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Activities and Guides


Planting a tree or many trees is a fun and easy project that you can do with young children to older adults. Trees that you can plant will vary in size from seedlings to large full grown trees. Through the National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife™ program, you will receive seedling trees (generally one to three years old). These trees do not require large equipment to plant, but instead hand-tools that are readily available to most homeowners or from community tool sheds.

The National Wildlife Federation's Tree Planting and Care Guide will provide a step by step instruction guide for determining the right tree, size, and correct planting instructions.

A couple key items for you to think about when you wish to plant:

The National Wildlife Federation specializes in planting native trees that will support the local wildlife and be more adapted to the location you wish to plant in. Although trees are either deciduous or coniferous, the species of trees can vary and some trees may be ornamental (look beautiful but provide little wildlife value).

If you are not familiar with native plants, you can either identify species through your local arborist, native plant society, or National Wildlife Federation partner—Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Tree selection should include:

  • Where you wish to plant (soil condition, sun conditions)
  • How much space the tree will need when fully grown (i.e. 10, 40, 50 years)
  • Availability of resources to care for tree (i.e. water)

Selecting When to Plant

Selecting the right tree to plant and when to plant a tree is important aspect to ensuring the plant survives and thrives. As planting season for trees varies depending on where you live – a general rule of thumb is to plant trees when it is your late fall to early spring. For example for Spring: Virginia’s planting season for trees in the spring starts in Mid-February to first of May, Florida’s planting season is December to early March or North Dakota’s is end of March to early June.

The USDA hardiness zone map is a good resource to get you started. Please use the 2012 Hardiness Zone Map, as it recently changed significantly. Hardiness zone map provides you with region or zone in which a particular plant can survive. Not all trees can be planted in the same area across the country. They are adapted to live in a particular location.

Trees like all living things need to be care for and tended to. Planting trees is the first step in helping to steward trees along their life. For each tree planted, at least one year of tender care must be given.

Caring for trees is a great opportunity to extend the learning process for youth. Whether you are teaching about character development or ecosystem life cycles or health or history—caring for trees is a positive way for youth to take action.

Three-Tier Care Guide—snapshot

  • Water
  • Protect
  • Monitor

Watering a newly planted plant—tree or otherwise—is important. Water is the life force of trees by which it transmits it food and nutrients and helps us by taking carbon dioxide to create oxygen. Trees need to be watered regular, especially if planted late in the season.

Wildlife depend on trees but also can be their downfall in the first few years of life. Protecting trees from wildlife that may “nibble” on the tender trees for food is important part of caring for the trees. Ensure that you add both mulch and tree guards (LINK: around the trees and monitoring to see the guard is still secure.

Monitoring trees for water and wildlife are two of the ways you can help the tree. Watching the tree to see if there are any signs of stress, disease or poor nutrition are other ways. Creating a notebook to write down your observations is a great way to pass the tree care from one youth to another or even year to year. Don’t forget to measure you tree yearly and look for new growth.

Year-Long Calendar of Caring

Learning about trees, what benefits trees provide, and how we use trees in our everyday lives are just a couple of the learning objectives the age-appropriate activity guides provide educators to discuss with their students. Whether you are leading a group of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or 4-Hers or teaching in a classroom or working with your local church youth group – the activities provided in the guides will provide you with a comprehensive toolkit to engage your students.

Activities Guides are available for:

  • Groups (10+ students in a group)
  • Grades: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
  • Mentors (one-on-one, or modify to up to five in a group)
  • Grades: K-4, 5-8, 9-12
  • Individuals/Families

Activities guides are downloadable through the purchase of your tree kit. View sample activities.

For more than 40 years, the National Wildlife Federation has been providing award-winning materials to teachers and educators on wildlife, conservation, and stewardship. Continue your students' education by using these activities and guides, as well as our full collection of educator resources, in your classroom or youth group. We are continually adding to this list of available resources.

Climate Change and Trees, the National Wildlife Federation’s educational webinar series, is another way you can learn about how our programs can assist you in teaching about the environment with your youth at school or in the community.


The activity guides provide a series of lessons for use with a group or in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. The guides are designed to introduce students concepts of:

  • Understand what a tree is, its parts, and its function
  • Introduce why trees are important for their environment (air and water quality, shade and shelter)
  • Discuss what resources come from trees
  • Determine what we can do to improve our environment and make a difference locally and globally
  • Use multiple discipline approach to exploring the concepts (English, Science, Math, Technology, etc.)

Group Activity Guides
(Designed for group settings of 5 to 30 individuals)

Mentor Activity Guides
(Designed for one-on-one; adult and child)

Tree-Planting Guides

Download step-by-step tree planting how-to guides, from identifying a location to caring for the tree after it's planted:

More Activities for Educators

The National Wildlife Federation works to provide activities that parents or groups can do, whether you have 10 minutes or an hour to explore nature and the great outdoors. Help us achieve our three-year goal to have 21 million children spending an hour outdoors each day.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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