Trees and Me!
HOW IT WORKS
Early in September, students
introduce themselves and explore who they are as
individuals and as members of a classroom community.
They use graphic organizers to compare and contrast
themselves to classmates and teachers. This frames
the first theme of the social studies curriculum
(“Myself and Others”) and provides a springboard
into science. As they discuss similarities, students
find that they are all living! This view then broadens
to plants and animals. In journals, they observe
and describe the changes occurring in plants and
animals right in the schoolyard. They collect and
examine seeds, leaves, and bark from trees. They
design a bulletin board depicting each student as
a seed, and make predictions (in booklets, drawings,
and writings) about how planted seeds will grow
and change during the year and beyond. Digital portraits
are taken and incorporated onto the board. Seed-germination
activities give hands-on experience.
Next, Lois Ehlert’s Red Leaf, Yellow
Leaf illustrates the life cycle of a plant via literature.
The leaf collection is used to research the names
of local trees using guides in the science center.
Children also gather around the computer in small
groups to use the Internet for information about
trees. This transitions into a math lesson focusing
on shapes to sort and identify leaves. Students
learn the common names of at least three local trees
and teach them to family members. Autumn leaf collecting
is used to create leaf-print shirts with red, orange,
and brown acrylic paint. Children print the word
“fall” or “autumn” on their shirts using alphabet
letter sponges and wear them on a trip to the Brooklyn
Botanic Garden. They learn the Raffi song “Roots
and Shoots Everywhere,” which says that children
are the “roots and shoots” of our world, and dance
to it after making costumes using leaf-printing
techniques and oversized t-shirts. A springtime
trip to Central Park illustrates the relationships
between living and non-living things in the environment
(Urban Park Ranger Ecology Program). Throughout
the year, activities are documented and become a
Microsoft Power-Point presentation titled Schoolyard
Trees and Me!
The participants were twenty-five enthusiastic bilingual
multicultural kindergarten students at P.S. 20 in
the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This program can
easily adapt to all grade levels. Younger children
will require more guidance and assistance with tools
Aurora Olivieri is in her sixth year of teaching
elementary school. She has a Master’s Degree in
Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
She was recently awarded a Local Learning Fellowship
from City Lore. Elizabeth Dickerson, a paraprofessional
who works with her, has fifteen years of experience
and has taught dance and cheerleading in after-school
programs for the past seven years. She also tutors
students using a variety of computer programs designed
to advance reading ability.
WHAT YOU NEED
To complete this program you need a computer, a
digital camera to document the children’s activities,
tree identification books, T-shirts, acrylic non-toxic
fabric paint, sponge alphabet letters, the “Let’s
Play” CD by Raffi, a CD and cassette player with
headphones, and classroom literature about seeds,
trees, and the ecology.
Schoolyard Trees and Me! enables children to attain
valuable concepts that embrace many curricular areas.
Students see themselves as part of the scheme of
the living world and gain pride by teaching others.
Throughout the year, learning is a community activity,
so the children grew socially and intellectually.