Trees of the Smithsonian

Educational program and resource

LeavesTrees of the Smithsonian was developed to show you how to use the resources around your school, community, and within the Smithsonian Gardens. The purpose is to provide good examples and stories that could be used in your own community environment to teach a variety of subjects and engage students and youth with new objects of learning. The Smithsonian Gardens’ tree collection is the base for the activities, but trees in your neighborhood, community park, local public garden, or arboretum can be incorporated into the plans.

We have outlined a set of themes that use trees throughout the Smithsonian Gardens to present the topics. We start the lessons as introductory topics to trees in general that touch upon why we study trees, how we identify them, and the general importance of them. We then introduce topics that tap into being creative and identify new meanings for trees. We have suggested ways in which students could use these trees to relate to certain curricula, like English, Social Studies, Science, Math and the arts. The topics will engage students to work together, observe their surroundings, work on critical thinking, be creative and be introduced to vocabulary and themes about our natural world. Each lesson has a highlighted set of broad learning objectives and we have linked other useful resources for your convenience. The lessons are written with more details for the teacher or supervisor, while the activity sheets are designed for students.

Trees of the Smithsonian Activities

  • The Paw Paw Tree: Exploring American Tree Folkways
    Students will examine the creation of local and historical folkways through an exploration of the pawpaw tree, a native North American tree with a storied past that has played a significant role in centuries of American history.
  • A Tree of Trees: What’s in a Name?
    Students learn about how hierarchies are used to explain the order of things, which helps us study our natural world and shows us how they are related.
  • Tree Expedition: What’s Out There?
    Students develop their observation skills and are introduced to the concepts of collections and how we group things together using the scientific method and scientific inquiry
  • What do Trees Provide?
    Cause students to work on communication skills by working together to develop their critical thinking skills through observation. Students also begin to understand the importance of trees and what they provide.
  • The Art of Bark
    Students learn about the variety of bark found in nature and understand what it means to observe our surroundings
  • Trees of Significance
    Introduces students to concepts of history being meaningful and representative while presenting US geography to students in a new light by learning about state trees.
  • Trees of the Smithsonian Glossary

Smithsonian Tree Collection

Orchids Around Us

The Smithsonian Tree Collection is the newest collection to be established by Smithsonian Gardens. It currently has close to 1,900 accessioned specimens located throughout the Smithsonian museum grounds and gardens surrounding the National Mall, at the Anacostia Community Museum, and at Smithsonian support facilities in Maryland.

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