The Tree Project 

A Project by Preschool and Kindergarten Students at the Child Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Length of project: 8 weeks
Teachers: Sharman Armfield, Nancy Thomas, Lee Makovichuk, Diane Mellon

Phase One—Beginning the Project

The project "Trees" began when many of the children showed an interest in the brightly colored leaves that signaled the beginning of autumn. In Phase One the main objective was to pool the information, ideas, and experiences of the children. We listened carefully to the children's stories and experiences, and we made a web from a list of words we brainstormed together. The children began by drawing pictures of the trees in their own backyards and dictating stories about them. The children made other representations of trees with paint, plastercine, and clay. During this phase we also made a list of questions that children were asking and used these questions as a guide in our exploration of trees.

Phase Two—Developing the Project

During Phase Two the teachers introduced new information and encouraged children to use their skills of observation and communication through drawing, writing, dramatic play, painting, and constructing. We began our exploration of trees by making several field visits to the various trees on the University of Alberta campus. On our visits we collected branches, leaves, bark, berries, and nuts. Together we made observational drawings of the trees and their leaves, made bark rubbings, measured the circumference of the trunks, and estimated the height of the trees. Back in the kindergarten classroom we read books about trees and their seeds. We cut open the butternuts and mountain ash berries and cracked open the chestnuts. We shook the pine cones to find the pine seeds. Then we planted the seeds, noting that a seed needs soil, water, and sunlight to grow, as well as a dormant season. We placed the planted seeds in the backyard. We also became interested in the tropical trees that grow indoors in our climate. There was an indoor fig tree in the classroom, and we decided to visit the greenhouse at the Department of Agriculture building to look at other tropical trees, particularly those that give us food. The children touched the trunks, branches, and leaves and made observational drawings of many of the trees. We saw many trees including coffee, cocoa, banana, and palm trees. In the classroom the children brought fruits and nuts from home. They estimated how many seeds the fruit contained and made representations of the fruit. The children also conducted several experiments on trees and looked at osmosis and starch and sugar storage in trees. Next the children investigated all the things that are made from trees. Each of them collected items made from wood or paper and shared them with the rest of the class.

Phase ThreeConcluding the Project

The third phase of the Tree Project celebrated the learning that had taken place and brought the project to completion. We invited the families of the children to celebrate with us and had an open house. The children wrote the invitations and then illustrated them. At the open house the children showed their parents their drawings, stories, and experiments. The children also created a Ring House Newspaper that told the story of the Tree Project.

Comments

The project on trees was thoroughly documented as part of a Master's study. It was examined particularly to investigate the relationship between the Project Approach and the development of early literacy. Other projects included in the study were on the hospital, the airport, birds, bicycles, light, and rocks.


photo drawing of a pine cone     

  measuring tree circumference

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