tree   tree

Living in a Tree

Recommended Age Groups: Early Elementary
About this Lesson from the University of Michigan's Nichols Arboretum

Guiding Questions

  1. Do you know who lives in trees?

  2. Why don't we live in trees?

  3. What are some physical characteristics of animals who live in trees?






  1. Many animals have claws that grip to the trees.

  2. Other animals have tails that can grab onto branches.

    tree frog
  3. Some animals have special toes that stick to the tree.

  4. Some animals glide through the trees.

  5. Many animals have wings to fly.




  1. A tree for every child
  2. Drawing paper and a book that you can use as your table, while you are drawing outdoors
  3. Pencils and crayons
  4. Optional: may want to have cushions or something to put on the ground to sit on when children go outside
  5. Bag or box to keep materials in
  6. Jar with holes poked through the lids so you could keep some insects that are interesting
  7. Handout

Room Preparation:

Safety Precautions:

Procedures and Activity


  1. Do you know who lives in trees?
    Listen to the children as they give ideas on animals who live in trees. Depending on where you live, they might mention squirrels, bugs, or lizards.
  2. Why don't we live in trees?
    Listen to the thoughts that children have. Explain how difficult it would be for us to live in trees.
  3. What are some physical characteristics of animals who live in trees?
    Explain the different characteristics that animals have that help them live in trees, including claws, tails, sticky toes, and wings. Pass out the handout that has drawings of different animals who live in trees.
  4. Let's be scientists today!
    Tell the children that they are going to be scientists today. We will look at trees and try to observe what kinds of animals live in or visit trees. Then we will look for the kinds of physical characteristics animals have that live in trees. We will draw pictures of animals and point out their special features.


  1. Go outside and have children pick a tree to "study."
  2. Make observations like a scientist.
    Look around and find animals that might live on or in the tree. Sometimes they could be very small, so you have to look very carefully.
  3. Identify the animals.
    What kind of animals did you find? Do they fly, glide, or stick?
    Do they have tails, wings, toes, or claws?
  4. Document your observations like a scientist.
    Scientists need to write down what they see so that they can remember it later and share it with other people. Draw pictures of the animals and their homes that you see on or in the tree—birds, nests, etc. If you like, you could get a jar and keep samples of some small animals. Be sure to let them go later so that they can live.


Back in the classroom, ask again:

  1. Do you know who lives in trees?
  2. Why don't we live in trees?
    Let children make their presentations and share their drawings. Let them pass around jars with any small animals that they might have found to share them with each other. You may ask them which of the animals that live in trees they like the best. Remind them how important trees are to these animals and to people.

Extension Ideas

  1. The handout shows some animals that live in other parts of the world. The children might want to see a map and point out where these animals live on the globe.

  2. The children might want to visit a zoo to see some of the less common animals.

  3. To learn more about trees, the lesson Have You Ever Met a Tree? explains more about the characteristics of trees.

  4. Children might be interested in building a tree house with the help of an adult.

  5. Visit the National Audubon Society's Birder Homepage to learn about bird watching, habitats, bird feeders, migration patterns, rare and common birds, and current bird research. You can also link to bird museums, magazines and organizations!

  6. Other books related to this topic that might be interesting:
  7. Plan an environmental field trip:

Careers Related to Lesson Topic

Prerequisite Vocabulary

A special quality or trait something has that makes it different from others
Sharp nails at the end of the fingers or toes of an animal
A large, dark-colored lizard that lives in Central and South America
A slow-moving animal that lives in the rain forests of Central and South America. It hangs from trees upside down and eats leaves and fruits.
A long body part that continues off of the back of an animal
An animal living in Central and South America that eats ants
An animal living in Asia that sleeps in the morning and is awake at night
tree frog
A small, usually loud, frog that lives in trees
Movable limbs like arms, often covered with feathers, that some animals use to fly

Let us know what you think! Mail to webmaster

Back to Lessons by Age & Subject
Back to Reach Out! Home