Lesson One


OBJECTIVE:  Students learn ways to recognize and identify California native oak trees found in their communities.

TIME REQUIRED:    Four to five 60 minute class periods

BACKGROUND:  The student pages for this activity provide short descriptions of the species of California native oaks that are scattered around the state.  My students focused on live oak, Quercus agrifolia, and valley oak, Quercus lobata, since these are the common trees found around our school.

ADVANCED PREPARATION:  To help students learn to recognize the trees around your area, gather several leaves and acorns of the common trees to share with the class.  As we discuss the notes (Investigating the Oak Community) on the trees, pass out these samples so that students can compare them to their field guide. 

 ANTICIPATORY SET:  Ask your students to draw the shape of an oak, oak leaf and an acorn in their journal or on a piece of paper.  Pass out samples of the oak leaves and acorns from your school grounds for the students to compare to their drawings to the real objects.  Have them then measure the leaves and acorns and describe the differences in texture, size, rigidity, vein pattern, cap shape, etc.  

ACTIVITIES:   Student go to the web site:  www.enature.com/ .  This web site provides online field guides for the students to use. Have the students click on native plants and trees.  At the bottom of this page is a search box.  Have them click on species and type Quercus into the box.  They then need to search for oaks in your area.  The two species that I have on my site are Quercus lobata and Quercus agrifolia.    Once they look up both trees they must then create an information card on it that includes a picture of the acorn and leaf, and a small paragraph that includes the tree's common name, scientific name, description and range.  These cards are saved for the student's final field guide.


1.      Class Discussion on the two types of oaks around the school.  How are the oak leaves and acorns different?  (live oaks have pointy rigid leaves and small acorns while the valley oak has soft lobed leaves and large acorns with warty caps.  Why might these characteristics be important to that specie of oak tree?  

2.      Explain that the goal of this lessons is to familiarize students with common oak types in their oak communities.

3.      Provide copies of the “Mini Field Guide to California Native Oaks”  (Investigating the Oak Community).  Assist students in filling in the blanks and putting guide together.

CLOSURE:  Walk around the school with guides to identify oak types.

EXTENSION: As students walk around the campus have them write down special characteristics about each tree and collect acorns and leaves from each type of tree.  Students can then create a book about each tree that includes specific characteristics and trace the leaves and acorns adding the appropriate color.

HOMEWORK:  Students edit and finalize their information card at home by typing it on the computer and coloring the picture so that it can be easily identified.  Cards graded using science rubric.







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