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Sample Lesson "Trees for Service"

About This Daily Classroom Special
Saving the Environment through Service Learning
was written by Robert O. Black, teacher at Harbour City Service Learning Program and a former Teachers Network web mentor.

Service Learning Outcomes

Internet Resources/Contacts

Sample Preparation Activities

Checklist to Help Select & Plan Your Environmental Project

Sample Action Activities

Sample Reflection Activities

Sample Celebration & Reflection Activities

Sample Lesson: 
Trees for Service

How to plant a tree
How to construct a time capsule
Tree pledge

Sample Lesson "Trees for Service"

Activity Description

Selected classes will develop a service learning partnership with a local Forestry Board and the local department of natural resources forestry service. This service learning activity will consist of three parts. Cooperating students will:

1. Prepare a Time Capsule
2. Plant a Tree
3. Take the Tree Pledge

Community Need

Trees help refresh our air, shade our homes, and reduce crime in our neighborhoods. Many of Baltimore's street and communities need trees, especially where sidewalk tree wells are empty. Harbor City students recognize this need by planting a tree(s) on school campuses and neighborhood streets. Our urban community needs volunteers to help reforest this environment by identify sites, planting trees, and maintaining their well-being.

Outcomes: Students will

  1. Gain an understanding of how the urban environment needs trees for its citizen's health and safety.
  2. Demonstrate how to plant trees.
  3. Learn that their efforts will improve the community as a whole, including real estate prices.
  4. (Baltimore) demonstrate the concepts of civic virtue and common welfare as outlined the Baltimore City Social Studies Curriculum.
  5. (Maryland) meet the 1997 Maryland graduation requirement regarding service learning.


Lessons could include video, readings, guest speaker, and discussion. Handouts will include a description of the service learning activity as well as a permission form for the students to have signed by their parents. Information will be dispersed for their time capsule that will be interred with the tree planting as part of the dedication. Activities for the Action and Reflection portions of the service learning activity will be discussed.


Students will travel to a predetermine location and plant a tree. Students will be instructed as to the proper method of planting a tree. It has been prearranged that the tree for planting will have been delivered at the predetermined site.


Part I - Using the materials selected by the students, a time capsule will be sealed. This time capsule will then be interred with the tree as a record for future generations as to why, when, and who planted this tree.

Part II - (Baltimore) Students will be informed of other famous Baltimore City trees, e.g. the Al Capone, Pope John Paul II and Frederick Douglass trees that were planted earlier in our city history.

Part III - Students will all recite the Baltimore City Forestry Board's Tree Pledge that will encourage students to be responsible for the care and upkeep of their tree.


Certificates of service learning hours will be presented to student participants and photos and film will be shown for the enjoyment and evaluation of the students.


  • tree
  • permission slips
  • TV, VCR, camcorder, camera
  • time capsule
Environmental Film. For additional resources contact the Maryland Student Service Alliance.


Service learning, tree well, civic virtue, common welfare, citizenship.

Baltimore City Forestry Board, Baltimore City Forestry Department, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

How to build a Time Capsule

Materials: one length of 4 inch PVC drain pipe, two caps PVC (4 inch), one bottle of PVC glue
  1. Purchasing materials or seek donations from a construction/plumbing company.
  2. Cut 4" PVC pipe into an 18" length. A hand saw is adequate, sometimes construction/ plumbing companies will cut to length for school projects.
  3. Glue one PVC cap on to the end.
  4. Place material to be saved into the open end. Seal by glueing and placing the second PVC cap on the open end.
  5. Bury sealed Time Capsule in the tree pit when planting.

How to Plant a Tree

  1. Properly match tree to planting site. Be wary of planting invasive or non native species. Check with local Department of Natural Resources.
  2. Have adequate tools available:
    • Spade shaped shovels
    • Picks and pry bars for hard soil or rocks
    • Tree cart or wheel barrel for large size tree.
    • Stakes and wire retainers with rubber hose supports
    • Mulch
    • maul or stake driver
    • water
  3. Dig planting hole twice the size of the tree ball.
  4. Remove and discard wire and or other wrapping from tree ball.
  5. Gently place tree ball in ground and file with dirt. Top of tree ball should be even with the ground line. Be careful not to place rocks or other debris into backfill.
  6. Backfill dirt and gently tamp to remove air pockets.
  7. Drive stakes into ground approximately six inches beyond the digging area.
  8. Secure tree trunk to the stakes with wire retainers making sure the rubber hose supports prevent the tree bark from being scraped. Remember to remove stakes and supports after one year.
  9. Water Tree
  10. Place mulch over digging site and tree base.
  11. Have students take the tree pledge.
  12. Photograph or film tree planting for reflection and celebration activity and or media coverage

Baltimore City Forestry Board Tree Pledge

I promise to:

To be thankful for the fresh air and the shade this tree gives us.

To water this tree when it is needed.

To watch over this tree so that no harm comes to it.

On my honor so help me!


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