Inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards

Canopy’s K-12 education programs provide hands-on, outdoor activities that spark kids’ curiosity about trees and nature. 

PINE Lesson_Geoff PaulsenAs part of our Healthy Trees, Healthy Kids! initiative, a multi-year project that creates greener school campuses, Canopy brings nature education into underserved communities in southern San Mateo county.

Each interactive lesson helps students explore, understand, and appreciate the forest in their backyard. Urban trees take on a whole new status – one that impacts their daily lives.

Our unique curriculum was developed by education professionals specializing in experiential learning. The material for each grade level aligns with learning goals from the California State Standards, Common Core principles, and Next Generation Science Standards. Lessons are delivered by trained Canopy staff and volunteers who are passionate about inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards and leaders. If you would like to join our team of volunteer educators, check out our fall Education Leader Training.

Canopy’s hands-on education lessons

Under the Tree Book Reading (Kindergarten – 2nd grade)

A tree is the ultimate classroom: dappled light, fresh air and a breezy canopy bring to life a book-reading for young children.

Hands-on and interactive, Canopy’s ‘Under the Tree Book Reading’ builds on the students’ existing knowledge of trees. Seated under a mature school tree, a Canopy instructor reads ‘This Tree Counts!’ with the children, counting and discussing all the living creatures that live in the tree. Afterwards, children count and sort tree leaves, cones, acorns, and bark, and create a class graph, interpreting the findings in a class discussion. In an alternative version, a Canopy instructor reads ‘Have You Seen Trees?’ with the children, exploring the visual and auditory sensations we experience through trees. With this fresh perspective, the children make their own observations about the trees they see and create a class graph, interpreting the findings in a class discussion. Click here for a PDF of the lesson description for Canopy’s Under the Tree Book Reading: Have You Seen Trees? Click here for a PDF of the lesson description for Canopy’s Under the Tree Book Reading: This Tree Counts!

Sense-Sational Tree Tour (Kindergarten – 2nd grade)

School grounds transform into a scented, tactile, sound-filled and colorful world of adventure for young children: through the tangy smell of a citrus tree, the smooth bark and colorful of a Crape Myrtle, and the calls of nesting birds.

Engaging and fun, this fresh-air ‘Sense-Sational Tree Tour’ of campus trees engages students in a truly hands-on experience of their own school trees through their senses. Children make observations about the trees around them using this newfound perspective, creating a data-filled graph and interpreting their findings in a class discussion. Click here for a PDF of the lesson description.

Planting Trees is Fun (3rd – 5th grade)

The ultimate lesson in positive action leading to positive results: at the end of this class each child can say “I planted a tree.”

Through stimulating indoor and outdoor lessons, ‘Planting Trees is Fun’ gives students a holistic perspective on trees. Building on the students’ knowledge about trees, Canopy instructors engage the children through learning stations focusing on roots, trunks, and leafy canopies. Immediately taking this knowledge outside, directly onto their school campus, the students plant their own school tree and learn what it needs to thrive. Click here for a PDF of the lesson description.

Tree Identification (5th – 8th grade)

“I can name that tree!” This lesson sparks students’ curiosity about the natural world through the lens of trees, as they gain the skills and vocabulary that empowers them to investigate and understand trees.

Science-based and tree-centric, ‘Tree Identification’ introduces students to the concept of taxonomy. Equipped with leaf samples, a dichotomous key and new vocabulary, students learn to differentiate and identify varied tree species. Taking their tools outdoors, the students explore their school campus and identify 3-4 different trees. Click here for a PDF of the lesson description.

Trees in Our Urban Environment (9th – 12th grade)

Becoming guardians of the urban forest: high school biology students explore answers to local and global environmental issues.

Touching on both local and global perspectives, ‘Trees in Our Urban Environment’ illustrates the profound interdependence between humans and trees. Climate changes, deforestation, urbanization and natural disaster all affect individual tree species and the urban forest as a whole. Concepts of bio-diverse tree selection and the “Right Tree in the Right Place” illustrate the value of human roles in maintaining the urban forest. Examining their own campus trees, students explore their own ideas about ways to care for the urban forest. Click here for a PDF of the lesson description.

Schedule a presentation

To request a Canopy educational program for your school, contact Canopy’s Program Coordinator, Natalia Schoorl at natalia@canopy.org.

Join the Volunteer Educator Team

Do you want to become an education volunteer and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards? Canopy will train volunteers who are interested in presenting our programs. Learn more and fill out the application or contact Natalia Schoorl with questions at natalia@canopy.org.

“After doing Canopy’s tree survey, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I took for granted that street trees grow by themselves without any protection, but I learned that young tree protection is important work.”

~ Student, Asia-US
Service Learning Program