Are Trees Alive?: A Mini Inquiry

Thursday, 18 April 2019


With Earth Day and Arbor Day just around the corner, I thought I'd share a tree inquiry we did a few years ago. 

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It began with this book!

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After reading the title, I asked children what they thought the answer was to this question.  We talked about it and then they wrote down their ideas.

There was a lot of uncertainty and a few misconceptions and I decided it would be a great question to explore further.

So, we got busy investigating! 

I brought in some tree artifacts and challenged the children to look for evidence that might help them answer the question.


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The children made many concrete observations, but their thinking really took a turn when one student shared that the branch he was holding didn't start out that way and that it had to grow to get that big.  

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Through this, they began to see that living things grow and change.  

Some children noticed and commented on the "swirls" on a tree slice. 

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We gathered on the carpet to look at the tree rings on a mat we had in our classroom. 

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I shared that these rings were evidence of growth and that a tree gains one ring for every year of its life.  We counted the rings to see how old the tree would have been if it were real.  

They noticed the cracks in the tree and wondered about those. We read Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel and learned how trees can become damaged over time. 


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Eventually, we found our way back to the book that inspired our investigation and went beyond the cover to actually read the book.  

Are Trees Alive by Debbie Miller is a really wonderful book.  Not only does the title pose a great question, but the text invites readers to compare their own bodies to trees to show similarities and differences between these two living things.  

I played the song I'm a Tree by Bev Bos (which is sadly unavailable) that invited children to move like a tree.

But here's a great tree mediation that could also be used:


And of course, we did the tree pose!

From there, we broke into small groups (trunk, roots, branches, leaves) to create a life size tree, which we then built and labeled outside our classroom.  

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Lastly, I asked children to respond in writing again to the question, "Are Trees Alive?," so I could see how their thinking had changed.

That's as far as we got in that school year, but in my notes I had written down that there were some great connections made between trees and breathing that we could have explored.  Never enough time in the kindergarten day or year!

If you are planning any Earth Day or Arbor Day projects this spring, you might try this mini-inquiry!

Or consider taking a Tree Walk!

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Spring can be a challenging time of year (spring fever is for real!) and taking learning outdoors might be just what your kiddos need!

Happy spring and as always...

Thanks for stopping by!

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