The Arboretum for Educators
Resources for Teachers, Students, and Families
What is a Tree? Part 3
Over millions of years trees evolved characteristics and traits that allow them to survive changing environmental conditions and less than ideal surroundings. These adaptations are inheritable, serve a purpose and thus increase species diversity through reproduction. This month, students observe and investigate conifers and evergreen plants to discover the many ways they have adapted to winter conditions. Also, check out a fun book for ALL ages - Amazing Plant Powers by Loreen Leedy and Andrew Schuerger.
PreK-2: Nature Walk and Leaf Adaptation Demo
The first step in discovering plant adaptations is getting outside to become familiar with conifers and evergreen plants during a nature walk. Students should touch, smell, and use language to describe shape, size, color, and texture of pine, hemlock, yew, holly, and rhododendron. In the classroom, teachers can set up this leaf adaptation demonstration to help students connect their observations with adaptation purposes. Note that you will need to use local leaves for each category.
Grades 3-5: Protective Coats and Other Adaptations
Introduce your students to local evergreen and conifer plants using this Evergreen Leaves and their Adaptations Google slide deck. These come with detailed Teacher Notes to help you convey information. Then take students outside to find their own leaves to observe and connect learning. In the classroom, students can set up models using collected leaves to explain adaptations. Another fun activity involves coating paper leaf models with petroleum jelly and submersing them in water!
Middle School: A Panoply of Adaptations
This video about trees in winter explains the science behind dry climate adaptations. (Note: slow down the playback speed using the settings gear.) Holly leaves, however, have yet another adaptation – spines on their leaves to prevent herbivory. Students will collect, count, and graph the number of spines on holly leaves found at varying tree heights to understand how this adaptation works. 
High School: The Ins and Outs of Winter Adaptations
This online mini course, with readings and videos, allows students to learn content at their own pace. Students can then get outside to handle evergreen and conifer plant material – pine, hemlock, yew, holly, and rhododendron are common in many school campuses and home yards. These Google slides with extensive Teacher Notes will help students focus observations and formulate hypotheses about adaptations.
February Happenings
Share with students and their families!
Family Hike:
Play in the Cold!
Sunday, 2/19, 1:00-2:30pm
Hunnewell Building,
Arnold Arboretum
Families need nature at all times of the year! If it snows, we will make snowpeople, snow angels, and more! If there's no snow we will play some simple games that are great for young and old alike! Afterwards, families will be invited to come inside for cocoa and cookies in the Visitor Center.
Wonder Spot:
We’re Not All Prickly
At Your Leisure

Have you ever wondered how many kinds of needle-shaped leaves there are? You might be surprised! Learn more with this Arboretum Wonder Spot.
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