Lessons: Forevergreen Program

KINDERGARTEN - LESSON 1

Time: Early May; 1 hour
Purpose: Introduce students to the parts of the tree and learn appropriate planting techniques; to experience planting a tree on a Christmas tree plantation.
Where: An area where the students can come to the farm at any time and share their trees with their families.
Materials:
Tree seedlings in a bucket of water
Planting bar
Hourglass
Tape measure
String line to delineate a straight row
Pre-measured stick for distance between rows (6') and for distance between trees (4.5') Sign for the site
UNH Co-op Extension sheet "How to Care for and Plant Tree Seedlings"

Activities:

  1. Discuss the parts of a tree using a seedling as an example. (*** KEEP THE SEEDLINGS WET ***). Explain that trees, even though species look different, all have the same parts and work the same way for the tree to live and grow. Point out each part of the tree and have the students tell what part of the tree it is and what it does. Cover at least:

    ROOTS: The roots are the part of the tree which are usually unseen, but are very important. The roots hold the tree firmly in the ground so it can stand upright and get water and minerals from the soil in order to live.

    TRUNK: The trunk helps the tree by supporting the branches. It carries the water and minerals from the roots to the leaves, then carries the food (sugar) made by the leaves back to the roots in "tunnels" inside the tree (xylem and phloem do not have to be named, but a straw can be shown to describe the passageway for the food and water).

    BARK: The bark is the outer "coat" for the tree and protects it from insects and diseases, and keeps the tree from drying out. Note the bark is "dead" and stretches and cracks as the tree grows older. Point out different looking bark on different aged trees of the same species.

    BRANCHES: The branches grow out from the trunk and hold the leaves. Each tree has its own branching shape. Point out different shapes of trees around you.

    LEAVES: Leaves are the food factory for the tree. Look at the different types of leaves that trees have; explain some are broad and wide while others are shaped like needles. Explain that some trees shed their leaves during the winter (deciduous) while others do not (Evergreens and Christmas trees). This is why evergreens make such nice Christmas trees because they have lovely greenery to look at in the middle of the winter. The leaves use chlorophyll and sun to make food, which is sugar.

    BUDS: Buds are where the new leaves form. Trees must continually make new leaves to replace those that die or fall off. Each kind of tree has a different shape and size to the buds. When growing Christmas trees, certain buds are encouraged in order to create a perfectly shaped tree.
  2. Have the class plant seedlings using the planting bar or other method (little students will need help). Describe the kind of tree you are planting.
  3. Place the sign for the site to read, for example:
    FOREVERGREEN Trees Planted 1994
    Bethlehem Elementary School
    Harvest for Class of 2000

    (Each class will put a different planting and harvest year and will put their own school name on the sign)
    Possible questions to ask the students:
    Why do we keep the seedlings wet?
    Why do we plant in rows with spaces between trees?
    Why are leaves and buds so important?

FIRST GRADE - LESSON 2

Time: May field trip to the Christmas Tree Farm; 1 hour
Purpose: Learn about the value of nutrients for trees and the purpose of fertilization; to learn about other needs of a tree.
Where: Area of previously planted trees
Materials:
PLT activity #27: "Every Tree for Itself"
Tree cookies
1 Film canister for each student (large enough to hold 2oz. of fertilizer) Fertilizer Props: Sun, Water Bottle, Soil, NPK Signs

Activities:

  1. Go to the area where the trees for this class were planted last year; review the purposes of the Forevergreen program. If the class has not adopted their trees, they can do so now. Discuss the new trees, and describe how to care for them. Then go up and down the row and point out trees "in trouble."
  2. Discuss what a tree needs to grow; sun, water, soil, space, and nutrients. As each need is discussed, have one student hold the prop representing that need over or around a tree for all to see. Look around at the trees and describe how each gets those needs fulfilled. The trees are outdoors so they receive sunlight. Water comes from the rain, in drier climates some crops are irrigated. The soil is always there; mention some trees grow better in some soils than in others. Explain that trees like alder like "wet feet," while oaks like a dry site. (It can also be mentioned that different species of Christmas trees like wet or dry areas). Space is provided by planting the trees in 4.5 by 6 feet spacing. Nutrients come naturally from the ground in the forest because trees die and then decompose, which adds nutrients back into the soil. Demonstrate the competition for these needs (water, sun, and nutrients) with Project Learning Tree activity "Every Tree for Itself."
    In a Christmas tree plantation, trees are harvested and removed from the site. They do not die and decompose there. In addition, the grower is looking for the best possible tree to sell quickly and does not want trees competing for nutrients, so adding fertilizer is needed. This is called "fertilization." Outline what nutrient are put on and what it does i.e. 10-10-10 of N, P, K. N = Nitrogen, which helps make the leaves green, makes stems stronger and longer, and increases the number and size of buds. P = Phosphorus, which helps photosynthesis and helps promote root growth. K = Potassium, which helps prevent premature needle loss. If possible, show one tree cookie from a tree that had a lot of competition for nutrients and did not grow well vs. a tree "happy tree" that had lots of sun and nutrients available to it. Note that the growth rings of the "happy tree" were wide and the growth rings in the stressed tree were narrow; i.e. the "happy tree" put on more growth in one year than the stressed tree.
  3. Spread fertilizer to help the trees grow. Give each student 1 film canister filled with fertilizer (this equals 2 oz. of fertilizer) to spread on the ground close to the tree.
  4. View the tractor or backpack spreader and describe how they work to spread fertilizer.
  5. Have the students line themselves up showing a stressed tree environment by being too close together vs. a "happy tree" environment with much more space between them vs. a Christmas tree environment with 4.5' by 6" spacing.
    Possible questions to ask students:
    How do you tell if a tree is "in trouble?"
    What would happen to a tree if it were overshadowed by another tree?
    Why do we not allow other species of trees to grow on the plantation?

SECOND GRADE - LESSON 3

Time: May field trip to the Rocks, 1 hour
Purpose: To learn the concept of "community" and demonstrate the difference between the natural community of the forest and a monoculture of a Christmas tree plantation; for students to understand wildlife can use both communities.
Where: Area of planted trees.

1) Go to tree adoption site. Review the purposes of the Forevergreen program. Discuss the community of the forest and show wildlife signs; bear clawing, pileated feeding holes, wildlife signs, props, and cards.

2) Identify the tree community that exists in the plantation and the one which exists in the natural woods and note differences. Define "community" as all plants and animals that exist together because they depend on each other for food, water, and shelter or share the same needs. Describe and point out some of the types of trees in the natural woods. Explain how natural seeding and competition decide what plants grow where. Describe the "monoculture" of the plantation as an artificial situation, where man has decided to grow one crop to the exclusion of other species which are considered "weeds" because they interfere with the crop being grown. The grower carries out active management to keep other plants from growing there.

Discuss how the animal population is affected by this monoculture. Where will there be more kinds of animals? (In the woods because there is more of a variety of plants providing food and shelter i.e. nuts, berries, cavities, all these are missing from the plantation.) Look for wildlife signs in the woods (behind the carriage barn, bears have been in the apple trees, which is one example.) In addition, the Christmas trees need to be protected from animals eating the bark off of the trunk, birds landing on the terminals and bending and breaking them off, etc. Point out the weeding of grass around the base of the tree is to prevent mice from chewing the bark, kestrel perches and nesting boxes are used to encourage the birds landing on that perch and searching for mice in the grass. Songbirds also use the perches instead of landing on the new tree leaders which can break off. Reiterate that Wildlife do use the area. Mention deer, snowshoe hare, and bobolink use the fields. In fact, the bobolink can nest safely in the nest because the grass will not be disturbed by mowing machines, which often mow in hayfields before the birds are off their nests. Bobolink populations have been decreasing statewide. Show pictures of the animals, then have the students draw their favorite animal and where it could be found in the plantation.
Possible questions to ask students:
Why do we want to discourage mice and deer from being in the plantation?
Why do we want to encourage kestrels?
Where will the greatest number of wildlife species occur? Why?

THIRD GRADE - LESSON 4

Time: September field trip to the Rocks, 1.00 hour
Purpose: To build on the concept of "community" and demonstrate the difference between the natural community of the forest and the monoculture of a Christmas tree plantation; to learn about the similarities and differences in a Christmas tree "forest" and other forests; to learn more about tree identification and what kinds of trees would be found in a plantation and what kinds would not.
Where: Tree adoption site

1) Remind students of the goals of the Forevergreen program i.e. plant in Kindergarten, harvest in sixth grade, and all the management in between. Remind them they adopted trees last spring when they were in second grade or they will be examining the trees that they planted as kindergartners; they will examine the trees and discuss possible management needed . If they adopt trees, they can do so now and discuss management.

2) Have branches available of three common deciduous trees and three common evergreen trees. Go through the basics of tree identification, describing the difference between hardwoods and softwoods, the branching pattern on trees, the buds, bark, and leaf characteristics which help you identify the trees in your area, and also some of the nuts/berries. (See tree identification key). After the branch identification, have them match the branch to a tree in the area to reinforce the lesson. Then compare the appearance of a "wild" evergreen with the "cultured" appearance of a plantation evergreen of the same species i.e. compare a wild and cultured balsam fir, wild and cultured white pine, etc. based on whatever trees are grown in the plantation. Explain why they look different; plantation trees have less competition, are fertilized and weeded, are sheared to give them the best shape. These are all impacts the farmer has on the plantation. Also, ask why there are no deciduous trees in the plantation, like you would find in the wild.
Possible questions to ask the students:
What are the differences between deciduous and coniferous trees?
Why do plantation trees and natural trees look different?

FOURTH GRADE - LESSON 5

Time: May field trip to the Rocks, 1 hour
Purpose: Learn about weed species found in a plantation, when a plant is considered a weed, and how to control weeds.
Where: Tree adoption site

Activities:

  1. Find a common meadow plant such as a clover, or timothy grass. Ask if these plants were located in a horse pasture, would they be considered weeds? The answer is "no" because the horses and cows depend on these species for food. If these plants were located in the plantation, however, they would be weeds because they are competing against the trees for sun, water and nutrients. Weeds are plants that are in the wrong place at the wrong time; even self seeded balsams can be weeds if in the wrong place and if they are taking up space.
  2. Compare the weed species in a plantation that has been in place for 1-2 years vs. a plantation that has been in place for longer and see how the weeds change. As the trees grow, they begin to shade out certain grasses and more hardy weeds compete.
  3. Some weeds can be controlled by very specific low amounts of pesticide put directly on the weed, some are controlled by mowing and some can be controlled by pulling them by hand . Demonstrate the use of a weed spray pack.
  4. Weed control can be carried out without spraying on a small farm by mowing. To acheive this the trees should be planted in even squares so that the path, along with weeds and other harmful vegetation can be mowed by the tractor.
  5. The students can now adopt their trees or examine their trees for weeds if they adopted/planted them in earlier grades.
    NOTE: Different Christmas tree farms may have different pesticide operations. Discuss whatever is applicable on your farm.
    NOTE: With the 1994 passage of the EPA Workman's Protection Act, it is a good idea to discuss the need for signs and warnings about pesticide use on a plantation. Do not take the students into the field when you are spraying.

FIFTH GRADE - LESSON 6

Time: September field trip to the Christmas Tree Farm, 1.25 hours
Purpose: Learn how to shape (shear) the tree, how buds grow to fill the tree in, what is basal pruning and why it is used.
Where: Up on "the hill," in front field by the driveway.
Materials:
Leg Guard
Shearing knife (marked with ideal length of terminal leader)
Sheath (to keep knife out of reach of the kids)
Pruning clippers
Triangle shapes to show your own "ideal shape "for a tree. (This can be made from an old coffee can lid, see example in curriculum).

Activities:

  1. Discuss Christmas tree plant parts relative to shearing, using handouts entitled "Cooperative Extension Service, Forest Fact Sheet 3", and "Exhibit A" in this curriculum. Parts to highlight are the terminal leader, top whorl, buds, handle. If cold or windy the introduction is better done inside.
  2. Take students to their trees and remind them of the goals of the Forevergreen program. Reiterate plant parts relative to shearing using their trees, explain why each part is important.
  3. Discuss that the trees have been growing in the ground for 6 years and they will be harvested next year. The growth of the trees can be shown by the number of, and distance between whorls. Show the students the number of buds on the trees and ask them to compare this number with the number of buds on wild trees they might see when walking in the woods.
  4. Ask students if balsam fir in the forest grow into natural triangle shapes. Answer that they do, but a Christmas tree grower needs a dense nicely shaped tree as quickly as possible. For this reason the trees are shaped (sheared) every year. Describe and show your method of shearing for the species that you grow. Use the "coffee can lid" shapes to show how near identical tree shapes are achieved between trees.
  5. If you basal prune your trees describe how and why you do this. (i.e. provides a good handle on tree, makes it easier to fertilize and spray, provides better air drainage, provides supply of brush to make wreaths etc.). Questions that you should be prepared to answer or ask if the students do not.
    What is shearing?
    How often are the trees sheared?
    What age is the tree when you start shearing it?
    How long does it take to shear a tree?
    How much will a tree grow in one year?
    How much do you let a tree grow in one year?

SIXTH GRADE - LESSON 7

Time: December field trip to the Christmas Tree Farm, 1.25 hours.
Purpose: Learn the various methods to grade and sell trees and how trees are recycled. The trees for the school will be harvested and baled, ready for the school to transport and use them.
Where: Tree adoption site

Activities:

  1. Discuss how long the trees have been growing for and students will now help harvest them. It is important to discuss the trees being an agricultural crop that are grown for harvest in as short of a time as possible. Discuss the different ways to market trees (i.e. wholesale, harvest-your-own, retail, mail order) and the different prices of the trees, depending on how you market them. Give a brief overview of the economics of each method of sales. If cold or windy the introduction is better done inside.
  2. Go into the plantation and find the students' adopted or planted trees. Ask the students what they look for in their "perfect tree". You may have to prompt them! Go through color, shape, size, density, a good top and any other characteristics people may use to select their tree.
  3. Arrange the students so that they can see three trees of different grades. Explain the USDA grading system (get a copy from Dept. of Ag.) and then by a show of hands get the students to vote what grade they would give to each tree.
  4. Let the students select their school trees. Cut the trees and let the students drag them out and help bale them. Suggest to the teachers that the trees could be decorated with recycled ornaments. Lights should not be used on the school trees. When in a school, the trees may not be looked after by the same person each day, therefore lights may be left on and trees not watered. It is better to avoid this situation by asking the students and teachers not to use lights and to remember to water their trees every day.
  5. If you are going to do the "Operation Treecycle Program" explain what it is (see handout, entitled "Operation Treecycle" ) and how it will work before the students leave the farm.
    Questions you should be prepared to answer or ask if the students do not.
    Why do trees cost so much?
    What is a good top?
    What does density mean?
    Why is there color flagging on trees in the field?
    Why do needles fall off the trees?
    What can we add to our trees water to make it last longer?
    Should we buy our trees from you?
    My parents say plastic trees are better for the environment and cost less?
    Do trees cause fires?
    What do the terms wholesale, retail, and mail order mean?

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