I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. – Dr. Seuss
Arbor Day is an observance that is celebrated throughout the US the last Friday in April with the purpose of encouraging tree planting and care.
It’s also celebrated in nations across the globe, most observances taking place in different times of the year. Want to join in the celebration? Here are several ways in which you can celebrate Arbor Day with your ESL students:
How to Teach Arbor Day
Research a Tree
Ok, so your class is not a Botany class – you’re supposed to teach ESL. But you’re also supposed to provide the English skills that will be essential for them to get around in English, either in a distant or immediate future. Researching and presenting information are some of these skills. At BusyTeacher.org, we have a great worksheet available with Arbor Day Lesson Ideas and one of these activities proposes that your students research one tree. Make it as simple or as challenging as your students’ level will allow. ArborDay.org has a fantastic Tree Guide that is an excellent source for advanced students. Assign each of them a tree and ask them to fill out the report complete with drawing.
Craft Something Tree-rrific
EnchantedLearning.com has a wonderful page, filled with Arbor Day crafts, and provides the ideal way to celebrate the day with your youngest learners. Show them how to make a miniature Japanese garden or surprise the littlest ones with this magical leaf drawing. Family trees are also a classic, whether you choose the twig or paper kind.
Save the Trees with The Lorax
Published four decades ago, the message conveyed by The Lorax, rings true today as much as it did back then. Children love the funny names and strange characters and adults cherish the straightforward moral of the story: the blatant disregard for the well-being of our environment will only lead to its destruction. Introduce vocabulary that is related to the story like, sustainable, environment, biome, habitat, biodegradable, recycle, etc… and read the story. Discuss with your students what each of the characters represents and see if they can tell you what the moral of the story is.
Watch It’s Arbor Day Charlie Brown
Available in VHS format or DVD (1970s Collection), It’s Arbor Day Charlie Brown is a great video option and nothing but classic Peanuts fun: watch with your students the mayhem that ensues as Charlie Brown’s baseball field is filled with trees for the Arbor Day celebration. There are lots of things to be learned from the Peanuts gang, and they can certainly learn from Sally Brown's mistake, as she boldly states that Arbor Day “is when all the ships come into the Arbor”.
Teach by Magic!
How about a magic trick to surprise your students? Do YOU think you can make a 5-foot tree out of your daily newspaper? This video available at TeachbyMagic.com provides step-by-step instructions on how to pull it off yourself. The message? Each newspaper that is recycled saves over 500,000 trees. Your students will love the trick, plus it’ll help drive the message home.
Discuss: The Uses of Trees
To introduce the topic, start by reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Ask students how the tree was used in the story. Students brainstorm more ways in which trees are used. Note: The story written by Shel Silverstein, although beautiful, is not recommended for very young or overly sensitive children as it is very sad. Still, it delivers a very powerful message and one that you might want to share with your students.
Plant a Tree!
Clearly, the single best way to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a tree in the school yard, if possible. Make of it a fun-filled event with tree bark and leaf rubbings, a picnic or an outdoor party. See if you can plan it with some of the other teachers, so that each class can plant their own tree together.
Everything you teach your students as an ESL teacher is valuable.
Everything - from basic verb tenses like the present continuous to more complex ones like the past perfect. But never forget you have the ability to teach them so much more. And that’s what Arbor Day is all about: communicating just how important it is to care for our trees and the environment they need to thrive. Because we will never thrive without them, the Lorax himself would agree.