Plant Power

Imagine a world with no plants; not only would the beauty of Earth greatly diminish, the air would turn toxic, animals would not survive and ecosystems would be lost.  Trees and other plants are vital for life. In this module, the children will learn about native trees and shrubs that exist in our natural areas. They will learn the importance trees and other plants play in the food chains, how they clean the air and provide homes for various organisms, and why they lose their leaves in the fall. The children will take part in different games to help them understand the concept of photosynthesis, see the beauty of tree and shrubs, and the impact of tree loss.

Lesson 1 - Introduction to Tree

To begin this module, introduce the children to some different trees and shrubs in P.E.I. Get a gauge on their knowledge of tree life. Go on a nature walk, meet some trees, identify them using the keys provided here and talk about them.

Depending on when this module is completed, it may be more difficult to identify certain trees if their leaves have dropped.  To avoid this do this module earlier in the fall or collect fallen leaves and identify them. Coniferous trees will be discussed in detail during the Needles to Say winter module, although they can be introduced. 

Plants 

  • one of the first forms of life on Earth
  • provide food source
  • produce oxygen
  • firewood, petroleum, medicine, textiles and timber all come from plants

Native Tree and Shrubs

In P.E.I., there are 10 native coniferous trees and 16 native deciduous tree, although some are more common than others.

Distinguishing trees from shrubs can be difficult as some plants may have characteristics of both. Generally, shrubs are low, woody plants that remain under 7.6m in height. They usually have several stems, but not always.

In P.E.I., there are 27 shrubs that are considered native.

* The term native is used to describe organism that occur in an area as a result of natural processes.

Click here for games.

Lesson 2 - Lifecycle of a Tree

Trees, just like all other living things, go through a life cycle. They are planted and grow, die and decompose. This week discuss the life cycle of a tree, make a tree and be a tree.

Click here for games.

Lesson 3 - Photosynthesis

Trees are the bases of life. They provide the oxygen we breathe through a process called photosynthesis. Teach the children about photosynthesis, why leaves are green, why trees lose their leaves in the fall and a bit about coniferous and deciduous trees

Photosynthesis

  • leaves contain chlorophyll, a green pigment that absorbs light energy from the sun
  • sun energy is used to make sugar from carbon dioxide in the air and water from the soil
  • sugar is energy source for the whole
  • water, carbon dioxide and light produce sugar and oxygen
  • at night: sugar and oxygen absorbed to produce new plant cells and release carbon dioxide

Leaves

  • Simple : large, unbroken surface, able to soak up lots of sun
  • Compound : divided into many small leaf structures
  • Colour Change
    • Many leaves can’t survive winter
    • start to die and green chlorophyll breaks down
    • Red and yellow pigments remain
    • Many coniferous trees have stiff, needle-like leaves which resist water loss and remain green throughout the year

Structure of a Leaf

  • Stomata- tiny valves which allow gases to pass to and from the leaf and the air
  • Top of a leaf – covered with waxy skin or cuticle
    • Prevents water loss and protects the leaf cells
  • Under the leaf – protected from strong sunlight
    • Hairs or scale improve protection
    • Leaf vein allow water into and out of the leaf
    • Vein have two cells
      • Xylem – draw water and mineral from roots to its leaves
      • Phloem – carry nutrients produced by photosynthesis to the rest of the plant

Some Terms:

⇒Deciduous - dropping of a part that is no longer needed, in this case leaves

⇒Coniferous = bearing pinecones, most of which are evergreen

⇒Evergreen = retaining leaves year round, therefore remaining “forever green”

⇒Broadleaf = a thin, broad leaf structure with a good deal of surface area

⇒Needle = a thin, long modified leaf typical of conifers

⇒Hardwood = commonly used word for deciduous, broadleaf trees

⇒Softwood = usually refers to coniferous trees

Deciduous vs. Coniferous

Deciduous trees require nutrient rich soil because it take lots of nutrients to produce all their leaves. Tree with broad leaves collect more sunlight than needle bearing trees, therefore their rate of photosynthesis is higher, but does not occur year-round. When leaves drop in the fall, the nutrients are returned to the ground. Coniferous trees, for the majority, are typically evergreen therefore retain their needles year-round. In P.E.I., Larch trees are the only native coniferous tree that drop their needles in the fall. Needles have a number of benefits when compare to broad leaves; they are smaller, windproof, photosynthesize year round, harder to destroy and less tasty for insects. Since the soil in Eastern North America is generally more rich in nutrients and moist there are more deciduous trees in this area. Coniferous tree are more common in Western North America where the soil is poor in nutrients and arid. 

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Lesson 4 - Importance 

Plants are the base of all food chains. They provide homes, shelter and food for various living organisms. Without them photosynthesis would not occur and life as we know it would not exist. Trees provide humans with many resources, which we could not live without. We can continue to use trees for these resources, as long as we do not exploit them.

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Lesson 5 - Tree Testing

Test the children on their tree knowledge with tree tag, see how good their memories are with plant concentration or push their creativity with songline.

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Click here for information about P.E.I.'s native trees and shrubs.

Downloadable Resources:

Coniferous Tree Guide

Coniferous Tree Information

Deciduous Tree Guide

Deciduous Tree Information

Shrub ID

 

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