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
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.
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