Day 2: Tree Identification


Students will employ a variety of techniques to characterize and identify trees.

Lesson Overview

Students will manipulate a compass, field tape and field guide. Students will also estimate height and width of the tree and its crown.

1 class period
  • Computers with internet access or relevant printouts from the websites that follow
  • Compass
  • Field tapes
  • Field guides to your regional trees
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Pre-marked red maple, Norway maple, tree of heaven and black locust trees.
  • Instructions to each pre-marked tree in degrees and number of feet from an immovable object. Use Google Earth to determine these measurements.

Engage: 5 minutes. Use Google Earth to find your campus.


Explore: 5 minutes. Train students on use of a compass. A useful procedure and assessment can be found here: Also, use several large objects to illustrate how to estimate heights and widths. A helpful, basic estimate is that the height of each story of a building is about 10 feet.


30 minutes: Distribute your campus maps and have students find your pre-marked trees in groups of 4. They should record their identification of the trees by writing the symbol they find on the tree and approximate location of each tree on their map. Students should also determine the circumference at chest height, the approximate height of the tree, and make a bark rubbing.


Explain: 10 minutes. Bring students back inside the classroom. Have students share their results by creating a table on the board, and hang their bark rubbings on the board. Explain that the circumference is used to calculate the DBH, or, diameter at breast height. Show them that height and DBH are two more characteristics of trees. Further explain that the field guides contain many more characteristics, such as color under the bark.


Evaluate: 2 minutes. Provide the answer key for the location and identification of the four trees and compare with the student findings.

Lesson Resources

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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