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  Nature Elective

Lesson Plan 1: Redwood Forest

(Grade Level 5-6-7-8)
First posted April 25, 2004 Last updated June 19, 2009

Remember these points from the Lesson Plan Homepage:

(1) These lesson plans are not rigid requirements, but a starting point for the Nature Counselor's plan for teaching a particular day's experience.
(2) The activity should be fun and emphasize active learning on the student's part: ask a question, don't just state a fact.
(3) You should employ hands-on as much as possible.
(4) Plan each session to also allow time for making entries in the Nature Journal.

Prior to the session

(1) Read the section on the web site about the Redwood Forest. You cannot teach what you do not understand.
(2) Check to be sure you know where the natural objects that you will be discussing are. If necessary, plant the objects around where you can pretend to "find" them. Redwood leaves are everywhere, but check so that you know where there are lots of cones. Have a Douglas-fir cone in your pocket, or have a sugar pine cone (in the Nature Coursellor's box) hidden.
(3) Have the 95 foot piece of string and the tree cross-sections. You can learn more about tree rings and dendrochronology on the web. There are cut sections of trees in the Nature Couselor's three boxes and there is a section of cut redwood tree in the fenced area just in front of the dining room.


Start the session by going over to the family group of redwoods, just downstream from the dining hall by 50 feet and between the road and the tents (but not as far as the pool). Walk inside the family group, have the students look upward. Talk about how tall the trees are (394 feet is the tallest on record, we have not yet measured the trees at Caz), how old (2000 years), water requirements (a comparatively short 148 foot redwood uses 1,323 pounds, or about two-thirds of a ton, or a small swimming pool, of water daily). Try to make the measurements relative to something the students can understand: How tall are you? A redwood is as tall as 80 kids standing on top of one another! How much water can you drink? A redwood drinks 44,000x as much as you can!

Move outside the family group and have the students to look for both a cone and a dead leaf. Discuss the size of the seeds (samples are in the Nature Councellor's boxes) and the size of the tree. Have the students tape a leaf into their Journal and draw a redwood, a cone, and a leaf. Have them draw a picture of themselves at the bottom of the tree, trying for the correct proportionate sizes. Compare the size of a redwood cone to a Douglas-fir or sugar pine cone.

Make a ring of hands. Then have them expand it to about 30 feet across. Have a piece of string 95 feet long and then tie the ends together. The students then spread the string out into a circle. The resulting circle is about the same size around as a redwood with a 30 feet diameter.

Hand out the tree cross-sections. Look at the rings, discuss how they are made, estimate how old that tree was, compare it to the students' ages.

Walk over to the cut section of a redwood tree (in the fenced area just in front of the dining room).

If time permits, have the students look around camp and identify how other trees are different from redwoods. They do not need to know the names of the trees, just how they are different: shorter, different bark, different leaves, not in groups, etc.

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