Source:Den of Airlie - Expedition pack SNH); Taynish National Nature Reserve - local schools pack (SNH)
- To understand how a tree works by acting out the functions of the working parts of a tree
- To learn about trees through role play and team-work
You will need
- A small area of dry flat ground
Before the activityBecome familiar with the various parts of the tree required for 'The Players'. Decide how you will split your group into the various players. The players list below is for a group of 14, however you can easily add more players to each layer of the tree.
The ActivityTHE PLAYERS
Heartwood (x1) - provides the strength and support of the tree
The Taproot (x1) - anchors the tree in the ground and draws up minerals and water
Lateral roots (x2)
Xylem (pronounced 'Zy-lem) (x2) - tubes which carry water up to the branches and the leaves
Cambium (x2) - the growing part of the tree which makes new wood and leaves
Phloem (pronounced Flow-em) (x2) - tubes which carry food made in the leaves to the rest of the tree
Bark the tough outer layer which protects the new wood
The first player chosen is Heartwood
The Director (group leader!) explains: Your job is to hold the tree strong and tall. All the other parts of the tree above the ground depend on you to hold them up. At one time you carried water and food through the thousands of tiny tubes in your wood, but now they are clogged up with sticky pitch and resin. Now YOU are the strong CORE of the tree.
The next player Taproot is invited forward to kneel down next to Heartwood:
The Director explains: You are the tree's anchor. Sink yourself deep into the ground. - about 10 metres! - through the soil layer to the rock itself. Your job is to hold tightly to the earth keeping the tree standing during storms.
The next players are the Lateral Roots (ideally with long hair!) . They lie down on their backs with their feet up against heart wood.
The Director explains: Most trees have hundreds of lateral roots which grow out from the base of the trunk and help to support the tree. Spreading out from the lateral roots are hundreds of miles of root hairs which suck up the water from the soil.
The lateral roots practice making 'slurping noises'.
The Xylem players come forward and form a circle around Heartwood, facing in, being careful not to step on the Lateral Roots.
The Director explains: Your job is to draw water up from the roots and lift it high into the tree to the branches and the leaves. You have no moving parts but you are part of the best pumping system in the world. You move hundreds of litres of water a day, sometimes at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour!
The Lateral Roots 'slurp' and the Xylem throw their arms in the air, saying 'Wheeeeee....!'
The Cambium and Phloem players alternate in a circle around Xylem (the cambium players closer in than the phloem if there are enough players)
The Director explains: You are the living part of the tree. Every year the cambium grows a new layer on the inside of xylem on the inside of the tree and a new layer of phloem on the outside. The phloem carries the food made in the leaves around the tree, using it to grow, and down to the roots for storage during the winter.
The Lateral Roots 'slurp' the Xylem say '' Wheeeee'' and Cambium and Phloem rustle their leaves (hands) in the air and say 'Whooo!' - a long descending note - and bend their knees and drop to the ground.
The final players, the Bark, circle the rest of the group, facing outwards
The Director explains: Your job is to protect the tree. (Bark players could fold their arms and look 'tough'). The director asks the bark players what kind of things do they protect the tree from?
After some practice to get everyone comfortable in their roles, the final performance begins:
Heartwood stands tall and strong
Roots anchor themselves firmly and 'slurp'
Xylem goes ''wheeeee....!''
Cambium and phloem rustle their leaves and ''whoo....''
Bark defends them all
The director can then adopt the role of a wood wasp, a woodpecker or a chainsaw or some other threat!
Applaud at the end of the performance!
Suggested Follow upDevelop the various roles, adding music and costumes to the performances of the individual parts of the tree. Practice the performance and perform at assembly for the rest of the school.
Ask at a sawmill, or someone who works with timber, for a cross-section of a tree trunk. Bring it into the class to show the layers of the heartwood and the sapwood and the bark. Alternatively look at a freshly cut tree stump in a commercial wood.
Additional InformationThe Forestry Commission has a free A3 poster called 'How a Tree Works'
Curriculum LinksScience - main
Expressive Arts - main
Age Range2. Primary
3. Lower secondary