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Dendrochronology Lesson Plans

Dendrochronology is the study of tree rings. Tree ring data can provide us information from the year they formed, including what the climate and atmospheric conditions were like. Scientists most commonly use living trees to collect data, but data can also be taken from archeological sites and even sunken ships. 

Since it’s December, you may have a Christmas tree that’s about to make its way to the curb. Before you dispose of it, cut off some of the trunk and slice it into “tree cookies” that your students can analyze. (Don’t buy a living tree? Head to a local tree lot- they will give them to you for free). 

Here is a video clip that shows how to make your own tree cores and tree cookies, and what you can have students do with them:

If you’d like to check out the lab activities mentioned in the video, you can find them HERE

Pro Tip: If students are having a hard time counting rings, cover the tree cookie in saran wrap and give them an expo marker. Have them draw a dot on every 5th ring and then easily count by 5’s and add them up at the end. 

Here are some other dendrochronology resources I have come across. Check them out! 

  1. If you’d rather not take the time to make tree cores using straws and play doh, you can use paper cores instead. You can find the lesson here
  2. Here is a fun simulation where students can analyze tree rings and make inferences about the climate.
  3. Here is an activity from the National Park Service.
  4. Here is a Sci Show video on the world’s oldest tree. (Anther pro tip: We all love Hank, but he does talk awfully fast, especially for our ELL kiddos. You can slow down the speed of the YouTube clip in the settings!) 

I hope your students enjoy learning about past climate conditions through tree rings! 
​Rock on,

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Hi, I'm Becca!

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