Lesson Plan

Tree Ring Activity

Grade Level:
Third Grade-Fifth Grade
Archaeology, Biology: Plants, Climate Change, Social Studies
National/State Standards:
AZ State Standards: SS03-S1C1-02, SS04-S1C1-04, SC04-S1C4-01, SC04-S6C2-06, SS05-S1C1-05, SC05-S1C4-01.


In this activity students will learn about tree rings and how archaeologists use them to help date archaeological sites and artifacts.


Guiding Questions: What are tree rings? How are tree rings used to determine the age of archaeological sites?

Lesson Objectives: Students will...

  • Understand how trees grow and why growth rings are formed.
  • Describe how climate and weather affects the growth of tree rings.
  • Explain the age of a tree by its rings. 
  • Understand how ring patterns can be used to determine the age of archaeological sites.


See downloadable .pdf under the materials section.



  • Background information
  • Scissors, tape
  • Tree core sequences, tree core sequence example
  • Worksheet questions
  • Answer Key


In the tree core sequences, there are six cores, taken from the older and the younger trees.

Students will cut out the cores and use them to figure out how old the oldest tree was and to relate this exercise to their own lives.

Students will line up the core sequences in two rows to match the tree-ring patterns.

After lining up the core sequences, they will complete the questions.


To assess learning students will complete the included worksheet questions.

Additional Resources

This lesson plan was developed by Brian Crosby, archaeology graduate student at Northern Arizona University.