Unfortunately, it’s easy to take trees for granted in the Illinois River Watershed.  Because we have such an abundance of mature trees in our area, we seldom consider what life would be like without them.  Trees provide food and habitat for local wildlife.  They give us fresh air, shade, and clean water, but most simply, trees add an aesthetically pleasing touch of natural colors and textures to our urban areas.

This classroom activity, which can be found in the 2013 Environmental Education Activity Guide by Project Learning Tree, is designed to remind elementary school students of the social, environmental, and economic benefits of trees.

Raul Burgos Drawing of Trees

“Nature” by Raul Burgos

Russell D. Jones Elementary School in Rogers, AR


To start off, hand out a blank sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper and crayons or colored pencils to each student.  List the following words on the board: playground, school, city street, neighborhood, park, zoo, picnic area, farm, backyard, and highway.


Ask each student to draw one of the places listed on the board, without including trees in the picture.   Once they have completed their drawings, ask students to flip over their sheet of paper and draw the same scene with trees. 

Jocelyn Kunnert Drawing of a Tree “Fish’s Home” by Jocelyn Kunnert

Russell D. Jones Elementary School in Rogers, AR


Have your students discuss which scene they prefer and whether trees have anything to do with their preference.  Then talk about the various benefits of trees in public places, which can be found in the chart below.

Tree Benefits Brochure

The benefits of trees


For a service learning extension of this activity, take your class for a walk around the schoolyard to find a suitable place to plant a tree.  Take into account the amount of vertical and horizontal space available as well as sunlight and moisture in the area.  Then refer to our native tree guide to see which species would do well in your schoolyard.

Sunshine House Tree Planting

Students at The Sunshine House in Fayetteville, AR, planted a Baldcypress tree in front of their school in late September


Contact the IRWP team (Contact@IRWP.org) —  we can donate certain species of native trees from the Flint Creek Power Plant Tree Farm and help your class plant them!  


Related Posts:

Trees Make A Difference

Growing Conservation!


Additional Resources:

Planting Trees Guide – Project Learning Tree

IRWP Riparian Project

Native Tree Guide