Roothie and Rootie

Background:
Trees are the tallest living plants and, therefore, need support to stand tall. It is a common misconception that tree roots grow deep into the ground. Trees do have a main tap root that grows straight down, however, tree roots usually grow outward creating a web of roots that anchor the tree to the ground. At the tip of each root is a root cap that protects it as it is branching outward below the ground. Roots of a 165-foot tree could spread across an area the size of a football field (Eyewitness Books: Tree by David Burnie).

Tiny root hairs branch out from the roots and collect water and minerals from the ground. The water and minerals travel from the root hairs to rootlets to the main roots and eventually reach the trunk. In areas where winters can be cold, root hairs all die in the fall and resume growth in the spring.

Tree roots need oxygen. Earthworms are very important friends to tree roots as they let air into the soil while they burrow around the roots. Worms also help provide the valuable minerals tree roots collect for the tree by helping to compost dead tree leaves and organic matter.

Roots Need Oxygen
Indoor
Objective:
To provide students with the opportunity to test the growth of plants in soil with plenty of oxygen and soil without.

You’ll need:
Use the Treetures, Rootie and Roothie, as guides, icons or symbols to help animate and enhance your tree root lesson. "Tap roots anchor the tree, root hairs gather water and food, tree roots work hard to keep our trees happy and in a good mood." Rootie and Roothie are Treeture Rooters. They care for the tree roots and encourage them to grow. Rootie and Roothie are very knowledgeable about what tree roots need to survive. They especially know that tree roots need to have air pockets in the soil so that they have a supply of oxygen. You can view this for yourself by creating an experiment in your classroom. Transplant your flowers into the two pots you have filled with potting soil. Add 1-2 worms to one of the pots (making sure it is labeled so you know which pot has the worms). The pot without the soil should be pushed down firmly and the soil compacted around the flower. This should be done on a daily basis. Keep both plants in a sunny window and keep the soil moist but not wet. Chart the growth of your two flowers to see if the compaction of the soil has any impact. See if students can explain why you don’t step on the soil around a freshly planted tree to pack it down (instead you use water). Have students do further research on worms and the benefits they offer our trees and plants.

*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.

Extension:
  • Write a cheer that Rootie and Roothie could sing about the tree roots including all of the important things you learned that tree roots need to survive.
  • Create a story about Rootie and Roothie becoming friends with a very special worm.
Totally True Treeture Trivia:
Most trees can’t live in water because tree roots need oxygen. However, tropical Mangrove trees grow in the water. They have two special types of roots that allow them to survive in the water: 1. Stilt roots curve out from the tree’s trunk and anchor the tree to the mud; 2. Breathing roots (pneumatophores) grow up out of the mud and get their much needed oxygen during low tide.

Suggested Readings:

  • Eyewitness Books: Tree by David Burnie
  • Earthworms, Dirt, and Rotten Leaves by Molly McLaughlin
  • The Wonderful World of Wigglers by Julia Hand
  • Wormology by Michael Elsohn Ross