Large, Leafy Tree

Children will learn about trees in the fall.


Lesson Objective

The children will explore the parts of a tree, and create a class tree with a trunk, branches, and leaves.


What You'll Need

  • A variety of colorful leaves – 6 per child
  • Paintbrushes  – 1 per child
  • A long piece of brown paper – about 6 feet long
  • White construction paper – 1 per child
  • Brown tempera paint – 1 bottle
  • Glue sticks – 1 per 2 children
  • Pencils – 1 per adult
  • Paper plates – 1 per child (for paint)

What To Do

  1. Collect a variety of leaves from outside. You can do this with the children or collect them yourself before the day of the lesson. If you do not have access to leaves, have the children make them from paper.
  2. Compare the leaves and their colors, and discuss where they came from (see Did You Know?).
  3. Discuss the parts of a tree (see Did You Know?).
  4. Let the children watch as you draw a large tree trunk on the long piece of brown paper.
  5. Distribute 1 sheet of white construction paper to each child.
  6. Trace the palm of their hand, their fingers, and their arm (up to the elbow) on their paper.
  7. Distribute paint and paintbrushes.
  8. Have the children paint the tracings of their arms. These will become branches on the large tree.
  9. After each child finishes painting, let him/her select some leaves from your collection.  
  10. Distribute the glue, and let the children glue the leaves around the branch that they made.
  11. When the projects are completely dry, carefully cut the excess paper from around the “branches” that the children made. 
  12. Hang the large tree trunk drawing on a wall, and add the branches to the tree.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me what you know about trees.
  • Describe some of the trees we see each day—how are they the same? How are they different?
  • How do the trees look different now than they did in the summer? in the spring?
  • Why do you think trees have leaves?
  • Describe what happens to the leaves in the fall.
  • What do the branches do for the leaves of the tree?
  • Describe the parts of a tree. 
  • Tell me any animals that you know live in trees.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Put extra leaves, construction paper, and glue sticks in the art center. You can also place leaf patterns and scissors for the children to make their own leaves. Children can experiment and create more trees or plants.
  • Place a variety of leaves (either ones you have collected or ones you have made from patterns) in the science center. Encourage the children to sort them by color, size, or shape. 
  • During recess, encourage the children to gather other items from nature. 

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Was each child able to create a branch with leaves? 
  • Could children recognize and identify the parts that came together to create the whole tree?


Did You Know?

A tree is a giant plant. There are two major types of trees: deciduous and conifers. Deciduous trees grow broad leaves, whereas conifers have narrower needles. Most deciduous trees have leaves that change colors in the fall, and they eventually lose all of their leaves. Each spring, they grow a whole new set of leaves. Most conifers are evergreen, which means that, when their needles die, new ones take their place right away. Even during the autumn and winter, these trees are green. 

The visible parts of a tree are the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the flowers, and the fruit. Hundreds of roots are under the ground in the soil. The trunk, like a large stem, delivers the nutrients from the roots to all of the other parts of the tree. The branches act as mini-trunks and continue bringing the nutrients directly to the leaves. The leaves “breathe” in the air through little holes on their undersides and change the sunlight into energy. The bark is a hard skin on the outside of the trunk. The bark protects the trunk. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • tree – a plant with a main trunk and many branches; some trees grow very tall.
  • trunk – the main “stem” of a tree.
  • branch – a woody part or division of a tree or bush that grows out from the trunk.
  • leaf – a growth from the stem or branch of a tree or plant that is flat; a leaf is usually green.
  • trace – to draw around something to make an outline.
  • arm – a body part between the shoulder and wrist.

Lesson Tips

  • Use washable paint, and make sure that the children wear smocks.
  • Be sure to have the children use a light layer of paint. The projects will dry more quickly.


  • A Tree Is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber
  • Leaves by David Ezra Stein
  • Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS