Arbor Day Lesson Plans

Arbor Day provides a great way to teach students about trees, plants, and why we need to protect our planet.

By Cathy Neushul


Arbor Day Lesson

Arbor Day is one of those holidays students may celebrate without completing understanding its significance. The first Arbor Day was observed on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska, and was the brainchild of J. Sterling Morton. About one million trees were planted that day in a celebration that included school children, parades, and music. It was a true holiday. Later on the date was changed. While many states celebrate Arbor Day the last Friday of April, others have a unique date. The Arbor Day link above gives you the date the holiday is celebrated in each state. 

Morton's crusade to plant trees can provide a way to discuss how one person can make a difference. Morton was in a position of influence as a newspaper editor, but he started out as a person with an idea. It can show how following through with your dreams can pay off.

While Morton proposed Arbor Day as a way to beautify the Nebraska landscape, and provide windbreak and erosion protection for the land, more than ever, tree planting has become a necessity. Arbor Day can become a way to teach students about local plant life, tree planting, and forests. It is also a great way to get students thinking about environmental issues.

Elementary Arbor Day Lesson Plans:

Seasoning The School Year: Students learn about seasons, and how these affect trees. They record changes in a deciduous tree, and create multimedia presentations and graphs to share their results. By the end of the lesson students create newletters and class books that can be used to celebrate Arbor Day.

If A Tree Falls In The Forest: In this lesson students learn about forests, and their relationship to our lives. They discuss all the things that we get from forests, such as wood, food, medicine, and paper. Students talk about why we need to protect the forests.

The Tree In The Wood: This lesson is geared toward kindergarten students, but could be modified for use with older students. It provides a list of books that could be used to give students a way to start thinking about trees. For kindergarten students the books or poems can be used with fingerplays. 

Elementary/Secondary Arbor Day Lesson Plans:

Arbor Day Across the United States -- A Color -Key Map Activity:  Students learn about Arbor Day and how to read a map with color-key information.  They discuss hardiness zones, and find out when Arbor Day is celebrated throughout the nation. There is a link to more lessons about trees, including how to measure them, or create silhouettes.

Biggest Trees in the United States:  In this lesson students learn about the largest trees in the United States, and compile information about them. The lesson comes with worksheets and handouts which provide a great way to discuss this topic. This lesson can provide a way to discuss Arbor Day, and the importance of trees. Extension activities involve measurement, and critical thinking.

Secondary Arbor Day Lesson Plans:

Where The City Meets The Tree: This lesson provides students an overview of urban forestry, and helps them to become active participants in their enviroment. The links in this lesson provide ways for students to create their own urban forests, identify the plants at their school, and perform scientific experiments. It's a great lesson to use to celebrate Arbor Day.

From Arbor Day to Earth Day: This lesson uses Arbor Day and Earth Day as a way to talk about environmentalism and conservation. It provides links to historical information that desribes how and why these special days were created. The lesson comes with great worksheets to solidify the information students have learned.

Tree Species and the Diseases That Commonly Threaten Them: Students learn about tree diseases in the United States. They learn about the causes of these diseases, and the ways to combat these problems. Students then develop pamphlets to describe how to identify diseased trees.

Science Guide

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Cathy Neushul