Speaking for the Trees

K, 1, 2

In this lesson, the students learn about the value of trees to the environment and all sectors of society.  They also learn their personal responsibility for caring for trees. Students act out story of The Lorax and recognize that trees are a limited natural resource.  They brainstorm the benefits of trees and group (and regroup) the benefits into meaningful categories.  A guest speaker on Day Three teaches them what trees need to survive.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Forty-Five-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • identify the main idea of The Lorax and act out the story while the teacher reads it aloud.
  • recognize that we have a responsibility for the common good and can be good stewards of trees.
  • define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
  • brainstorm the uses of trees and sort into meaningful categories.
  • define the four sectors of society--family, business, government, and non-profit--and discuss each sector's interest intrees.
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
  • It Could Still Be a Tree by Allan Fowleror other book explaining the uses of trees
  • props for a re-enactment of The Lorax (colored feathers, pail, phone, pretend ax, sweater, hat, glove, gag glasses with moustache, yardstick, animal hats or masks for birds, fish, bears, tree seed)
  • chart paper and markers
  • sticky notes
  • a guest speaker from local nursery, garden club, county extension agency or a parent gardener
Home Connection 

After Day One, have students reflect on the things family members do for the common good of the family. Send home Handout One: Family Support.

  • Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.  Random House Books for Young Readers, 1971. ISBN 0394823370
  • Fowler, Allan.  It Could Still Be a Tree. Children's Press, 1991. ISBN 0516449044


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Show the students a seed (such as a maple seed or acorn) and tell them to imagine that this is the only tree seed left in the world because all of the trees have been cut down to build important houses, stores and roads. Ask them to "think, pair, and share" their ideas about what they should do with this seed. (Guide them to think about the importance of trees to the world and how to ensure that this seed survives and grows more trees to replace the lost trees.) List their ideas on chart paper.

  2. Read aloud The Lorax by Dr. Seuss to the class. After reading, discuss the significance of the word "unless" in the story. Ask the students what their responsibility is to the trees of the world (the real world). Refer back to the list they made before reading and encourage them to add to their list of things they should do with the seed.

  3. Tell the students that they are going to act out the story of The Lorax as you read it aloud again. Assign parts and propsto the students. Havethem act out their parts while you reread the story aloud.

  4. Ask students to name ways they think the characters were selfish.

  5. Ask students to describe some ways the characters could have been selfless for the common good.

  6. Define a philanthropist as one who shares time, talent or treasure or takes action for the common good. Discuss whether there were any philanthropists in the book.

  7. Ask students why it is important that citizens take responsibility for the common good. What would happen in their home, school, neighborhood if no one took responsibility for the common good?

  8. Ask the students to think about what their family members do for the common good of one another. See School/Home Connection.

  9. Day Two:

  10. Take the students outside to an area with trees (or at least one tree). Tell them to collect fallen leaves, seeds, fruits, or flowers from the ground around the tree (to bring inside). Ask them to think of different uses/jobs of trees (climbing, shade, home for bugs, food for birds, material for chairs, etc.). Encourage creativity and wide thinking. Write their ideas on sticky notes (one idea per note). Pass the notes outto the students so they each have some notes to work with back in the classroom.

  11. Back in the classroom, have one student draw a rough outline of a tree on chart paper. The students should glue in an attractive manner the leaves, seeds, etc. onto the tree outline.

  12. Tell the students to read the ideas on the sticky notes and discuss how they could group the ideas in meaningful ways. When the class agrees on some basic categories (i.e. recreation, products, habitat), write those categories on the chart paper in and around the tree. The students place the sticky notes by the appropriate headings.

  13. Read aloud the book It Could Still Be a Tree by Allan Fowler or another book about the benefits of trees. (See Bibliographical References)

  14. Give students the opportunity to add more uses of trees to the chart from what they have learned from the book (use sticky notes).

  15. Tell the students that a community can be divided into four sectors that work together to provide goods and services for the citizens. Draw and label four quadrants on chart paper: FAMILY, BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT and NOT-FOR-PROFIT. Define each word/sector.

  16. Choose one sticky note from the tree chart and ask students to decide which sector would use/benefit from the the tree for that purpose (e.g. climbing trees is probably done by FAMILY). Move the sticky note from the first chart to the new chart. Ask for volunteers to choose other sticky notes from the chart and put them on the new chart. Sometimes the group may decide that a sticky note/tree use fits in more than one category. Work out with the students how to solve that problem (e.g. write a duplicate sticky note or make a Venn diagram).

  17. Discuss how the new categories look quite different from the original chart. Discuss why you would organize the tree uses in this manner. Discuss in which sector trees are important. Guide students to recognize that trees are an important resource in many ways to many people and organizations (as illustrated in the book The Lorax) and that it is important for the sectors to work together to protect the trees for the common good.

  18. Day Three

  19. Introduce the guest speaker who will speak to the class about trees. The speaker should present information about different types of trees, their benefits, their needs, and how students can be good stewards for the trees.

  20. Allow time for students to ask questions and thank the speaker.

  21. After the speaker leaves, reflect with the students on the guest speakers' presentation and how they can apply what they learned to help trees.


On Day One, pass out a sheet of paper to each learner. Have the learner fold the paper into thirds and then reopen to original size. Label one column TIME, one TALENT, and one TREASURE. Each learner draws a picture and/or writes a sentence about a time when he or she shared (or benefited from someone else sharing) time, talent or treasure for the common good. On Day Two, have learners turn to partners and each one tells the other four uses/benefits/jobs of trees.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
      4. Benchmark E.5 Define the terms "profit" and "not-for-profit."
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define each of the sectors: business, government, civil society, and family.
      3. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    3. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.