The Arboretum for Educators
Resources for Teachers, Students, and Families
What is a Tree? Part 2
This month let’s consider the outer coverings of tree trunks and visualize what happens within. Trees have bark that comes in many different patterns and performs several important functions, as this article will explain. One of the most important functions of tree trunks and branches is to provide a conduit for the inner plumbing that transports both water and sugars throughout the plant. The activities below will teach students how to create models, engineer pipe solutions, make sense of animations, and use microscopes to learn more about xylem and phloem, essential parts of a tree. This 10-minute video is helpful for all teachers to build background knowledge.
PreK-2: Bark Guessing Game
Students learn about the different jobs of tree bark using the slide show Tree Bark Protects the Tree. They will also have fun discovering the variety of bark types that can be found in nature while playing this Bark Guessing Game. Take it outside and have students create their own games.
Grades 3-5: Role Playing and Model Building
Scientists make and use models to understand difficult concepts. Help your students learn about the inner parts of a tree using movement and teamwork. Afterwards, they can build a model using straws and paper tubes to represent a tree’s vascular system. Older students can be encouraged to critique these models and suggest changes to make them better.
Middle School: Defying Gravity - Plant Transpiration
Once students understand the physical mechanics of a tree’s vascular system, challenge them to think about how water moves up tall trees, defying gravity. First engage small teams in a friendly competition to engineer the longest working xylem possible with the Can You Beat the Giant Redwood Challenge.” A whole class demonstration using a potometer, or transpirometer, can spur students to design their own transpiration experiments.
High School: A Tree's Vascular System
Once students have a solid understanding of how a tree’s vascular system works you can use this series of silent animations as a way to assess knowledge or embed into larger projects. Lab experiences with dissection and microscopy can further interest and bring these processes to a more concrete level for students.
January Happenings
Share with students and their families!

Family Hike: Evergreens!

Sunday, 1/15, 1:00-2:30pm
Hunnewell Building, Arnold Arboretum
Spruces and hemlocks and pines, oh my! Take a walk and use a hand lens to see the intricacies of evergreen needles and cones. You will be surprised at something you’ve never noticed before. 
Virtual Livestream Lecture | How Birds Work: Bills
Tuesday, 1/10, 6:30-7:30pm
Join Dr. Lorna Gibson, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, to look at the great diversity of bird bills and how they are suited to each individual bird—and to that bird’s favorite meal!
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