A Potting We Will Go

K, 1, 2

Learners will use their time and talent to pot and care for young trees.  They will identify the needs of the trees.  They will discuss possible common areas to plant the trees. 

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Forty-Five-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast private property and common resources.
  • name some common areas where they could plant trees.
  • illustrate and identify the needs of a tree:water, food, and air.
  • follow directions to plant a tree in a pot.
  • bare-root trees for potting (one for each pair of students--see Bibliographical References)
  • soil and/or compost
  • one-gallon plastic containers (one for each pair of students)
  • water source
  • gloves
  • shovels
  • watercolor paints, brushes, and white paper
  • read-aloud copy of A Tree is Nice (See Bibliographical References.)
  • chart paper and markers
Home Connection 

Parent volunteers will be needed for this lesson to help plant the bare root trees. Learners can help care for trees at home.

  • The National Arbor Day Foundation https://www.arborday.org/ Accessed November 28, 2005
  • Udry, Janice May. A Tree is Nice. HarperTrophy, 1987.  ISBN # 0-06-443147-9.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Before reading A Tree s Nice, ask the students to predict (and tell why they think that) whether it is a fiction story or a nonfiction book about trees. Read aloud the story A Tree Is Nice. After reading, have the students recall the many benefits we get from trees. Review the meaning of fiction and nonfiction and explain why this is an example of nonfiction.

  2. Make a Venn diagram on chart paper. Label one circle A Tree is Nice and the other circle It Could Still be a Tree (the book read in Lesson One). Have the students compare and contrast the two books as you fill in their descriptors in the Venn diagram.

  3. A Tree Is Nice ends with a description of planting a tree. Review the steps of planting a tree and then tell the students that they will be planting a tree in a pot until they find the best home for the tree outdoors.

  4. Pass out copies of "A Potting We Will Go" (see Handout One). Teach the lyrics and tune and then have the whole class sing it together. Review the steps of potting a plant.

  5. Revisit key points learned in Lesson One by asking the following questions: "What does a tree need to survive?" and "What did we learn from our guest speaker about caring for trees?" Make a list on the chalkboard of ideas learners share about a tree's needs.

  6. Provide watercolor paints and paper for each student. Tell the students to paint a picture of a tree and include what it needs to survive. Keep the pictures to use later as an assessment. See Handout Two: Rubric.

  7. Day Two:

  8. For today's lesson, you will need small trees for planting. To get the best price and because they can be seasonal, these should be obtained in advance.

  9. Explain the procedures for potting the trees. One student of each pair will get the pot, shovel, and soil; the other partner will get the gloves and the bare-root tree. Students will put on the gloves. One student will fill the pot with the soil while the other holds the tree, levels off the dirt, and adds the water.

  10. Pick one child to be a partner with you for the purpose of a potting demonstration.

    • Put on the gloves.
    • Use a shovel to put soil in a plastic pot, filling it one-third full.
    • Have the student hold the tree straight and centered in the pot while you finish filling the pot with soil.
    • Level off the soil on top of the pot. Tamp the pot slightly on the table.
    • Water the potted tree and place in a sunny location.
  11. Pair up the students and have them verbally recall the steps for potting the tree. Let the partners work out who does what jobs in the process.

  12. Partners follow the steps and pot the trees.

  13. The students need to care for the potted trees until transplanting takes place. This will involve watering and weeding the pots.

  14. Day Three:

  15. Review with learners the way to take care of trees. Reflect with the learners how they have helped the environment by planting more trees. Reflections can be done as a group or by individuals writing down their thoughts.

  16. Discuss with learners reasons why the trees can't stay in the pots indefinitely. Tell them that they will have to find some public land where they can plant the trees to benefit the common good.

  17. Explain to learners the difference between public and private lands. Name some private property around the neighborhood and community. Ask the students to think of who gets to use that land, take care of it, and climb on its trees. Name some public (or common) areas around the neighborhood and community. Talk about who owns the land (recall the four sectors from the previous lesson) and who benefits from the land. Discuss how more people in the community benefit from the trees you plant if you plant on public land. (Start finding out which public places will welcome having students plant the trees. In Lesson Four, you can involve the students in the process of getting permission.)

  18. Give learners a sheet of white paper. Instruct learners to fold the page in half and draw a line down the middle. Write public on one side and private on the other side. Learners will write names of public places or draw pictures on the public side and write names or draw pictures of private lands on the private side. Keep this to use as an assessment.

  19. Sing the song, "Public and Private Lands." See Handout Three.


Assessment will include learners' reflections on their actions for the common good. A simple rubric can be used to evaluate the learner's picture for needs of living things. Teacher observations of the learners performing needs of a tree can also be used as an assessment check. A checklist can be used to confirm that learners followed directions. The public and private land sheet can be used as an assessment.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Define each of the sectors: business, government, civil society, and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.7 Define and describe private property and common resources.
      2. Benchmark E.8 Recognize the difference between private property and common resources.