Learn At Our Historic Mill

Understanding Trees

Grades:

1-6

Objective:

Describe and label the anatomy of a tree and understand how to roughly determine the age of a tree.

Method:

Students will draw and label their own diagram of a tree and will count the growth rings in a piece of wood to determine the age of a real tree.

Materials:

  • One large cross-section of wood with visible growth rings
  • One small cross-section of wood with visible growth rings for every two or three students in the class
  • Paper tags, one for each small piece of wood
  • Diagram of Tree Anatomy
  • Diagram of Tree Anatomy Answer Key
  • White Paper
  • Crayons or Colored Pencils

Time:

  • Preparation Time: : 60 minutes (depends on how many wood cross-sections you need)
  • Class Time: 60 minutes

Procedure:

  • Before class, number each piece of wood and mark it with a paper tag. Count the growth rings in each piece of wood and record its number and age on a piece of paper. (Note: If all your sections are from the same tree trunk, they should all have the same number of growth rings).
  • Before class, number each piece of wood and mark it with a paper tag. Count the growth rings in each piece of wood and record its number and age on a piece of paper. (Note: If all your sections are from the same tree trunk, they should all have the same number of growth rings).
  • At the beginning of class, explain that the people can determine the age of a tree by counting its growth rings. Demonstrate using the larger piece of wood.
  • Break the students into groups of two or three. Give each group a piece of wood.
  • Ask students to count the growth rings on their piece of wood to determine the wood’s age.
  • Ask students to use the Diagram of Tree Anatomy to draw their own tree and label its parts, including xylem, phloem, stem, leaves, etc.
    • Discuss the parts of the tree that people use.
      Questions to ask:

    • What parts of the tree do people use?
    • What parts do people not use?
    • What parts do people not use?
    • Why do think people do not use those parts?
  • Prompt a class discussion of sawmills.
    • Prompt a class discussion of sawmills.
      Questions to ask:

    • What happens in sawmills?
    • How do sawmills operate?
    • What do you know about sawmills that operated one hundred years ago?
    • What more would you like to know about sawmills?
    • Ask the following questions after finishing the experiment:

    • Where did the rain come from?
    • Where did the rain go?
    • Is the dirt damp?
    • What happened to the ice? Where is it now?
    • Can you identify all of the parts of the water cycle in this experiment? The parts of the water cycle are noted in parenthesis above.
  • Explain that the water cycle helps people in many ways. Water was an important form of power to mills like that at Hanford Mills Museum.

Assessment:

  • Participation in experiment
  • Tree diagram

NYS Learning Standards:

  • ELA Standard 1
  • Math, Science and Tech. Standard 4

Vocabulary & Spelling Words:

    Bark – n. the outside covering of the trunks, branches, and roots of woody plants.

    Branch – n. a woody part of a tree or bush that grows out from the trunk.

    Cambium – n. the thin layer between the inner bark (phloem) and wood of a tree. It helps both grow.

    Growth Rings – n. the layer of wood made by a tree during a single year; annual ring. It is possible to figure out the age of a tree that has fallen or has been cut down by counting its rings.

    Heartwood – n. the center part or past growth of a tree.

    Leaf – n. one of the usually green, flat parts of a plant or tree that grows from the stem or branch.

    Lumber – n. logs cut into boards or beams for use in building.

    Phloem – n. the layer of the trunk through which the tree’s food flows. It is located between the outer bark and the cambium. It is also known as the “inner bark”.

    Root – n. the part of a plant that usually grows underground, absorbs water and food, and attaches the plant to the soil.

    Sapwood – n. the newer layers of wood between the bark and the heartwood that conduct water and sap in a tree. A new layer is added each year, forming growth rings.

    Sawdust – n. the tiny bits of wood that fall away when wood is sawed.

    Shavings – n. very thin slices or shaved-off pieces, as of wood.

    Slabwood – n. the rounded, bark covered pieces of wood left over after a log is sawed into lumber.

    Tree – n. a woody plant that has a long main trunk and many branches.

    Trunk – n. the main stem of a tree.