Educator Spotlight: Trees Through the Seasons

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Dawn Vatuna, this week’s Educator of the Week, encourages her students to observe their natural environment and its seasonal changes. Dawn is an early education teacher at Phillipsburg Early Childhood Learning Center in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher and a National Geographic Certified Educator.

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Photo by Dawn Vatuna

Activity: Trees Through the Seasons

Grade Level: Pre-K and Kindergarten

Time Commitment: Adaptable for one season, one hour, or the entire school year!

Inspiring Future Naturalists
Throughout the school year, my students study the trees around our school, observing how they change depending on the season. We discuss tree attributes, growth, environmental changes, and species classification. We also study the animals and insects that frequent our trees. Students create nature-inspired artwork, examine leaves and seeds with magnifying glasses, sort and classify types of leaves, build towers with blocks to study balance and stability, take photographs of trees throughout the year, participate in nature walks, read stories about the environment, and learn related songs.

Describe the student impact of this lesson. Was there a change in thought process, behavior, or perspective?
This study helps students become more aware of their local environment. Most of my students already have a basic understanding of the seasons as they relate to United States holidays, but I strive to engage them to notice natural changes apart from holidays or themes. As students begin to notice the nature that surrounds them, they develop a sense of ownership and respect for their environment.

Any advice for educators who want to help students become global and interdisciplinary thinkers?
The best way to create global thinkers is through exposure and experience. Students need to become immersed in a subject matter and understand first how it affects them and their own world. They need to touch, smell, see, hear, and even taste to develop an intimate understanding. To extend student learning beyond the local environment, try webcasts, virtual field trips, and excursions!

What was your most memorable, “teachable moment”?
A young student did not know what the term “tree” meant. On a daily basis, we would go outside to our schoolyard and find different trees. We would touch the trees, stand under the trees, and talk about the trees. I was so excited the day he identified a tree on his own!

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Students observe a tree in their school yard. Photo by Dawn Vatuna

green nominateDo you know a great educator who teaches about our world? Nominate a colleague or yourself as the next Educator of the Week!

The Educator Spotlight series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

2 responses to “Educator Spotlight: Trees Through the Seasons

  1. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Thanks. Here are some tree activities for older students from teachers in the Hudson Valley: Tree Identification, (grades 3-6), Leaf ID Books (3-12). and Identifying Trees (pre-K-1), Tree ID (9-12). All at: teachingthehudsonvalley.org/resources, choose lessons.

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