Level 2: Forest Unit

There is so much to learn from the incredible forest biomes! This week, we’ll explore the incredible ways trees grow—and even communicate!—while we learn more about the other flora and fauna that call the forest home. Get ready to explore forests both temperate and tropical, compare and contrast deciduous and coniferous trees, and strengthen your child’s skills in a variety of academic subjects. Ready to learn? Click here to download your weekly tracker!

Note: Occasionally we include project modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the minus (-) symbol.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional chapter books:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Of course, we can’t truly learn about the forest without starting at the trees. What is a tree? It’s defined in the dictionary as “a woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.” Let’s learn more about what makes a tree a tree, its parts, and its incredible abilities in the book The Magic and Mystery of Trees. This book is incredibly in-depth and packed with cool information on trees, but you likely won’t read through the whole thing in one sitting. Start by reading pages 1-13 before beginning today’s lessons. (If you’re not able to get the book, this post has free tree printables that will be helpful for today’s activities. You only need to print pages 20, 23, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, and 34.)

Activity 1: Let’s begin to break down the basics of trees with a few activities. Pages 10 and 11 of our book are especially helpful for this activity. Start by reviewing the difference between broad-leaved trees and coniferous trees on page 10 and the different tree shapes on page 11. Next, go on a tree scavenger hunt! You can hunt near your home, at a park, or wherever your child will be able to see different varieties of trees. When your child spots a tree, use your printable to determine if the tree is deciduous or coniferous and its shape. How many different types of trees can you find?

Activity 2: While you’re out, let’s try two clever techniques to estimate the height and age of a tree. You will need a pencil and a retractable tape measure for the height estimation and a measuring tape for the age estimation.

First, let’s estimate the height! Start by picking a tall tree. Ask your child how they think we could find out how tall that tree is. They may suggest something that gets you as tall as the tree, like a ladder. Ask them if they think there’s a way to figure it out from the ground. Next, show them this method. Start by having your child stand at the base of the tree. Then you (or another child, if you are working in a group) should walk carefully backwards away from the tree, holding up a pencil. When the pencil tip is in line with the top of the tree and the eraser is in line with the base, stop. Next, turn the pencil sideways so the eraser appears to touch the base of the trunk and have your child walk until they are in line with where the pencil tip appears to touch on the ground. Now it’s time to measure! Using a tape measure, measure the actual distance from the base of the tree trunk to where your child is now standing. This measurement is the approximate height of the tree!

Next, let’s measure the tree’s age. You have probably heard of the method of counting the rings in a tree to know how old it is. This is because every year, a new layer of growth grows beneath the tree’s trunk. (You can also show your child what this looks like on page 16 of the book if you can’t find a real stump.) Unfortunately, this method requires the tree to be chopped down. Fortunately, there’s another way to approximate the tree’s age without damaging it. Take a measuring tape and measure the circumference of the tree’s trunk. (Circumference is the distance around a circle, or the trunk.) The distance in inches is also the approximate age of the tree!

Activity 3: Finally, let’s make a model of the parts of the tree. You can use page 32 of the tree book as a reference, and then use this tutorial to make your model craft.

Activity 4: Finally, let’s use page 16 of the book to compare and contrast deciduous and coniferous trees. Share the information with your child about each type of tree, and then have them fill out this Venn diagram with their findings.

Lesson 2:

One of the most impressive trees in temperate forests is the mighty redwood! Today, we’ll learn more about these sky-high plants, starting with the book Stretch to the Sun. You can also find some amazing California redwood facts to share with your child in this post and in this video. You can also see how redwoods stack up to other trees on page 48 of The Magic and Mystery of Trees.

Activity 1: Let’s make a model of our own redwood forest! Use this tutorial to inspire your own model, and then we’ll add on to it throughout the week. If you purchased this animal figurine set for our Snow Unit, they will also be right at home in this model.

Activity 2: Let’s use the mighty redwood as inspiration for today’s literacy activity by working on some word families! We’ve included a few options below to work on, but feel free to adjust to whatever works best for your child right now. Start by printing this tree spinner and laminating, if possible. Next, cut out the circle stump and the leaves spinner. Using a brad, attach the stump over the leaves (in the middle). It should look like this:

Next, use a dry erase marker to write one of the below word families, putting the beginning letter or letter blend on the leaves and the ending of the word on the stump, like this:

Work with your child to rotate the leaves and read each word, and then wipe clean and start again with a new word family. Note: Don’t feel like you have to do all the word families we suggest—simply do as many as your child is interested in trying.

Sample word families to try:






Activity 3: Did you know that trees can communicate with each other (and other organisms)—and they even have senses like you do? Let’s learn more about these amazing tree abilities on pages 35-43 of our tree book. Did you see the amazing symbiotic relationship trees have with many types of fungi? Let’s learn more about fungi in this video. Next, print these pages to review the fungi anatomy and life cycle (if desired, you can use page 2 for copywork practice).

Activity 4: Next, let’s capture some mushroom spores with this super cool activity called spore printing. Note: If you don’t think spores are showing up on a white piece of paper, try a darker piece of construction paper—your mushroom spores may be white! Finally, use play dough to add some mushrooms to your forest model.
(+) Ready for an upgrade? Try growing your own mushrooms with this kit.

Lesson 3:

Today, we’ll learn about some of the wildlife that call temperate forests home. Begin by looking at the map on pages 6 and 7 of our tree book to see where these forests are in the world. You can also look at pages 52 and 53 for some animals that depend on trees for their habitat, as well as pages 56 and 57 to learn more about these temperate forests. Next, let’s read the book Forest Night, Forest Bright (or read it here on OpenLibrary). You may want to introduce the first activity prior to reading so your child can sort the animals as you read.

Activity 1: Like most biomes, temperate forests are home to a variety of nocturnal (active at night) and diurnal (active during the day) animals, many of which we were introduced to in our book. Let’s reinforce this lesson with a little sorting activity. Print these two pages (and laminate, if desired, for durability). On the second page, cut out the animal cards. Now, let your child practice sorting the animals correctly as nocturnal or diurnal.

Activity 2: Two other organisms you’ll find in most forests? Moss and lichen! But if you think these are just things that grow on non-rolling rocks, there’s a lot more to learn about them! Start by reading this post which breaks down the difference between the two. (Here’s a hint: Only one of them is a plant!) Next, let’s learn more about lichen in this video. Next, use a sponge and some green paint and/or green playdough to add some lichen and moss to your forest diorama.

Activity 3: One super interesting creature we find in temperate forests? The porcupine! Let’s learn more about them. Start by watching this brief video to learn some porcupine facts. Next, let’s use porcupines to inspire a math + fine motor skill game! Start by printing this board game (and laminating, if desired), and taping it together like this:

Next, give each player a lump of air-dry clay or playdough to form into the body of a porcupine and a bowl of toothpicks. Each player starts their porcupine with 10 “quills.” You will also need a die and coins or other small toys as playing pieces.

Now you’re ready to play! Each player rolls the die to move their piece along the game board. At each square, their porcupine will either gain or lose quills, prompting the player to add or subtract toothpicks. The player with the most toothpicks when you both reach the berry bush wins!

Lesson 4:

For our next two days of lessons, we’ll learn about a different type of forest—the tropical rainforest (also called the tropical wet forest biome)! Rainforests (both temperate and tropical) are found all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica. Tropical rainforests, though, are mainly located between the latitudes of 23.5°N (the Tropic of Cancer) and 23.5°S (the Tropic of Capricorn)—the tropics. Tropical rainforests are found in Central and South America, western and central Africa, western India, Southeast Asia, the island of New Guinea, and Australia. (source) If possible, help your child find these locations on a world map (the one in our tree book is perfect!) or a globe or atlas.

Pages 54 and 55 of our tree book share more details about tropical rain forests. Typically, topical rainforests are lush, humid, hot stretches of land covered in tall, broadleaf evergreen trees, usually found around the equator. These areas usually get rain year-round, typically more than 70 inches. They produce most of the oxygen on our planet and provide homes for half the world’s plants and animals. (source) Let’s learn about a few of these amazing creatures in the book The Great Kapok Tree.

Activity 1: To bring the rainforest to life, we’re going to make a “mural diorama” to break down the layers and the type of life you can find there. Start by creating some tall paper trees and tape them or attach them to a wall with blue-tak. You want to make at least one tall tree, and then a few others of varying heights. Add a strip of blue and brown paper to the bottom to create the river layer and the forest floor. It should look like this:

Use index cards to create labels to mark each layer of the rainforest. This website will help you label the right sections. Next, use green crepe paper streamers or construction paper to create some vines in the canopy layer. Add any other details your child wants to add more depth to your mural. Finally, add these animal cards to the right layers where they live in the rainforest. (You could also use the cards for copywork and let your child create their own.)

Activity 2: One of the super cool creatures we saw in our book was the boa constrictor! These powerful snakes live in tropical climates throughout most of Central and South America, where they hunt at night. Let’s learn more about them on this website. One amazing fact about boa constrictors is that they swallow their food whole! Their flexible body expands and contracts to contain their prey as they digest. Let’s use that as inspiration to review some contractions! We learned about contractions in our Tools + Construction Unit, but to review, remind your child that “contract” means to shrink or make smaller. Print and cut out these “boa contractors” to start the lesson. They will look like this:

Fold the snakes on the dotted lines so they can expand and contract. Demonstrate to your child how a contraction takes two words and writes them as one shorter word by folding the snake in on itself, like this:

When you’re done playing, you can add your snakes to the understory layer of your rainforest mural!

Activity 3: Let’s get moving with these rainforest animal-inspired gross motor movement cards.

Lesson 5:

By now, you probably agree with us that trees are pretty amazing! Despite this, however, many trees in the world are in trouble—but there is plenty we can do to help them! Let’s begin by reviewing the importance of trees to our planet on pages 70-75 of The Magic and Mystery of Trees. Does saving the trees sound like a job too big for a child to affect? They might be surprised to hear what even a young child can do! Next, let’s read a real-life story of a boy who has helped plant thousands of trees and plants to eventually grow his own forest in the book The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng (or listen to this read aloud).

Activity 1: The first thing Jadav Payeng planted to begin his forest was bamboo. But bamboo actually isn’t a tree—it’s a grass! Let’s learn more about this fast-growing plant in this short video. (You can stop playing it at 1:50.) Next, we saw Jadav use a drip irrigation system to keep his plants watered. This form of irrigation is also praised for preserving valuable resources! Let’s make a model of a drip irrigation system using recycled materials that you can use to water house plants or a home garden.

Start with a large plastic water bottle from your recycling bin and 2-3 straws. Use a drill or craft knife to cut a small hole in the side of the water bottle the same circumference as your straw. Next, attach the straws by sticking one end into another. (It may help to cut slits in the end of one straw before trying to insert the next straw.)

Stick the straw into the hole you cut in the water bottle and use tape to seal it. Seal the end of the straw with tape as well.

Next, set up your plants and measure where to make small holes in the straw to water each one.

Finally, fill your water bottle and secure the cap. When you want to water your plants, loosen the cap to release air pressure and the water. Secure the cap again to stop the water. (This video also demonstrates how to make the drip irrigation model.)

Activity 2: Let’s use trees to help us work on sounding out word middle sounds. These can be tricky for little ones to hear (whereas they can usually pick out the beginning and end consonant sound easier). Start by printing this page and laminating, if possible. Cut out the tree card and the word picture cards. Have your child select one of the picture cards and put it in the square on the tree’s leaves. First, practice saying the word. Segment the word by sound. For example, for the word “bed” – segment the sounds like this /b/-/e/-/d/. Encourage your child to repeat after you.

Next, identify the letter that makes the sound. Using a dry erase marker, ask your child to write (or you can write) the first and last sounds of the word. Finally, help them learn to identify the middle sound. Once they identify the sound and the letter that makes that sound, have them write the correct vowel into the white box on the tree’s trunk (or use your moveable alphabet). Work through as many cards as your child is interested in doing, or you can have your child suggest words to try. To add variety, you can take turns picking and segmenting words.
(+)The word ‘snail’ would be an upgraded phonetic segment since it includes a consonant blend (sn) and a vowel blend (ai).

Note: Check out this helpful Instagram video by Playdough to Plato. It helps you learn and decipher common literacy terms.

Activity 3: You might not be able to plant a real tree this weekend, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to do it! Share the tips in this article with your child so you can both be experts at planting trees like Jadav Payeng.

Activity 4: The rainforest is also the source of a variety of delicious foods and ingredients. (For more about the foods and resources we get from trees, you can also read pages 66-69 of our book The Magic and Mystery of Trees.) Let’s sample a few with this Rainforest Cookie recipe.

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Published by learnandliveletter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-11.

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