Trees provide food, homes, and shelter (habitat) for thousands of plant and animal species. Many birds, mammals, insects, and trees depend on one another for survival. Trees provide food and shelter for birds, mammals, reptiles, and microscopic organisms. In turn, these creatures help trees survive in various ways. For example, fungi and decomposers turn dead wood and leaves into rich soil for new plants and trees to grow. Birds and mammals such as rabbits and squirrels inadvertently transport freeloading seeds on their fur or through their waste. This interdependence in the tree community means that trees, wildlife, insects, etc. are mutually dependent upon one another for survival. If one or more players in this community are missing, it can affect the entire community.
Trees are a part of a circle of life called a food chain. The sun’s energy and rain begin the chain and a young tree grows from a seed. An insect may come along and eat the tree’s leaves, thus transferring the energy from the sun in the tree’s leaves to the insect. A bird may eat the insect and the energy is once again transferred. A larger mammal such as a fox may eat the bird and the energy is passed on again. When the fox dies, its remains will break down and enrich the soil. Growing in this enriched soil, trees then start the whole cycle over again.
To have students discover what animals live in their own tree communities.
Use the Treeture, Blanch, as a guide, icon or symbol to help animate and enhance your animal home lesson. Blanch is a Treeture Branch Broker who helps forest birds and animals find just the right homes in trees.
Have students find out what lives in the trees around their schools or homes. Sit under a favorite tree and observe "signs of life." Listen for sounds such as birds singing or squirrels rustling. Look for footprints, animal droppings, feathers, exoskeletons, and feeding signs on the bark or leaves. When dead leaves or twigs collect under a tree, they form what is known as leaf litter. Look carefully and find out what lives in the leaf litter or soil around your tree.
You can also find out who lives in your tree by gently shaking the branches and catching the creatures on a white sheet or paper placed on the ground beneath the tree. Keep a list of the wildlife you discover in your journals.
To have students understand the interdependent relationship of animals and plants.
- Real estate sections of newspaper
- Paper, pencil, coloring materials
Blanch Broker is a #1 rated real estate agent -- part of a group known as the "Branch Brokers." She works tirelessly to help forest animals find just the right homes in trees (even dead ones).
Bring in the real estate section of your local paper to class and read aloud the advertisements for houses or property. Make a list of the features that make the property sound appealing.
In pairs or as a class, write an advertisement that would appeal to one of your local tree-dwelling animals. For instance, a tree house would be ideal for an owl. Perhaps it could be equipped with a telescope and sky light for stargazing since owls are active at night (nocturnal). Students may need to do a little research on their animal choices so they are familiar with their characteristics (e.g., a solitary animal may only need a small home while a social/family oriented animal may need a several bedroom home). Remember the basic requirements for habitat include shelter, food, water, and space.
Draw a colorful picture of the home/property to enhance the written advertisement. Include a picture of Blanch, your personal Branch Broker.
*The Treeture characters, as learning tools, can be adapted to any grade level. For example, students in grades K-1 could utilize coloring pages, finger puppets, and collages. Stories, poems, creation of new Treeture characters, newsletters, and plays could be fun and used as mentoring projects by 5th and 6th graders for younger students. Another entertaining and educational activity is to hold a Treeture Fair. This project has been successfully implemented in several schools. Each Treeture character can be enlarged and placed on an easel on a table with an appropriate experiment or example of its tree role.
- Use empty milk or juice cartons (any size) to create mini bird feeders to hang on area trees. Cut out one side of the carton leaving about two inches at the bottom. Fill with birdseed, punch holes in the top, attach string, and hang from a tree. Attach colored, laminated pictures of Blanch to the sides of your bird feeder to watch over the birds on your tree.
*Remember, once birds discover your feeder, you should continue to feed them.
Totally True Treeture Trivia:
Some tree frogs pretend to be leaves on a tree to prevent being eaten by predators. (Nature’s Wild by James Marsh)
- A Possible Tree by Josephine Haskell Aldridge
- The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
- Night Tree by Eve Bunting
- The Apartment House Tree by Bette Killian