The JGC/United Publishing Philosophy: Just because we found the world a certain way doesn't mean we have to leave it that way. Our goal is to help readers see beyond what is to what can be by opening minds and hearts with the power of imaginative literature. — John Gile, Editor & Publisher

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The First Forest Cross Curricular Unit

Created by Julie Ann Linn under the direction of Dr. Roseann Feldman.

• Click cover for larger image. Aaron B., Third Grade

Part 1 of 7

FOREWORD BY JULIE ANN LINN

I was introduced to John Gile's The First Forest when I received the book as a Christmas present. The book was given to me simply to add to a growing classroom library. I now see The First Forest as an outstanding basis for a very powerful literature-based, cross-curricular unit. Not only is this book a beautiful story, but it also lends itself perfectly to hands-on science lessons, language arts activities, art projects, and mathematics instruction. With this book, a few hands-on (and inexpensive) instructional aids provided by Mother Nature, and a little creativity, you can create many effective lessons for your class.

This unit is simply a collection of ideas that serves as a starting point for your unit. Originally designed for the primary grades, this unit can easily be adapted for the older grades and personalized for your classroom. The ideas are listed according to subject area and can be placed in the order which you decide is best for your schedule.

I encourage you to adapt these lessons for your particular needs and to add to these lessons in order to improve upon them. I encourage you also to use e-mail to foster communication between the author (Click here for e-mail) and your students.

Part 2 of 7

PREPARATION

1. Create a “Tree Book” for each student. Take two sheets of green construction paper or tag board for covers and label each one “My Tree Book” with the child's name. Cut the covers in the shapes of trees. Decorate according to your tastes or allow the children to decorate their own books. Laminate these books for greater durability. Use brackets or rings to create a bound book to which pages can be added.

2. Construct a “Book Nook” in your classroom. Take a quiet corner and make it a quiet reading area. Add carpeting, rugs, pillows, or comfortable chairs to make this place an enjoyable spot in which to read. Place a bookshelf close to this spot. Stock these shelves with as many fiction and non-fiction books concerning trees, plants, and forests as you can find. Allow students to utilize this area and these books as often as possible.

3. Create various tree bulletin boards for your classroom which relate to different lessons in the unit. See the following lessons for related bulletin board ideas.

4. Set up your own classroom greenhouse. Choose a sunny spot in a lower traffic area to contain various plants to be used in science lessons. Stock this area with planting items such as pots, cups, watering can, spades, soil, seeds, rulers, and magnifying glasses.

Part 3 of 7

SCIENCE TOPIC I

PLANTS AND TREES

1. Parts of Plants:

Bring a potted plant into your classroom. Remove the plant from the soil in its entirety. Discuss the three main parts of a plant: the leaves, the stems, and the roots. Discuss their functions and their characteristics. Split the students into small groups and provide various plants (not in soil) to each group. Have the children identify the parts and their relative functions. Provide either real plants or reproducibles containing a drawing of a plant to each student. If working with real plants, have the students secure the plants to a blank piece of paper. Have each individual label the parts of the plants. Place these sheets in the Tree Books. Bulletin Board Idea: Create a bulletin board consisting of a large plant and its labeled parts.

2. Parts of Leaves:

Have the students collect a number of leaves from the school yard (preferably off the ground). Identify the four basic parts of a leaf: the blade, the veins, the petiole, and the leaf bud. Describe the various functions of these leaf parts. The blade is the broad flat body of the leaf that contains a complex system of veins. The veins are mini-tubes through which water, minerals and food are transported. Leaves take in air through these pores using the carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; then they release oxygen and water vapor into the atmosphere and draw up more water from the roots. The petiole attaches the leaf to the stem. At the base of the petiole is the leaf bud. Secure a leaf to a piece of paper and have each child label the parts of the leaf. Place these sheets in the Tree Books.

3. How Plants Eat:

Review the parts of the leaf. Discuss the system of veins and what their jobs are for the plants. Allow the children to visualize this system of veins and how they provide food and water throughout the plant through the use of a stalk of celery. Take a fresh stalk of celery and make a new cut at the bottom of the stalk. Place this stalk of celery in a cold glass of water. Add a large amount of food coloring to the water and allow this to sit overnight. Observe the colored veins in the stalk and the leaves in the morning that show the path of the food and water.

4. Types of Trees:

Reread the last six pages of The First Forest. In these pages, John Gile introduces the two main groups of trees: evergreen and deciduous trees (trees that keep their leaves all year and trees that lose their leaves every year). In our country, almost all deciduous trees are “broad-leafed.” (There are a few exceptions.) Most “needle leafed” trees are evergreens. Have the students hypothesize whether the trees in their school yard are evergreens or deciduous trees. Provide or have students find pictures of trees from magazines. Have the children sort these trees into the two proper tree groups.

5. Types of Leaves:

Using examples of leaves collected by the class, study the edges of the leaves. As a class, identify the four types of leaves: leaves with smooth edges, toothed edges, notched edges, and lobed edges. Secure an example of each type of leaf to a piece of paper and identify these leaves. Place this sheet in the Tree Books. Place the children into small groups and provide each group with a pile of leaves. Have the students classify these leaves by sorting into groups of lobed/not lobed, notched/not notched, etc. When they are proficient at this type of classifying, have the students try to place the leaves into the four leaf type groups.

6. What Plants Need to Survive:

Reread the page of The First Forest which states, “The Tree Maker made the first trees with great care with their roots in the ground and their limbs in the air. He gave them strong trunks and green clothes to wear and make certain that all that they needed was there.” Discuss the four things that plants need in order to survive: water, soil, sunlight, and air. Hypothesize what would happen if a plant were missing one or more of these factors. As a class, set up a chart to record the students' hypotheses. Provide a potted plant for each portion of the experiment. Record the growth in centimeters, the color, the appearance, and any other pertinent changes in the plant on this chart (see sample on next page).

In this experiment you cannot test the effect of leaving out air. If you feel that this chart is too complex, test one factor instead of all three. After one month of daily progress checks, review the hypotheses. What do plants need more of in order to grow? What can they do without? What combination of factors created the healthiest plant? What combination of factors created the least healthy plant?

7. Plant Development:

Have each child place three large bean seeds in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Label each child's bag and use a twist-tie to close the bag and to secure the bag onto a clothes hanger. Place the clothes hanger in the sun and where the children can easily watch the progress of their seeds. (A number of bags can go on one hanger). Discuss what the children think will happen to their seeds over time. Have the children write these ideas on half of a sheet of paper to be placed in their Tree Books. Create a blank calendar consisting of two weeks with large spaces for each day. The students write or draw what their plant looks like daily for two weeks. Place these observations in the spaces provided on the two week calendar.

Conclude this plant lesson by reviewing what the children recorded as their hypotheses for this activity. Discuss what actually happened to these seeds. Have the children write their observations on the second half of their original hypotheses sheet and place this in the Tree Books. Plant seeds if they have taken root. If some plants have not taken root, discuss the reasons why this might have happened. You may need to add water to these seeds in order to foster growth over the two week period.

8. Additional Ideas:

Discuss different and unusual plants that do not follow the rules for what plants normally need to survive. Examples of this would be the Venus Fly Trap and the Water Lily.

Discuss how the rings of a tree trunk tell the age of a tree and how well the tree grew during each season.

Use this study of trees and forests to move into the study of tropical rain forests.

Use this unit for the enhancement of Arbor Day lessons or celebrations.

Tie this unit in with other units such as Earth Week, forested regions of the world, national parks, or forest fires.

9. Hands-On Activity for Science Concepts Suggested by the Book:

1. The sturdiness of a tree is affected by its trunk size, root size, and root depth.

2. The limbs of trees grow in the direction necessary for the leaves to be exposed to the sun, since the leaves of the trees catch the sunlight necessary for food production (Photosynthesis).

3. The leaves of deciduous trees change colors and fall off during autumn.

4. The leaves of coniferous trees remain green and on the tree year round.

Part 4 of 7

SCIENCE TOPIC II

FORESTS

1. OBJECTIVES:

As a result of these activities, each student will be able to: A. Construct a model of a deciduous forest. B. Demonstrate how the sturdiness of a tree is affected by its trunk size, root size, and root depth. C. Demonstrate how the position of the leaves of a tree affect the tree's growth and development. D. Demonstrate how the position of the leaves of a tree affect the growth and development of other trees.

2. MATERIALS:

A. Styrofoam plate B. Playdough or modeling clay C. Electrical wires D. Elmer's glue E. Green construction paper F. Green marker or paint G. Cotton balls H. Flashlight.

3. ACTIVITY INSTRUCTIONS:

A. Cover a Styrofoam plate one inch deep with playdough or modeling clay. B. Make a number of trees of different trunk and root sizes by taking bundles of electrical wire, twisting the middle section, and spreading out the bottom and top of the wire for roots and branches. C. Color the cotton balls green with green markers or paint. D. Pull apart the cotton and glue it to the branches. E. Glue these pieces onto the cotton in order to represent leaves. Vary the amount of leaves for each tree depending on the tree's position in the forest (i.e. taller trees = more leaves). F. Place the trees in the clay, securing them at different depths by the roots. Arrange the trees to resemble a forest.

4.. EXPLORATION:

A. Develop a hypothesis to explain the relationship between tree sturdiness and trunk size. Then develop a way to test your hypothesis on your model. Record your observations after testing. B. Develop a hypothesis to explain the relationship between tree sturdiness and root size. Then develop a way to test your hypothesis on your model. Record your observations after testing. C. Develop a hypothesis to explain the relationship between tree sturdiness and root depth. C. Develop a hypothesis to explain the relationship between tree sturdiness and root depth. Then develop a way to test your hypothesis on your model. Record your observations after testing. D. Develop a hypothesis to explain the relationship between the position of trees in the forest and the amount of sunlight they receive. Create a means of testing your hypothesis on your model. (Would a flashlight help?) Record your observations after testing.

5. CONCLUSION:

After the students have completed their model, made observations — throughout the testing of their model, and recorded their observations, they will as a group develop conclusions. Possible guidelines for discussion include: A. Which trees were more sturdy; trees with thicker trunks or trees with thinner trunks? B. Which trees were more sturdy; trees with thicker roots or trees with thinner roots? C. Which trees were more sturdy; trees with deeper roots or trees with more shallow roots? D. Which trees received more sunlight and which received less sunlight? Why? What will happen to the trees that do not receive sunlight?

Part 5 of 7

LANGUAGE ARTS

1. Unit Introduction:

Begin this unit by introducing The First Forest to your class. On a large sheet of paper, record student responses to their predictions of what this book could be about just by hearing the title. Encourage the children to explain the reasons behind their predictions and the clues for the title that led them to that conclusion. Begin reading the story at this point. Read to the page that states, “Each day in the forest was happy and peaceful as each day each tree grew more stately and graceful...” Stop there and reassess the predictions. What do the students feel this book is about? What will happen in the rest of the book? What clues in the book let the students to these predictions? Record these predictions. Continue reading the book. When you have finished reading, discuss the events of the story. How did the Tree Maker and the trees feel and why did they feel this way? Can the students think of anything in their own lives that reminds them of this story? Have they ever been like the Tree Maker or the trees? Discuss how and why their predictions about the story changed as they went on. What types of clues in the book make them think or feel a certain way? Place this in your Tree Book.

2. Creative Writing:

The Tree Maker made many different types of trees. If you were a Tree Maker, what types of trees would you make? Describe one of your trees. What would you name it? What characteristics would it have? Would it be deciduous or evergreen? What type of leaves would it have? Draw a picture of your tree below your story. Place this in your Tree Book.

3. KWL on Forests:

Create a classroom “KWL” chart on forests: What we Know about forests What we Want to Know about forests What we Learned about forests. Fill in the first two columns at the beginning of the unit by recording the student responses to these statements. Conclude this unit by filling in the last column of this chart. Compare the columns to see what the children have learned over the course of this unit. Use the middle column to answer any questions that any individual may have about forests.

4. More Creative Writing:

Choose a part of a plant and describe what it is to like to be that part. How do you feel? How do you look? What do you do? Describe your relationship with the other parts of the plants. Place this in your tree book.

5. More Creative Writing:

Review the parts of a plant and what plants need in order to grow. With that in mind, create an imaginary plant or a plant from outer space that has the same basic types of parts and needs the same things as our plants do. What does it look like? Why does it look like that? Draw this imaginary plant. Place it in your Tree Book.

6. More Creative Writing:

Pretend you are a seed. As time goes on, describe what is happening to you. How do you look? How do you feel? How does your journey as a seed end? Place this story in your Tree Book.

7. More Creative Writing:

Pretend you were one of the trees in the forest that became greedy. Why did you act that way? How do you feel now that your are punished? OR Pretend that you were one of the trees in the forest that were not greedy. How did you feel when the other trees became greedy? Why did you feel this way? How do you feel now that you have been rewarded for not being greedy? Write a story to be placed in your Tree Book. (This can be adapted into a social studies lesson dealing with values also.)

8. Write a letter:

Tell author John Gile how you felt about the book or ask him any questions that you would like. The letters can be sent to the author at Box 2321, Loves Park, IL 61131-2321 or e-mailed to him care of
www.jgcunited.com. Place a copy of the letter in the Tree Books. (Please understand that authors need time to respond and may reply with an answer to the class as a whole.)

Part 6 of 7

ART

1. Leaf Rubbings:

Collect a number of different leaves for each child. Place these leaves in any pattern under a piece of paper. Use the broad edge of a naked crayon to make leaf rubbings. Use these pictures to discuss the different edges, shapes, and veins of leaves. Place these rubbings in each child's Tree Book. An additional lesson would be to make a rubbing of each type of leaf from various types of trees and of different parts of trees. Label each of these examples.

2. 3-D Collage:

Use a variety of natural and art materials to create a 3-D collage of forests. Use magazine photos and words, leaves and parts of trees, and paints or pens to create a collage that demonstrates the students' knowledge of the characteristics of plants, leaves, trees, and forests.

3. Make Drawings To Go With Language Arts lessons #2 and #5:

If you were a Tree Maker, what types of trees would you make? Describe one of your trees. What would you name it? What characteristics would it have? Would it be deciduous or evergreen? What type of leaves would it have? Draw a picture of your tree below your story. Place this in your Tree Book.

Review the parts of a plant and what plants need in order to grow. With that in mind, create an imaginary plant or a plant from outer space that has the same basic types of parts and needs the same things as our plants do. What does it look like? Why does it look like that? Draw this imaginary plant. Place it in your Tree Book.

Part 7 of 7

MATHEMATICS

Use leaves, plants, or other natural items as math manipulatives in order to enhance both your math curriculum and your forest unit. These hands-on items make wonderful aids in basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication instruction and practice. Use the concepts of forests in other areas of math also. Examples of this would be estimating the number of leaves on a tree, calculating the average number of lobes on a leaf, or measuring the lengths of leaves or diameters of tree trunks. Be creative!

SHARE YOUR IDEAS

If you would like to share your classroom ideas with other teachers, you may send them by mail to Classroom Projects, Box 2321, Loves Park, IL 61131-2321 or by e-mail to
www.jgcunited.com.

Teaching Aids:
Multicultural Awareness
The First Forest — Teaching Peace
Good News For Teachers And Principals
Listen to the wisdom of the children . . .
A Prime Example Of Pourquoi Literature — Writing Prompt

Click here for the author's background information

Click here to visit the author's website — www.johngile.com.

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Copyright 2009 by JGC/United Publishing, 815.968.6601. All rights reserved. Revised: January 21, 2010