Trees in the Forest

I would like to thank you for choosing this topic. I have not found a textbook that covers the Treeimportant science that focuses on our nation’s forests and fire regime. In fact, if you look at most of the science textbooks the Hayman Fire is mentioned only in reference to poor air quality standards. The burden falls upon Colorado’s teachers to learn on their own. Thank you for making the time to learn. I highly recommend Project Learning Tree workshops to learn more. Contact the Colorado State PLT coordinator at 303-278-8822 to learn more or visit the Colorado PLT website at

At the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), we find this particular topic very close to our hearts. Your students will either be working on restoration of the burn area or prevention of another catastrophic burn. They will learn a little forest history, how trees function, and what forests need to thrive.  Our deepest desire is for the students to be able to articulate the unique qualities of a Ponderosa Front Range Forest, and in time, as they mature as students, understand how the forest’s health relates to all of us.

Cordially yours,

Theresa Springer

Environmental Education Coordinator

Service learning activities offered by CUSP in the areas of habitat restoration, forest health, and fire mitigate would complement this module.  To schedule a service learning activity please click here.

Teachers Guide Background Information
Hayman Fire
It is extremely hard to separate the human hardships from the ecological damage of the Hayman fire. I found it impossible. I am proud to say CUSP, as a watershed protection group, feels the same way. Perhaps it was because our immediate concern was for the victims of the fire – the private property owners. People cried on our shoulders, vented their frustrations, and gave us their utmost trust. It was a very humbling experience. It is one thing to watch a disaster on TV, far removed from the devastation, it is quite another to step into a disaster area and become one of the rocks the victims depend upon. Our souls have forever been changed. We raked and seeded, sand bagged, built erosion control barriers, planted trees, shoveled mud, and organized thousands of volunteers. It is not over. The restoration will take many decades. Preventing another catastrophic fire is possible, though it will take a very long time. My goal is to impress upon you that fire is a part of the natural cycle. This service learning project your students are participating in provides a snapshot into one type of forest ecosystem. I have found through the years, the idea of a healthy forest in people’s minds relates to the forest they visit or to the forest where a house is, but rarely to both. The science presented here represents a quick and easily understandable investigation into ponderosa pine dominated forest stands.

Teacher Master Guide in pdf format

Students should work on the module in the classroom before going out into the field for a service learning activity.
There will be a pre and post assessment. Classroom teaching time will be 4 to 4.5 hours,
including the assessment time.
Pre-Assessment: 15 minutes
Parts of a Tree: 50 minutes for the first half and 20 minutes for the second half.
Photosynthesis: 20 minutes for setup; 30 minutes for results, reading, and journal . This activity will
take longer and require more guidance for 4th graders.
Tree density: 60 to 90 minutes
Discussions: putting it all together 30 minutes
Post-Assessment: 15 minutes.
Teacher’s guide readings will take 1 to 2 hours. There are links and resources in the
guide that will help extend this into a more in-depth unit.

Students will: (1) name the parts of a tree; (2) understand how different parts of a tree
help the tree function; (3) review photosynthesis; and (4) draw a connection between
tree density and carrying capacity

Student inquiry question: How does the spacing of trees affect fire severity?

Time and Objectives in pdf format

Teacher Resources
Standards, STEM, & Application
Background Information


Activity 1– PLT
Activity 2 – Photosynthesis
Activity 3 – Part 1
Activity 3 – Part 2
Activity 3 – Part 3


Student Activities

Activity 3 – Part 1: Student Reading
Activity 3 – Part 2: Student Reading


Documents & Materials
Pre and Post Assessments
Tree Factory
The Parts of a Tree Worksheet
Functions of the Tree Parts Worksheets
Excerpts from Anatomy of a Tree

Suggested Reading

National Wildfire Coordination Group, “Wildland Fire in the United States.” Boise, Idaho.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service and your State Forester. “The True Story of Smokey Bear.” Western Publishing Company, Inc. and the Ad Council, 1960

Lifetime Learning Systems, Inc., “Smokey and Friends What you can do to Prevent Wildfires.” A division of Weekly Reader, and the Ad Council.  2002

USDA “Faces of Fire.” U.S Forest Service, Fire and Aviation Management- March 1998

Merrill R. Kaufmann, USDA US Forest Service, Peter Marchand, Catamount Center for Geology of Southern Rockies  and Ayn Shlisky, The Nature Conservancy, “Good Fire, Bad Fire.” US Government Printing Office:2006-775-242/M3847 Region No.8

Patrick Cone, “Wildfire” Minneapolis, MN. First Avenue Editions, The Learner Group. 1997



Project Learning Tree

A Year in the Life of a Mountain Pine Beetle

A Year in the Life of a Mountain Pine Beetle Coloring Book

Trees: The Carbon Storage Experts

Urban Forest

Life of a Tree


Colorado State Forest Service

Trees: The Carbon Storage Experts

Urban Forests

Living with Fire: Protecting Communities and Restoring Forests Findings and Recommendations of the Front Range Fuels Treatment Partnership Roundtable, May 2006