The pine is our state tree, and it might be yours, too, since it’s quite a popular state tree. If not, you can still enjoy these links and ideas for a study of pine trees. Many include trees in general.
- “If Trees Could Talk” is an interesting lesson plan incorporating tree science, point of view, and creative writing. It can be done with real tree slices or imaginary example trees.
- “A Lesson Lovely as a Tree” includes some ideas for almost every classroom subject, centering on Olivia Judson’s nomination of trees for April’s Life Form of the Month.
- In Virginia, a lesson on trees goes from outdoor observation to planting pine trees to recycling paper products.
- This advanced lesson examines reproduction in plants, with specific reference to the pine. I have to admit that I have worked with some classes where a worksheet asking them to examine the reproductive organs of something and check whether or not they have an odor would have been distracting enough to interfere with the lesson. You know your class, though, and if yours are ready for it, this is an unusual and fascinating lesson, with plenty of hands-on elements.
If you have some pine trees around, you can make some things with pine cones:
- Make a pine cone bird feeder using step-by-step instructions with photographs.
- Fit a chemistry lesson in and make a great gift at the same time. The basic idea is to soak pine cones in water into which you have mixed some salt. If you’ve done lessons on solutions already, you can remind students about that while you make your solution. Put the pine cones in first thing in the morning and take them out at the end of the school day. Set them to dry overnight, and you’re finished. The fun comes when you put these pine cones into a fire — each type of salt will produce different colored flames. We would recommend trying sodium chloride (table salt), sodium borate (borax), magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), and potassium chloride (salt substitute). There are other chemicals that will make nice colors, but these are commonly available and fairly harmless. With these fire-related projects and the forest fire mentions in the tree lesson plans I’ve linked you to above, you may find that this is a great time to talk about fire safety, too.
- If you are working with older students, make pine cone firestarters. Melt some paraffin in a coffee can in a big pot of water, color it with old broken crayons, and dip the pine cones into the wax. Tie a string around each cone to hold it while dipping. You can also mix those salts with sawdust and dredge the newly-waxed pine cones in the mixture, for firestarters that also make colors. These do make nice gifts, but we want you to know that this is a time-consuming project.
- If you have time for a really time-consuming project, check out pine needle baskets. This could be a great camp project, or something to try for yourself if you have some time off this summer.
Take a little time to examine pine tree songs:
- “In the Pines”
- “All the Good Times are Past and Gone”
- “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine”
- “Georgia Girl”
Some of these files have music clips, and you may already know the tunes to some. But even without the sad, lonesome tunes, you can tell just from the lyrics that these are sad, lonesome songs. Have students search out the words that make it clear that these songs are sad and make a list. Challenge them to write more sad pine tree songs. Or maybe it’s time to come up with a happy one!