Teaching Life Science with Children’s Literature: A Tree Is a Plant

 A Tree Is a Plant (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science)

What is a tree and how does it grow?   Clyde Robert Bulla’s simple and concise text and Stacey Schuett’s lush illustrations follow an apple tree’s continuous life cycle through spring, summer, winter, and fall in the book, A Tree Is a Plant.  Trees can live for a very long time, and they are alive all year long, even when they look dead in winter.  In this newly illustrated book, A Tree Is a Plant,  you will learn how a tree grows and how it gets food and water.  You can also find out what happens to water after it travels through a tree’s roots, branches, leaves, and how to figure a tree’s age.

From the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, this reillustrated book on the science of trees is well designed for early-primary-grade children. The text, from the 1960 edition of the book, follows an apple plant from seed to sprout to tree, including the development of blossoms, leaves, and fruit. The functions of roots, trunk, branches, and leaves are also discussed, as well as the seasonal changes in the tree.  Schuett’s colorful paintings clearly illustrate topics explained in the text, while their pleasing colors, rounded forms, and small, playful animals will help keep young children involved in the topic. Bulla discusses the parts of the tree and their functions without complex explanations of the mechanisms involved in fruit formation and photosynthesis.  Bulla (1960) writes, “The blossoms last only a few days.  The apples are where the blossoms were before”(pg. 13).  Concepts such as water intake are emphasized with arrows indicating its route within the plant.  The last page includes a simple activity– a way of estimating the age of a tree–and a few suggested books on trees and plants. A good starting place for understanding trees.

Curriculum ConnectionsIn the area of life science, the  Virginia Science SOL’s for grades K-2  stresses the importance of  understanding the basic  needs and life processes of plants and animals, life cycles, and seasonal changes.  A Tree Is a Plant is appropriate for multiple grade levels and could be used to directly address SOL’s K.8b, K.8c, 1.4a, 1.4b, and 2.4b.If you would like to find out more about trees, here are a few suggestions for grades K-2:

  • Read the story aloud with the students and talk about what is going on in each picture.
  • Ask questions about  the story, such as:  ” What helps the seed to grow?”   Or “Is the tree still alive in the wintertime?
  • Give the Leaf experiment as a homework assignment to older students: (See the back of the book for details on the experiment).  The experiment allows children to record observations of water after it reaches the leaves of tree over a period of one week.
  • Find the age of a tree with your class or give it as a homework assignment:  To find the age of tree, wrap a tape measure around the trunk about three feet above the ground.  The distance that you are measuring around the middle of a tree is called the girth.  Every inch in the girth equals about one year in a tree’s growth.  How old is your tree?  Is it younger or older than you are?  By how many years?

Additional ResourcesTry these websites where you’ll find lesson plans, worksheets, activities and coloring pages to aid your life science education quest.

  • Spring Has Sprung - An activity that teaches students about water flow in plants
  • Learn About Trees - A guide for teachers that includes: worksheets, activities, field trip ideas – for K-6.
  • Coillte - several worksheets for labeling parts of a tree  - for 1st & 2nd grade
  • Let’s Grow Plants - a lesson plan on how seeds grow into plants

Book:  A Tree Is a Plant
Author:  Clyde Robert Bulla
Illustrator:  Stacey Schuett
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publication Date:  2001
Pages:  40 pages
Grade Range:  K-2
ISBN-13:  978-0064451963