Trees and Wood Products – Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Creating this lesson series about wood has been a challenge. As John Muir said “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  Every facet of the forest is connected to more pieces of interesting science and information.  It is hard to know where to start and when to stop.

I grew up here in the outdoors of Colorado and made forestry my career. We had wildfires when I was a child, but they were relatively small and far from homes. There were occasional insect outbreaks that killed parts of the forest but I thought Nature could, and would, take care of itself. How these ideas can change through the years!

Picture 1

As an adult I can see that by taking the forest for granted, we have blindly allowed our forests to become dangerously unhealthy. I have also learned the tree rings have a story to tell. By looking back at past tree growth, fire history and climate trends, we discover ways to maximize the forest health of the future.

Tree ring dating is a fascinating science that takes place around the world. 

Samples of wood from structures, artifacts and even fossils are carefully preserved in archives to provide links in time and place.  The age of dwellings at ancient archeological sites, like Mesa Verde, can be determined by small samples of the wood used in tools and buildings. 

The influence of climate on all living things cannot be overstated. Science continues to move toward understanding the forest and the potential effects of changing climate to develop wise management practices. Here in Colorado, the tree ring data is being used by Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Research Station and others to describe the forest conditions before settlers took up permanent residence, before there were any records. Using tree rings we can discover visible evidence of the frequency of fire, invasive insect activity, and even speculate on the growing conditions (climate) locally for several centuries. 

Trees are a valuable renewable resource in our lives and in our environment. While we take steps to ensure future forest health, researchers are looking for better ways to harvest trees and methods to use every bit of those trees to make products we use every day. A healthy, sustainable forest is a worthy goal in my mind.  Understanding tree growth and response to climate change is just the first step. Though we can’t control the climate, we can influence stewardship and responsible management for renewable forests. We all need healthy forests and a reliable supply of wood and wood products for the future. 

I hope these lessons are interesting for you all. With today’s internet search options, the information available for more exploration is unlimited.  The forests of the future are in your hands.

Marti Campbell, Forester
Coalition for the Upper South Platte

 Teacher’s Guide

About the Curriculum 

The Trees and Wood Products Module was designed to teach students about the many uses of wood and the importance of forest health for maintaining a robust supply of this renewable resource.  The module consists of four units – tree rings, climate, harvest, and wood products – plus a summary lesson and activity to tie all the topics together.  Each lesson includes a lesson plan, background readings, and a PowerPoint presentation with notes and/or an activity.  The final lesson includes an assessment that covers concepts from all four units.  This Teacher’s Guide will give you more detailed information about this module. 


  • Students will understand that a tree is made of systems that have structure/function adaptations and interconnections.
  • Students will develop the concept of the forest system as it is affected by natural (climate) and human intervention.
  • Students will understand that the growth patterns in trees are impacted by climate and environmental conditions and explore the similarities and variations. They will recognize pattern trends of forest stands and climate effects on the tree growth.
  • Students will be able to describe the basic steps in tree harvest and explore uses of biomass in production of wood products. Students will have a wider view of the environmental, economic and social impacts of forestry in their communities and in their lives. 
  • Students will be familiar with the relationship between environment, source and product in the wood industry and explore some of the local social attitudes pertaining to forestry practices. 

These objectives, as they relate to Colorado standards and STEM, can be found in the Objectives, Standards, and STEM Connections document. 


The estimated time for the whole module is 3.5-4.5 hours in the classroom.

Trees Inside and Out Lesson – estimated 45-60 minutes
Climate/Tree Rings Lesson – estimated 45-60 minutes
Forest Harvest Lesson –  estimated 45-60 minutes
Wood Products Lesson – estimated 45-60 minutes
Summary Lesson – estimated 45-60 minutes
Extra Firewood Activity – estimated 10-20 minutes


A list of supplies is included in each lesson plan in a box at the top right of the page. For most lessons, teachers will need access to a projector for PowerPoint presentations and a computer with Internet access for YouTube videos.  All background materials, presentations with notes, and activity materials can be found below under their respective lessons.

Trees Inside and Out Lesson
Trees Inside and Out Lesson Plan
Teacher Introduction – Tree Rings
Student Reading – Parts of a Tree
PowerPoint Notes for Teachers – From the Forest
From the Forest PowerPoint
Tree Ring Samples
PowerPoint Notes for Teachers – Tree Ring Extras
Tree Ring Extras PowerPoint
Tree Ring Student Worksheet
Vocabulary – Parts of a Tree

Climate/Tree Rings Lesson
Climate Lesson Plan
Teacher Introduction – Climate
Student Reading – Trees Rings Have a Story to Tell
Climate Records – 1997 to 2006
Climate Student Worksheet  
Climate Worksheet KEY
Interactive Tree Ring Climate Student Worksheet
Interactive Tree Ring Climate Student Worksheet KEY

Forest Harvest Lesson
Forest Harvest Lesson Plan
Teacher Reading – Where did your house grow?
Tree Habitats Reference
Harvest Background for Students Reading
PowerPoint Notes for Teachers – Thinning
Thinning the Forest PowerPoint
PowerPoint Notes for Teachers – Harvesting the Forest
Harvesting the Forest PowerPoint

Wood Products Lesson
Wood Products Lesson Plan
Wood Products – Teacher Background
Wood Products – Student Reading
PowerPoint Notes for Teachers – Wood Products
Wood in Many Forms PowerPoint
Wood Products Worksheet

Summary Lesson
Summary Lesson Plan
Wood Industry Business Plan
Trees and Wood Products Assessment 

Extra Firewood Activity
Firewood Activity

Additional Resources

Video Reference Sheet – Includes links to all videos included in the lesson plans and additional videos of interest.

Laboratory for Tree Ring Research, Univ. of AZ.

Ultimate Tree Ring Web Pages, Univ. of TN.

NASA Earth Observatory – Paleoclimatology

Spark UCAR NCAR “Build a Tree” Dendrochronology Activity

My NASA Data – Analyzing Tree Rings to Determine Climate Change Lesson

My NASA Data

ESF – Where did your house grow?

Forest Products Laboratory

National Geographic – Fires of Life

Oregon Forest Resource Institute – Wood Products in our Daily Lives


©2013 CUSP