Lesson Plan

Old Growth Forest Mural

a ranger and a child walk through an old growth forest
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Additional Standards:
NGSS 3-LS4-4. Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes & the types of plants & animals that live there change. 5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposer

Essential Question

What are the components of an old growth forest?


Students will be able to identify the four components of an old growth forest and apply understanding of the forest community to conservation issues. They will examine the organisms that thrive in old growth forests.


  • Butcher paper for mural construction
  • Paper for cut-outs
  • Crayons, paint scissors, glue


1. Discuss a forest community with the students, and the four characteristics of an old growth forest.
2. Explain to the students that they will be constructing a mural of an old growth forest, and divide the students into four groups, assigning each group to one of the four characteristics of an old growth forest. Each group will be responsible for portraying their part of the forest and the community of organisms which thrive there. For example, the group assigned to large living trees and a multi-layered canopy, will want to place many living trees on the mural; tall, old living trees and younger trees and saplings. They will also want to find out what types of animals depend on these trees for food, shelter and nesting, and represent them on the mural.
3. Have the groups research old growth forests, looking for organisms that inhabit the particular niche they’ve been assigned.
4. After students have gathered the material they need, they may begin drawing, painting, and making cut-outs for the mural. You may wish to make an outline for the mural to insure that the forest mural is equally distributed with living trees, snags, down trees, and a stream running through the forest, so that there are not clumps of snags, etc., on the mural, from one group placing their material all in one spot.
5. When the mural is completed (and this may take several class periods), ask each group to present and explain their part of the forest and the organisms living there to the rest of the class. Who “produces” in this forest? Who “consumes”? Who recycles? Do you see any parallels to human production and consumption?

Assessment Materials

Why are old growth forests important? Discuss with the students the present rate at which we are harvesting our forests, and that today only 10% of the world’s remaining forests are old growth forests. Would it matter if we continued to harvest the trees in what is left of our old growth forests? Is there anything special about them besides big trees?

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Last updated: December 30, 2020