Be the source of new life by planting a tree!
Encourage your students to find their inner green thumb by planting trees throughout the community! Whether it is within a school or a neighborhood, planting trees can have a variety of aesthetic and technical benefits. From providing shade to creating oxygen, trees are essential to our ecosystem and your students’ participation can lead to positive environmental impacts!
Why It’s Important
Deforestation is an emerging issue throughout the world that is threatened by urban development. As humans continue to expand in land occupation, reductions in tree volume can lead to the loss of natural habitats, decreased oxygen synthesis, and increased land runoff. Promoting the act of planting trees can aid these disparities while increasing aesthetic utility of urban areas.
What You Will Accomplish
Students will contribute to local ecosystems by planting trees within their communities.
Teacher Project Plan Step-by-Step
Step 1: Determine Participants
- Working with a small group of students? Choose 1 or 2 spots to plant a tree
- Working with a larger team? Split up into groups and have each one select a location to plant a tree
- Is your whole school involved? Split up by classroom or grade level and identify a location on campus or in the neighborhood to plant a tree
Step 2: Set Learning Objectives
- Students will analyze their campus and/or neighborhood for locations to plant a tree
- Find an area that has limited shade that could improve from the planting of a tree
- Discuss which areas around campus and/or in your neighborhood that would benefit from the presence of tree cover (environmentally, economically, or socially)
- Evaluate which areas would allow the planting of a single tree or multiple trees
- Students will identify the necessary resources and schedule days for tree maintenance
- Students will practice leadership skills by delegating tasks to each other
- Students will identify routines to accomplish their goal
Evaluation and Assessment
- Students will track and evaluate the impact of their project
- Take a weekly photo of the planted trees to see how quickly they are growing
- Measure the height of the tree saplings to show how well they are growing
- Report the impact of their work to the school/city/community
Step 3: Educate Students on the Importance of Trees
The resources provided below can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.
Education Materials: Why Are Trees are Important?
Trees Allow People to Breathe!
One of the most important elements for survival is oxygen because it allows us to breathe and support bodily functions. Trees are an important source of oxygen in our atmosphere and their presence allows us to carry out our daily routines. In fact, by planting 20 million trees, we would be able to add 260 million tons of oxygen to the earth while sequestering 10 million tons of carbon dioxide simultaneously. 
Trees Can Support Many Families!
Trees provide many functions to not only humans, but other animals as well. In addition to oxygen, trees provide a habitat for a variety of species such as birds, squirrels, or insects. Furthermore, some trees can provide food for the same organisms, which allows them to live happily. 
Trees Prepare us for the Future!
While there are many short term benefits of trees, it is also important to identify how they can help us in the long term. The action of reforestation sparks the possibility of a resilient ecosystem that can withstand disparities such as land runoff and wildfires. Furthermore, reforestation allows local ecosystems to adapt easier with the effects of climate change. 
Watch these two short videos to learn why trees are important!
Why Tree Coverage is a Social Justice Issue
Urban development plans show that locations with increased wealth have a higher ratio of trees to population while disenfranchised communities sustain less coverage leading to an Urban Heat Island effect. An Urban Heat Island consists of low tree/plant coverage in addition to a higher area of concrete and buildings which results in increased temperatures.
Step 4: Pre-Activity Reflection Questions
Reflection and Educator Observation Questions
Use the following questions to guide students and reflect on what they’ve learned. Provided questions can be accessed in slideshow or worksheet format.
- Describe places in your school or community where trees could be planted.
- What types of trees should you grow? Will they do well in the new environment?
- How much water do you think a tree needs daily?
- Why do you think people cut down trees?
- What answers did you hear from the reflection questions?
Step 5: Take Action – Tree Planting Lesson Plan
Lead students through thein “Tree Planting” activity with guided instructions. Check out “Pro Tips” with each step for useful help:
1. Gather Participants
Determine who and how many students/staff are participating; invite attendees to support your planting efforts using the Tree Plant Sign-Up Sheet. Use the Tree Planting Invite and Safety Guidelines Template as an informational notice,
2. Map it Out
Look at a map of the school or neighborhood. Make a list of areas that could benefit from and support new trees. Use the Tree Planting Locations Map to keep track of the location of trees.
It’s amazing how much more people care about something once they’ve given it a name. Just like you would name a pet, naming “your” tree can build a real feeling of ownership and pride. (Plus, it’s fun!)
3. Prepare Your Materials
- Collect all of the trees you plan to plant for your designated location. If you are struggling to create a process to obtain them, consider these resources:
- Tree-Plenish – This is a national program that aims to offset school paper use by planting trees! In addition to providing trees, Tree-Plenish can also help with the planting process.*
- Reach out to your local nursery and ask if they can provide tree donations. Use the Tree Planting Donation Request Template as an email format.
- Home Depot – Reach out to your local Home Depot and apply for a tree donation request. Use the Tree Planting Donation Request Template as a guide.
- Gather your gardening supplies and choose an accessible location where they can be stored. This can include:
- Garden gloves
- Watering hose
- Popsicle sticks (if you are using seeds)
*Be aware that Tree-Plenish requires participants to plant trees at specific times throughout the year.
4. Plant Your Trees
Decide a time and day for each group to plant their trees! Go to your selected location(s) and conduct the steps provided on this resource.
Take pictures of your team planting trees. Everyone loves to see themselves and their friends in action. It’s a great way to build a sense of belonging and community. Create a unique hashtag or social media page for your photos.
5. Make a Schedule
After you plant them, set up a schedule to check on your tree and maintain its health/growth.
- Determine a day or multiple when you will plant trees. If it is ongoing, plan to check in from time to time to monitor your progress.
- Use our Tree Planting Team Organizer to help keep your team organized.
- Remember to keep your team safe!
Remember that trees are a living thing that grows. Take pictures of your tree’s progress and see it grow into something beautiful!
6. Track Your Impact
Each group that has a tree/group of trees should track their progress with our Tree Planting Tracker. Take measurements every 2 weeks to see how quickly the tree grows.
Create a leaderboard to see who plants the most trees. If you want some added competition, create a second leaderboard on who’s tree/trees are growing the tallest.
Step 6: Post-Activity Reflection Questions
Student Reflection and Real World Application Questions
Once your teams have planted and maintained all of the trees, use the questions below to have students reflect on their Tree Planting Campaign.
- What were some small wins that happened during your project?
- Examples: met my lifelong friends, learned more about gardening, motivated other people
- What could you do to up your game next time?
- Examples: plant more trees, plant different tree varieties, plant things besides trees
- What location will benefit the most from new trees?
- Examples: your school, local park, various sidewalks
- How will these new trees benefit the environment in addition to your community?
- Examples: provide shade, sequester carbon, provide oxygen, reduce urban runoff
Real World Application
What will change in your life now that you have completed this project?
Step 7: Report Students’ Impact
Compile all the data that your teams gathered and complete Tree Planting Wrap Up Form.
- Tree Planting Sign-Up Sheet
- Tree Planting Safety and Guidelines
- Tree Planting Team Organizer
- Tree Planting Donation Request Template
- Tree Planting Location Map
- Tree Planting Tracker
- Tree Planting Wrap Up Form
- Tree Education Presentation
Congrats on completing the Tree Planting Eco-Toolkit!
Did you enjoy this toolkit? Find your next project here!