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Monday Morning Ready06.16.2017
Jumpstart Your Week!

They provide shade and air to breathe. Not to mention an undeniable sense of grandeur. But would you ever write a letter to a tree? Officials in Melbourne, Australia have discovered that for many, the answer is a resounding yes.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Do you think people in Melbourne, Australia, would send fan mail to trees if they had to send actual letters instead of emails? Why or why not?

Grade 5-6

According to the article, people in Melbourne, Australia, are writing fan mail to trees instead of damage reports, as the city intended. Do you think this helps or hinders the city's attempt to catch and rehabilitate damaged trees? Why?

Grade 7-8

Why do you think the people of Melbourne, Australia, began writing fan mail to the city's trees? Do you think people in the U.S. would do this? Why or why not?

Grade 9-10

According to the article, fan mail to trees was "an unintended but positive consequence" of city officials' attempt to help citizens track tree damage. How do you think this unintended consequence will benefit Melbourne's trees? What do you think it gives back to the people who write the letters?

LESSON PLAN
Write an Email to a Tree

PROCESS:

  1. Have students access the website "Explore Melbourne's Urban Forest." Instruct them scroll down or tap the "Explore the Map" button to see the map that shows all of Melbourne's trees. 
  2. Point out the color and symbol keys below the map, which identify the age, health and genus of each tree. Tell students to select a color/symbol combination. They can further narrow their selection criteria by tapping the "All Precincts" or "All Trees" buttons. 
  3. Instruct students to zoom in on the map to find a tree that meets their criteria. If they tap the icon, they can email their tree. NOTE: To ensure that all emails go to the correct trees, tell students not to change the text in the subject line. The same email address is used for all trees, but each tree has a unique ID code.
  4. Encourage students to send a message to their tree. Suggest that they ask questions about the tree or its environment. They may even want to share their hopes or ideas for conservation of Earth's forests. After students send their emails, have them monitor their emails to see if any of the trees respond.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to read their emails aloud to the class. After all emails have been read, challenge students to identify the overall impression the emails would make on someone reading them in the future. What would the emails tell them about people's feelings for trees? What would they reveal about people's concerns for the current state of Earth's forests?

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON: 

Grades 3-4:
Divide the class into small groups. Have each group pick a tree. Then have students conduct research to learn more about the type of tree they selected. Instruct students to ask at least three relevant questions in their emails.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into pairs. Have each pair pick a tree. Instruct them to conduct research to learn more about Melbourne and the type of tree they selected. Instruct students to ask at least three relevant questions about the tree and its environment in their emails. 
Grades 7-8: 
Divide the class into pairs. Have each pair pick a tree. Instruct them to conduct research to learn more about Melbourne and the type of tree they selected. Instruct students to ask at least three relevant questions about the tree and its environment in their emails. Encourage them to also share their hopes or ideas for conservation of Earth's forests.
Grades 9-10:
Instruct each student to pick a tree. Have them conduct research to learn more about Melbourne and the type of tree they selected. Instruct students to ask relevant questions about the tree and its environment in their emails. Encourage them to also share their hopes or ideas for conservation of Earth's forests.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Trees of the Smithsonian
These lesson plans from the Smithsonian Gardens encourage students to use critical thinking to practice using dichotomous keys, think about famous trees as symbols and engage with the scientific method.

New Survey Estimates Earth Has 60,065 Tree Species
Read this Smithsonian article to learn about a new project recently completed by the Researchers from Botanic Gardens Conservation International. Which country has the most species? (Brazil) And why is there cause for concern? (At least 10,000 tree species are at risk of extinction.)

Archives Alive!: Learning from Landscapes Past, Cultivating Garden Memories for the Future
This interpretive and educational package of resources from the Smithsonian Gardens uses an expanded notion of “literacy” to encourage collaborative and critical thinking, writing, reading and observation. Students learn about the importance of nature, landscapes and environment in their everyday lives.

What’s Your Problem? A Look at the Environment in Your Own Backyard
In these lesson plans from the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, students examine the state of the local environment and how it has changed over the years. Then they take on an environmental project to tackle an environmental problem that affects their community.

Botany and Art and Their Role in Conservation
The lessons in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom introduce students to the work of botanists and botanical illustrators, specifically their race to make records of endangered plant species around the world. Following the methods of a Smithsonian artist, students try their own hands at botanical illustration.

American Indian Responses to Environmental Challenges
This multimedia website from the National Museum of the American Indian contains lessons on the cultural, economic and scientific motivations behind environmental preservation in four American Indian communities.

Second Opinion: Forging the Future
Smithsonian Secretary, David Skorton joins some of the world's leading thinkers in a spirited discussion about our ever changing planet. The site includes articles, videos and educational resources focusing on climate change.
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