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3-D Trees

Watch interest in trees and ecology grow as students create a forest of 3-D trees representing multiple species.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. Ask students to think about the role trees play in our environment. Encourage them to consider how they help us breathe and what they provide in the way of food, shelter, and shade for animals as well as humans. How many different tree species can students name? What trees grow in your area; what ones grow in other parts of the world?
    2. Share books about trees with the students. One which they might especially enjoy is "The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever" by Joseph Hopkins.
    3. Invite each student to select a specific tree species to research. Ask them to find a picture of the tree and study such details as its leaves, bark, size, etc. Challenge them to discover some fun facts about it: Where does it grow? Does it provide any useful materials such as fruit, rubber, syrup, etc?
    4. Provide poster board, card stock, or heavy drawing paper as well as Crayola® Water Colors, Watercolor Pencils, and/ or Colored Pencils. Challenge students to use their paper engineering skills to create 3-D replicas of their trees. One way to do this is to fold the paper in half vertically and draw an outline of the tree's shape on one side. Then cut through both halves of the paper to create two identical trees. Measure the height and width of each tree and put a dot in the exact middle. Draw a line on tree number one from the dot to the bottom of the trunk. On tree number two, draw a line from the dot straight up the center to the top of the tree. Then carefully cut along each of these lines. Once this is done, slide the slit trunk down over the slit top of the other tree The two center dots will meet in the middle with the two trees at right angles to each other forming a three dimensional tree. It should stand on its own, but for extra stability, students can fold a narrow edge along the bottom of each trunk to create a flat bottom.
    5. Once students are certain their trees can stand on their own, they can slide them apart and begin adding color and texture to the bark and leaves. Watercolor Pencils are especially nice for this project as detail can be achieved with the sharp points, but colors can then be blended with a paintbrush and a bit of water. Remind students to use their research photos as a guide. Because the trees will be displayed three dimensionally, they will need to color all sides.
    6. After coloring, ask students to slide their two trees together once again. Provide each student with a plain white display card and invite them to write the name of their tree and information about it. Suggest that they also draw a close up picture of a leaf, and remind them to save a spot for mounting their tree on the card.
    7. When the trees are complete, provide a large table or counter space so students can display their creations as a forest of trees.
    8. Provide time for students to look at all the different trees. Ask each student to take a minute to share a few interesting facts about his or her tree. Then ask students to reflect on what they have learned from this lesson beyond the facts about their own specific trees. Why does the government regulate things such as the cutting down of trees? Does your own community require homeowners to get a permit before cutting a tree on their property? Why do they think scientists are concerned about preserving the rainforests?
  • Standards

    LA: Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

    LA: By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

    SCI: Populations live in a variety of habitats, and change in those habitats affects the organisms living there.

    SCI: Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die.

    SCI: Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment.

    SS: Examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment, the use of land, building of cities, and ecosystem changes in selected locales and regions.

    VA: Document, describe, and represent regional constructed environments.

    VA: Elaborate visual information by adding details in an artwork to enhance emerging meaning.

    VA: Develop a work of art based on observations of surroundings.

  • Adaptations

    Ask for one or two volunteers to research laws and regulations regarding trees in your local area. Are permits required for cutting trees down? Is anything being done to encourage residents to plant trees?

    Invite someone to research the history of Arbor Day. When was it established? How has it been celebrated?

    Several students might enjoy learning more about Kate Sessions, the subject of the book "Tree Lady". In what ways was she ahead of her time?


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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