Trees and Wood Products – Students

Dear Students,

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

Trees Inside and Out
Student Reading – Parts of a Tree

Tree Ring Samples
Tree Ring Student Worksheet
Vocabulary – Parts of a Tree

Climate/Tree Rings 
Student Reading – Trees Rings Have a Story to Tell
Climate Records – 1997 to 2006
Climate Student Worksheet
Interactive Tree Ring Climate Student Worksheet

Forest Harvest 
Tree Habitats Reference
Harvest Background for Student Reading

Wood Products 
Wood Products – Student Reading
Wood Products Worksheet

Summary Lesson
Wood Industry Business Plan

Additional Resources

Video Reference Sheet 

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

ESF – Where did your house grow?

Forest Products Laboratory

National Geographic – Fires of Life

Oregon Forest Resource Institute – Wood Products in our Daily Lives


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