Structures of a Sugar Maple Tree Lesson Plan: Build-A-Tree Interactive

Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use a free online science interactive to learn about the structures and substructures of a sugar maple tree. Students work in teams to identify a tree’s parts and structures, predict how the tree will change throughout the seasons, and attempt case studies where a problem with the tree must be linked to the structure affected.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Work collaboratively to identify a maple tree's parts and structures
  2. Predict how the tree will change throughout the seasons and use an online science interactive to check and analyze their responses.
  3. Use problem solving skills in various case studies, linking variables to the tree structure affected.

Materials:

  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Computer with internet access
  • Four small dry erase boards, iPad/tablets, or large sheets of paper

Preparation:

This lesson plan features an interactive activity in which students learn about the structures and substructures of a sugar maple tree. Build-A-Tree is a drag and drop interactive in which players are tasked with assembling a sugar maple tree across different seasons from a set of structures. Players may then attempt case studies where a problem with the tree must be linked to the structure affected. After completion of all the seasons of the sugar maple tree, players may then assemble the annual life cycle of the tree through all four seasons. To prepare for this lesson, preview the Plant Growth movie and the Build-A-Tree interactive, and plan how to adapt the resources for your students' needs.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Play the Plant Growth movie to review what students have already learned about plant structures.

  2. Project the Build-A-Tree interactive for the class to see. Divide the class into four groups, and tell students they will have the chance to compete in teams to assemble a sugar maple tree across different seasons. The game will be played in three sections: identifying tree parts and structures, predicting how the tree will change throughout the seasons, and attempting case studies where a problem with the tree must be linked to the structure affected.

  3. The interactive begins in early spring. Read the text to the left of the illustration, then choose one part of the tree that's listed on the right. Challenge students to work with their team to define the part, and write a definition on a small dry erase board, iPad/tablet, or even a sheet of paper. On your signal, have each team hold up their definition for you to read.

  4. Click on the tree part and read the definition that's now displayed on the left. Compare the definitions to those that students generated. For quicker game play, the teacher can determine whether each team's definition is accurate enough to receive points (3 points for an excellent answer, 2 points for a good answer, 1 point for partially correct response, or 0 points for an inaccurate response.) For more in-depth game play, display all the team's answers at the front of the room and have the class analyze them together. You could rank the responses from most thorough and accurate to least, awarding the top-rated response 3 points, the second top-rated response 2 points, etc., with the fourth-place response earning no points. Keep track of each team's points on the board.

  5. After discussing all the early spring tree structures, ask each team to predict how the tree will change in late spring. Each team should make a list of the changes they anticipate.

  6. Click on each tree part for late spring and read the descriptions together. Students can circle the changes they correctly identified on their board/device/paper during the discussion. Afterward, record the points for each team.

  7. Repeat the exercise for summer, fall, and winter and talk about the accuracy of students' predictions. After completion of all the seasons of the sugar maple tree, you can then assemble the annual life cycle of the tree through all four seasons.

  8. For the final aspect of game play, explain that you will be introducing case studies where a problem with the tree must be linked to the structure affected. Click on one of the case studies at the top of the screen, and have each team work together to determine combinations to try. Each team should write down their strategy. Have one player from each team take turns coming up to the interactive whiteboard and entering their solution, and award points based on the the level of success each strategy produces. Alternatively (and to save time), you could assign a different variable to each group.

  9. Encourage students to reflect on the structures they explored through the interactive. You may want students to conduct further research about one of the problems raised in the case studies, and make additional real-world connections. Or have students compare what they've learned to another Spongelab interactive, What Plants Need.