Trees: Springing Into Trees

Post-Visit Activity, All Grades

Adapted from Instructor, March 1993 


Students will investigate how trees respond to changes in the physical environment. 


  • Chart paper
  • Pencils
  • Colored markers
  • Rulers
  • Microscope


This activity is best begun before tree buds open in spring.  Trees of different species do not respond to the changes in their environment at the same time.  Some produce leaves and flowers earlier than others.  Even within a species, their development varies depending on the availability of sunlight, temperature, soil conditions, rainfall, and other conditions. 


1.  Divide your class into small groups and have each group select a deciduous tree or bush (one that periodically loses its leaves in autumn) to observe.  Younger students can do this as a class activity and compare two or three trees.  Dogwood, weeping willow, birch, redbud, maple, and cottonwood are interesting to compare and contrast, but any variety will do.

2.  Groups should begin collecting the following information about their chosen tree or bush:

  • Are the buds flower buds or leaf buds?
  • Do all leaves come out at the same time on the same tree?  On all trees of the class?
  • Do all trees and bushes produce flowers at the same time?  Do the flowers look the same from different trees?

3.  Give each group a piece of poster board and have them create a presentation on their findings.

4.  collect flower, leaf bud, and leaf samples for the students to observe under microscopes. 


Students can research what makes buds open.