 2) Identify different methods of seed dispersal, and 3) Model or design seeds that use varied dispersal methods.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Social Studies, Math, Visual Arts

Optional Resources

The Closer Your Look (k-2)

Overview: Even though students may be very familiar with trees, they may have not though much about the actual structure of a tree. In this activity, your students will go outdoors or view pictures to take a closer look at trees and their parts.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Compare their drawing of a tree from memory with an observation of a real tree, and 2) Identify characteristics of a tree’s form and structure.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Social Studies, Math, Visual Arts

Optional Resources

We All Need Trees (k-2)

Overview: Students are often surprised to learn how many different products we get from trees. Use this activity to help students learn just how much we depend on trees in our daily lives.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Examine various products and determine which ones are made from trees, and 2) Classify products that come from trees.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Every Tree For Itself (gr 3-5)

Overview: This fun and active modeling simulation reviews the conditions that trees need to live and grow, while also demonstrating that trees must compete to meet their needs.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Model how trees compete to meet their essential needs, and 2) Describe how varying amounts of light, water, and nutrients affect tree growth.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math

Optional Resources

My Green Future (gr 3-5)

Overview: All kinds of people work in the forest—from foresters, to loggers, to scientists. Everyone depends on properly managed forests for recreation, essential products, wildlife and biodiversity, clean water, and air. This activity provides students with an overview of forest-related careers.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Explore a variety of jobs that are directly related to forest resources, and 2) Describe how various professionals work together to care for forests.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math

Optional Resources

Signs of Fall (gr 3-5)

Overview: Students will look for signs of autumn and conduct an investigation to discover why te leaves of deciduous trees change color in the fall.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Identify and describe the signs of fall they observe outside, and 2) Understand why leaves of deciduous trees change color in the fall.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Visual Arts

Optional Resources

Tree Cookies (gr 3-5)

Overview: One way to learn about tree growth is to look at annual rings. Tree rings show patterns of change in the tree’s life, as well as changes in the area where it grows. Students will trace environmental and historical changes using a cross-section of a tree, or “tree cookie.”

Objectives: Students will: 1) Examine cross-sections of trees, 2) Infer from a tree’s rings what environmental conditions it might have experienced, and 3) Correlate the time it takes a tree to grow with events in human history.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Visual Arts

Optional Resources

Tree Factory (gr 3-5)

Overview: By modeling the parts of a tree and creating a “tree factory,” students will learn about the structure of a tree.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Describe the structure of a tree, and 2) Explain how different parts of a tree help the tree function.

Subjects: Science, Physical Education, Performing Arts

Optional Resources

Tree ID (gr 3-5)

Overview: Tree species can be identified by looking at several different features, leaves, bark, twigs, flowers, fruit, and seeds. Even the overall shape of a tree can give clues to the tree’s identity. Students learn more about trees through these identifying features. Afterward, they can play an active game that tests their knowledge of different types of trees.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Describe how leaf shapes, sizes, and other characteristics vary from plant to plant, and 2) Identify several trees using various physical characteristics.

Subjects: Science, Physical Education, Performing Arts

Optional Resources

Tree In Trouble (gr 3-5)

Overview: Students examine trees for signs of damage or poor health and investigate conditions that may cause trees and other plants to become unhealthy.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Recognize symptoms of unhealthy tree and describe possible causes of their poor health, and 2) Perform investigations to determine the effects of crowding and fertilizers on plant growth.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Water Wonders (gr 3-5)

Overview: The water cycle is the system by which Earth’s water is collected, purified, and distributed from the environment to living things and then returned to the environment. Through modeling and an experiment, students explore the various steps of the water cycle and make connections between the water cycle and all living things.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Describe the various components of the water cycle and the path that a water molecule might take on its way through this cycle, 2) Explain why the water cycle is important to living things, and 3) Describe how plants affect the movement of water in a watershed.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Web of Life (gr 3-5)

Overview: By conducting research and modeling a food web, students take a close look at a forest ecosystem and discover ways that plants and animals are connected to one another. Although this activity focuses on forests, you can also use it to study other ecosystems, such as oceans, deserts, marshes, or prairies, by substituting the appropriate information.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Conduct research to learn how one organism is connected to other organisms in an ecosystem, 2) Use a model to understand the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Visual Arts

Optional Resources

Field, Forest, and Stream (gr 6-8)

Overview: Students conduct a field study of three different environments as they focus on sunlight, soil moisture, temperature, wind, water flow, plants, and animals in each environment. By comparing different environments, students will learn how nonliving elements influence living elements in an ecosystem.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Describe similarities and differences they observe in the nonliving (abiotic) and living (biotic) components of three ecosystems, and 2) Identify ways that abiotic components of an ecosystem affect the biotic components.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math

Optional Resources

Invasive Species (gr 6-8)

Overview: Throughout history, people have intentionally and unintentionally moved plant and animal species to new environments. Some of these species have proved beneficial, but others invade natural habitats, causing environmental and sometimes economic harm. Students research invasive species to determine how these species got to their new locations and what characteristics make their control so challenging.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Learn what invasive species are and why they sometimes cause problems., 2) Research and create a presentation on an invasive species in their local area, and 3) Identify actions to help prevent the spread of invasive species.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math

Optional Resources

Life on the Edge (gr 6-8)

Overview: Students model processes that can lead to species becoming rare or endangered. Then they become advocates for rare or at-risk species of plants or animals and create “public relations campaigns” on behalf of these species.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Identify the habitat components that organisms need to survive, and 2) Research a rare, threatened, or endangered species and give a persuasive media presentation on safeguarding that organism.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Living With Fire (gr 6-8)

Overview: Students learn about the three elements a fire needs to burn and find out how this “fire triangle” can be used to prevent and manage wildland fires, particularly in the wildland-urban interface.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Describe the three elements of the fire triangle and explain how eliminating one (or more) can help prevent or control a fire, 2) Describe ways to reduce the fire risk to homes in the wildland-urban interface.

Subjects: Science, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Nature’s Skyscrapers (gr 6-8)

Overview: Trees come in many shapes and sizes. Students become familiar with tree structure and scale by using different methods to measure them and by making comparisons. They learn the importance of standardized measurements and proper measuring techniques.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Explain how and why people use standards units of measure, 2) Develop an understanding of measurement and tree scale, and 3) Measure trees in a systematic, consistent way.

Subjects: Science, Math

Optional Resources

Our Federal Forests (gr 6-8)

Overview: Our nation’s forests are managed to support multiple outcomes. Students learn how forests can be managed to meet a variety of human and environmental needs and examine national parks or forests to identify challenges that forest managers face meeting different needs.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Identify ways that people use forest resources, 2) Explore how forests are managed to satisfy a variety of human and environmental needs, 3) Offer possible solutions to problems facing federal forestland.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Plant a Tree (gr 6-8)

Overview: Never underestimate the power of a tree! In addition to giving us an amazing array of paper and wood products, trees provide a host of other benefits—from shading our backyards to reducing air pollution to helping stabilize the global climate. Students can express their appreciation of trees by planning and carrying out their own tree-planting project.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Identify ways that urban trees enrich our lives, 2) Determine how people care for urban trees, 3) Identify areas in their local community that would benefit from having more trees, and 4) Organize and execute a project to plant a tree.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Social Studies

Optional Resources

Renewable or Not (gr 6-8)

Overview: Students model what happens to renewable and nonrenewable resources over time and discover why sustainable use of natural resources is so important.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Identify and define renewable and nonrenewable resources, explaining the key differences between them, and 2) Model societal resource use to explore factors that make renewable resources sustainable.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math, Social Studies

Optional Resources

The Global Climate (gr 6-8)

Overview: Using data collected from Mauna Loa, students graph changes in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the course of several decades and identify possible reasons for those changes. They will also explore the relationship among CO2, the Earth’s climate, and local ecosystems and suggest ways to reduce the effects of increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Objectives: Students will: 1) Examine and analyze trends in CO2 levels, 2) Learn how an increase in temperature can affect ecosystems, and 3) Suggest ways to reduce the effects of elevated CO2 in the atmosphere.

Subjects: Science, ELA, Math, Social Studies

Optional Resources

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