By Hollile Barattolo
- Toilet paper or paper towel tube
- Popsicle or craft sticks
- Pom poms
- Leaves (real, plastic, or fabric)
- Clay (air dry or Play Doh)
Spend some time exploring the shapes of trees.
1. See how many students it takes to fill in the shadow of a tree on your playground.
2. For a small tree, trace the shadow on the ground with chalk or line the edges of the shadow with rope.
3. Build a body tree. Lay students head to foot to make a tree with trunk and branches.
4. Play tree yoga. Use live trees in your playground or photos of trees from the internet. Show a tree and challenge your students to make the shape of the tree with their body and hold it.
Exploration Questions: Do all trees have the same shape? Are some trees short and fat and others tall and thin? Are they bigger at the top or bigger at the bottom? Can you draw an imaginary line down the middle of the trees and have both sides be the same size and shape?
Tree Building Challenge 1:
Build a tree that can stand up nice and straight with only the materials provided. Give each student some clay, popsicle sticks, and leaves. Depending on your students, you can give specifications about the height, how many leaves or branches it must have, etc. You can even have it turn to fall and remove all the leaves and see if your tree still stands up!
Exploration Questions: Was it easy or hard? Who made the tallest tree? The shortest? Which tree had the most leaves or least leaves? Do any of these trees look like trees you’ve seen before?
Tree Building Challenge 2:
Build an apple tree that can balance as many apples as possible. Give each student a cardboard tube trunk. Stand the tube upright and encourage them to lay popsicle sticks across the opening of the tube. Predict how many apples (pom poms) they can balance on their apple tree before the branches fall down?
Exploration Questions: How did you decide to add the sticks? Did you choose to put an even or odd amount? Were there things you did that made your tree fall over? Which shape of trees had the most apples on them?
Hollie is certified K-8 teacher who has been educating in the informal education field since 2005. She has developed and implemented countless exciting STEAM programs for families, classrooms, and teachers focused on the natural world, the scientific process, and ancient life. Her professional passions are inquiry, whole family learning, experiential learning starting in early childhood, and the intersection of literacy and science instruction.
She has recently developed a community-based program that encourages families to use dramatic play to learn science, increase literacy skills, and have fun together for which she received the Drexel University Presidential Award for Civic Engagement. She is most proud of her work on a popular science storytelling program for preschool families and classrooms that combines a book club format with engaging programs, innovative curriculum, and a hysterical puppet storyteller.