Tree Investigators! | Activities designed to experience your neighborhood through trees

By Ella Weil, Nick Truman, & John Stedman ::

Artwork by Nick Truman | Portland State University


Tree Investigators! is a workbook that can be used in elementary schools, community centers, and in homeschool education with a goal to engage students in first through fifth grade in gaining awareness and appreciation of Portland Park and Recreation’s Heritage Trees. We believe that Heritage Trees are a window to Portland’s past and provide a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about their local landscape. The workbook contains three main sections designed to (1) introduce students to tree species they see every day, (2) introduce historical knowledge and context for Heritage Trees, and (3) think about the role of trees in an urban environment and consider the ways in which trees create a sense of place. Within the three main modules, several activities, games, teaching suggestions, and printable worksheets are provided for educators to use. Ideas and concepts from this book were inspired and drawn from Community as Classroom and the National Park Service Junior Ranger Program.

The workbook’s three modules include the following:

Tree Investigators Phase 1: Meet the Trees!

What kind of trees do you see every day? Are there any special trees at your school? In your yard? At your community centers? Students will start the process of identifying key differences between tree species that are commonly found around Portland. This project equips students with knowledge and vocabulary to think about the trees they see every day, start to identify different species, and think about what makes a tree special. This module includes an outdoor activity, some printable worksheets, and leaf cards for students to play bingo, memory, or go fish. DOWNLOAD now 


Tree Investigators Phase 2: HistorTrees!

Now that we have learned which trees are which, let’s find out more! Who planted those trees? What did the neighborhood look like when those trees were planted? How has it changed? This project will introduce historical knowledge and the concept of heritage trees. This module includes a collaborative board game and printable worksheets designed for students to gain historical context for the trees. DOWNLOAD now   


Tree Investigators Phase 3: Let’s Take a Walk!

Sometimes the best way to experience and understand a landscape is to take a walk through it. In this project, students will draw a map of the neighborhood and follow it to explore the patterns that exist in their local environment. Students will look for patterns on where trees are planted, how they are cared for, and think about what kind of historical development led to those patterns. Students will think about the role of trees in an urban environment and consider the ways in which trees create a sense of place. This module includes a mapping project, and outdoor activity, and a graphing exercise. DOWNLOAD now 


This project starts a conversation with young learners about Portland’s history, the value of trees, and the value of their own neighborhoods. We have provided additional information at the end of the book for students to bring home to their families and explore Portland’s heritage trees outside of the classroom. We hope you have fun!

Tree Investigators! Complete Workbook