Project Learning Tree (PLT)

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96 hands-on activities about trees, forestry, and natural resources (land, air, and water). Every activity allows students to investigate environmental issues, make informed, responsible decisions, and most importantly, learn how to think, not what to think.


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  • PDFs of Student Pages
  • Videos to accompany activities

Sample lesson plans


Minnesota Resource Pages for activities

1. Adopt a Tree
photo:Getting in touch with trees

Summary: Students “adopt” a tree, deepening their awareness of individual trees over time and encouraging a greater understanding and appreciation of their local environment.

Objectives: Students will 1) describe a chosen tree using personal observations and investigation and organize information about the tree, and 2) identify relationships between their tree and other organisms.

Subject: Science, math, language arts, visual arts, social studies

Grades: PreK-2 and 3-8

Minnesota Adopt a Tree journal

2. Get in Touch With Trees

Summary: In this activity students will explore their sense of touch and discover why touch is important to animals, including themselves.
Objectives: Students will 1) become aware of how the bark of different trees varies in texture and 2) describe a variety of textures found in leaves and other tree parts.
Subjects: Science, Language Arts, Visual Arts
Grades: PreK-6

3. The Forest of S.T. Shrew

photo: students art workSummary: By taking a "shrew's eye view" of life in the woods, your students will gain an appreciation for the variety of living things that make forests their homes, and for the variety of habitats within forests.
Objectives: Students will 1) identify microhabitats in the forest by drawing pictures or writing a story describing a microhabitat and 2) describe some of the plants and animals that characterize several microhabitats within the forest.
Subjects: Science, Language Arts, Visual Arts
Grades: 1-6

Optional supplemental resources:

4. Web of Life

photo: Girl holding bookletOverview: In this activity, students will take a close look at one particular ecosystem (a forest) and will discover the ways that plants and animals are connected to each other. By substituting the appropriate information, you can also use the activity to study other ecosystems, such as oceans, deserts, marshes, or prairies.

Objectives: Students will 1) collect information about various organisms in an ecosystem, 2) create a mural that depicts the interdependence of various organisms with other components in an ecosystem, and 3) create a simulated web of life using a ball of string.

Subject Areas: Science, Language Arts, Visual Arts

Optional supplemental resources:

  • Minnesota Web of Life information
  • Web of Life pictures This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it.
  • Coniferous Biome  PDF
  • Deciduous Biome PDF
  • Prairie Biome      PDF
  • Minnesota Wetland ecosystem  PDF
5. How Big Is Your Tree?

photo:how big is your treeOverview: Trees come in various shapes and sizes. In this activity, students will measure trees in different ways and become familiar with a tree's structure. They will also learn the importance of standard units of measure and measuring techniques.

Objectives: Students will 1) measure and compare trees and tree parts, 2) discuss how and why people measure things, including trees, and 3) explain the need for consistency in measuring.

Subject Areas: Science, Math, Social Studies

Grades: 3-8; Variation: PreK–2

Optional supplemental resources:

6. Tree Cookies

photo: tree cookieOverview: One of the best ways to learn about a tree is to look at its annual rings. Tree rings show patterns of change in the tree's life as well as changes in the area where it grows. In this activity, students will trace environmental and historical changes using a cross section of a tree trunk, or "tree cookie."

Objectives: Students will 1) identify heartwood, sapwood, and a tree's annual rings, 2) infer from a tree's rings what damage or stress might have occurred in its life, and 3) make a timeline of human history that coincides with a tree's rings.

Subject Areas: Science, Social Studies, Visual Arts, Language Arts

Grades: 3-8; Variation: 1–3

Optional supplemental resources:

7. Can it Be Real?

Overview: Students discover extraordinary plants and animals, and will gain insight on how they are uniquely adapted to environmental conditions.
Objectives: Students will 1) predict whether unusual plant and animal characteristics are real, and 2) research a plant or animal to understand how organisms are adapted to their particular environments.
Subject Areas: Science, Language Arts
Grades: 4-8
Optional supplemental resources:

  • Minnesota Information – Can It Be Real?
  • Minnesota student page – Can It Be Real?  
  • Minnesota teacher page – Can It Be Real
8. Name That Tree

Overview: Students can identify trees by observing, twigs, bark, seeds, fruit, leaf shape, and overall tree shape.
Objectives: Students will identify several trees using various physical characteristics.
Subject Areas: Science, Physical Education
Grades: 2—8    
Optional supplemental resources:

  • Minnesota information – Name That Tree
  • Minnesota Bark Images – student handout
  • Minnesota Bark Images – teacher key
  • Minnesota Leaf Images – student handout
  • Minnesota Leaf Images – teacher key
  • Beginner’s Guide to Minnesota Trees—printable booklet with dichotomous key
  • Twig Observation  game – good introduction to science observation skills
9. Looking at Leaves

Overview: Students take a closer look at leaves and find out more about leaf characteristics and how leaves can be used to identify plants.
Objectives: Students will understand how leaf shapes, sizes, and other characteristics vary from plant to plant.
Subject Areas: Science, Visual Arts
Grades: K-4, Enrichment: PreK-8
Optional supplemental resources:

  • Minnesota information – Looking at Leaves
  • Minnesota Leaf Images – student handout
  • Minnesota Leaf Images – teacher key
10. Life on the Edge

Overview: Students will become advocates for endangered species of plants or animals and create “public relations campaigns” on behalf of these species/
Objectives: Students will 1) understand the habitat components that organisms need to survive, and 2) research an endangered, threatened or rare species and give a persuasive media presentation on preserving that organism’s needs.
Subject Areas: Science, Social Studies
Grades: 4—8
Optional supplemental resources:

  • Minnesota Information – Life on the Edge
  • Life on the Edge in Minnesota – student handout
11. Tale of the Sun

Overview: Traditional stories reveal how things came to be in the natural world.
Objectives: Students will develop an understanding of how groups of people, or cultures, used stories to explain the natural occurrences around them.
Subject Areas: Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
Grades: K—6
Optional supplemental resources:

  • The Star in the Cottonwood Tree story – Minnesota Dakota origin
  • How Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun— Oklahoma Muskogee (Creek) origin
12. Planet Diversity

Overview: Students observe and describe, in minute detail, all the life they find in a small plot of land, and become more aware of the diversity and abundance of life on Earth.
Objectives: Students will 1) investigate the diversity of plants and animals on a small plot of land, 2) compare their data with others in the class to conclude what factors influence diversity, and 3) explain the value of diversity of life forms in a particular ecosystem.
Subject Areas: Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, Visual Arts
Grades: 4—6
Optional supplemental resources:

  • Minnesota Information – Planet Diversity

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