Lesson Plan

The Key to the Tree

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
Additional Standards:
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.


What are these trees? Students will connect their neighborhood or outdoor space to the National Parks by identifying trees.


Teaching Channel Video for Dichotomous Key


Tree Identification Resource


Introduce the use of dichotomous keys with Shoe activity.

The teacher needs to find an area where students can evaluate different conifers using the dichotomous key (or bring in examples). If planning to connect with ONP Douglas fir trees then be sure to find an area with Douglas firs.


Download Dichotomous Key to Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest

Lesson Hook/Preview

Take a Nature Walk in the area planned for identification lesson.


Using Google Street View explore Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge. https://www.google.com/streetview/#us-parks-trails-and-beaches/olympic-national-park


Discuss what students see and compare/contrast to their own area.


Complete Nature Walk, Shoe Activity, and Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge Street View prior to lesson


Step 1. Divide your students into groups of two or three.

Step 2. Provide each group a key and review characteristic of conifer, terms used, and procedures of key use.

Step 3. Define outdoor environment and perimeters for activity.

Step 4. Student explore area identifying as many trees as possible in the time allowed. Students record finding in Nature Journal or on a map.

Step 5. Share finding with whole group.

Step 6. Compare and Contrast the different types of conifers.


Dichotomous key - a key used to identify an organism, usually a plant or animal, in which each stage presents descriptions of two distinguishing characters, with a direction to another stage in the key, until the species is identified

Conifer- conifers have needlelike or scale-like leaves and usually bear seeds inside woody cones.

Needles – sharp flat leaves on conifers

Cones - a scaly structure of certain trees that produces pollen or egg cells and seeds.

Bark - the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants.

Bundles: Groups of needles held together at the base by a small papery wrap called a fascicle.

Assessment Materials


Students were able to use the dichotomous key to successful identify trees.

Supports for Struggling Learners

Students should work with partners.

Additional Resources


Digital Dichotomous Key – Tree




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Last updated: October 31, 2017