Considering Conifers

by Becky Patterson

Gifted Education Teacher-Columbia Co., GA.


This lesson works well around Christmas time when non-native evergreens are being sold as Christmas trees in your community. You will need samples of branchlets with needles from different species for the activities in this lesson.

Grade Level: 3rd-4th grade


Prerequisite Knowledge:

This lesson would fit well in a thematic unit on trees or forest ecology. Students should have a basic understanding of the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees.



Part 1/Exploration: Classification

Have class divided into small groups of 4 students each. Give each group of students a collection of conifer branchlets. Ask the students to categorize the twigs looking for similarities and differences. Ask them to divide the branchlets into 2 groups, noting the characteristic for each. Have groups share findings; ask, for example, What characteristics define each group? Then have the students explore whether or not the branchlets can be divided into more than two groups. Share findings, record responses to discussion on the board.


Part 2/Concept Introduction: Research

Ask students what all the branchlet examples had in common. Hopefully, they will note that they are all evergreen and conifers (cone bearers). Make a list of characteristics students already know about conifers and any they have discovered through their explorations (ex: most keep leaves/needles year round, bear cones which contain seeds, have soft wood)

Students will then use computers and the internet to research specific conifers found in 4 ecological zones. (Go to Student Response Sheet). Students will record research findings on printed version of worksheet.

Upon completion of research, students and teacher should discuss findings about the trees native to specific zones, what characteristics they have, and what conditions contribute to each particular tree's growth and development (ex: soil, weather, elevation, etc).


Part 3/Concept Application: Classification/Art Project

This part of the lesson can work as a center or with small groups at a time while other students are engaged in another related activity.

  1. Spread newspaper over table or work surface.
  2. Squeeze 1-2" of ink onto a meat tray. Roll the brayer over the ink until its surface is well covered.
  3. Student selects a piece of conifer (flattened ahead of time) and places it on newspaper and coats it with ink rolling brayer over it several times. *Caution students not to get too "gloppy" with the ink.
  4. Place the colored construction paper on a hard, stable surface and place the bough on the paper, ink side down. Cover with another piece of paper and press firmly (setting a heavy book on top works well)
  5. Gently lift off the cover page and bough. Let dry.
  6. When dry, have student label the type of conifer it is on the back of the print.
  7. When all prints are completed, have students try to identify what type of conifer each is and what characteristics make it so. This could be done through discussion or display prints on a bulletin board for guessing.
  8. Prints can then be matted or trimmed (or even torn on the edges) for a textured effect. Students can decorate to make cards or for framing.
  9. As an assessment, create a quiz using the prints for identification.



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