Trees are a vital part of biodiversity and culture throughout the world. With the population increasing, more trees are being harvested for wood and cut down to make way for cities and farms. The trees cannot grow back as quickly as people are cutting them down. Understanding trees and forests the world over can help people create innovative solutions to protect them at home.
A World of Wild and Wonderful Trees
Trees have inspired art and poetry throughout the world and throughout the ages. Some trees are so amazingly huge or odd or beautiful that a person's jaw can't help but drop when they see one of them. Here are some of the most amazing examples:
Baobab trees stand very tall with no branches until the very top, making it look as though it was planted upside-down. The trunks are very, very thick to store water inside because they live in harsh, dry climates.
L'Arbre du Ténéré (the Tree of Ténéré) is just one tree that was, until the 1970s, the most isolated tree in the world. This tree had no neighboring trees for 250 miles. The Tree of Ténéré was about 300 years old and had stood alone for decades.
Giant sequoias, which only grow on the West Coast of North America, are the world's largest trees. The biggest has been named General Sherman, and it stands more than 270 feet high and weighs more than 6,000 tons. This tree is about 2,200 years old.
The banyan tree shoots roots down through the air from its branches, making it look as if it has roots draped all over it.
There are many other species of trees and even single trees that spark awe and amazement from people. Maybe your students even have a favorite tree in their yard or at the park that they love playing in or looking at. Either by researching interesting trees or by choosing a personal favorite, have your students write a bit of “poetree.” It can be a rhyme or a limerick or a haiku, whatever you'd like to require. Have them write about the tree of their choice and draw a picture of that tree to accompany the poem.
Intact, healthy forests play a large role in supporting all forms of life on Earth. Still, many forests are being clear-cut. Clear-cutting means the cutting down and removal of all trees from a given tract of forest. The environmental problems that this causes include:
The sudden removal of forest canopy, which destroys the habitat for many forest-dependent insects and bacteria
An increase in global warming
The elimination of fish and wildlife species due to soil erosion and habitat loss
The removal of underground worms, fungi, and bacteria that condition soil and protect plants growing in it
The loss of small-scale economic opportunities, such as fruit picking, sap extraction, and rubber tapping
The destruction of recreational opportunities
Read The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. It's entertaining and educational for all age groups. The Lorax is a fuzzy little fellow that speaks for the trees. As the forest is being cut down, he repeatedly pops up trying to show how much the logging is hurting the creatures of the forest. In the end, there is just the word Unless, and the little boy in the story wonders what it means. The moral is “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” Everyone needs to do their part.
Have your students design their own “UNLESS” reminder. They could paint the word on a rock, use lettered beads to spell it on a bracelet or necklace, or anything else they can come up with.