About Natural Inquirer

For Educators

 Countdown to Moon Trees

Learning Module

In this module, we will explore trees and what they need, and we will learn how tree seeds have gone to space. Below you will find articles, videos, and activities on all things related to Moon Trees. The module contains the following units: Introduction to Moon Trees, What Trees Need, Measuring and Observing Trees, Tree and Forest Ecology, Tree Benefits, Citizen Science Projects, and Careers.

This module is designed to be used throughout the school year (or compressed over a few weeks) to continually engage your students in learning about trees. Any number of units can be explored as part of the module, in any order. Each unit contains a core activity, and some also list extension activities to expand learning on the topic. In addition, activities in each unit can be split up over multiple sessions or class periods. 

Follow the links below for activities and more within each section.

Find out more about the Artemis I Moon Trees.

Introduction to Moon Trees: History and Current Day Connections

Learning Objectives:  Students can describe the history of Moon Trees and identify the tree closest to them. Students will connect previous Moon Tree history to the Artemis I Moon Trees. 

Core Activity: (2.5-3 hours, can be taught over multiple classes/sessions):

Extension Activity:

  • Watch this video about the History of Moon Trees
    • Summary: This video is 5-minutes and discusses the history of the Apollo Moon Trees. It is a part of Moon Trees LIVE. 


Next Generation Science Standards addressed in this activity:

2-LS4-1: Make observation of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. 

3-LS4-3: Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Tree Biology: Understanding Moon Tree Needs

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to explain basic tree anatomy and tree processes and demonstrate an understanding of essential needs, parts, functions, and processes trees have individually as well as in the broader environment. Students can apply their learning to select potential planting locations that meet Moon Tree's needs. 

Core Activity: (45-60 minutes):

  • Watch this video about tree biology: 
    • Summary: This video is 2 minutes and discusses how trees create food for themselves, tree anatomy, and vital processes.

  • Learn about how resources impact tree growth with this PLT activity.
    • Summary: Students model how trees compete for essential needs and how varying amounts of resources can affect tree growth.
    • Materials needed: 8" x 10" (20 cm x 25 cm) pieces of paper or white paper plates; 4-6 different colors of poker chips, or construction paper; large sheet of paper or other means for recording group results


Next Generation Science Standards addressed in this activity:

K-LS1-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. 

5-LS1-1: Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

4-LS1-1: Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

MS-LS2-1: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem. 


Extension Activities:

  • Watch this video about photosynthesis: 
    • Summary: This video is 1-minute and discusses the role photosynthesis plays in the atmosphere and how trees take in carbon and release oxygen.


  • Read the Natural Inquirer monograph FACELook: Exploring the relationship between carbon, photosynthesis, and the roots of trees.
    • Complete the FACTivity from page 15.
    • Summary: Students work outside taking measurements and making observations from 2 trees. Inside the classroom, students compare, discuss, and explain the differences they observe and their causes.
    • Materials needed: cloth tape measure, ruler, paper and pencils, copies of forms from page 24.
  • Read the Natural Inquirer monograph about urban trees and the carbon cycle: Balancing Act
    • Complete the lesson plan from page 12.
    • Summary: Students read and discuss sections of the monograph. Sticky notes will be used to help visualize similarities and differences from the information gathered.
    • Materials needed: 1 piece of plain white 8.5 x 11' paper for each student; 1 piece of plain paper for each group of 4 students; 3 x 5" sticky notes, enough for at least 7 per student.
  • Explore more about photosynthesis with these PLT activities 
    • Summary: This web page offers additional explanations, hands-on activities, and experiments to help students better understand photosynthesis. 

Tree Measurements/Observations: Measuring and Monitoring Moon Trees

Learning objectives: Students can describe a tree using observations. Students develop an understanding of tree measurements and can measure trees in a systematic, consistent way, organizing the data they collect. Students use their observations and measurements to analyze tree health and growth and are prepared to measure and monitor a Moon Tree.

Core Activities: (two 50-minute sessions):

  • Assess the health of trees in your schoolyard (or in your community) through this PLT activity.
    • Summary: Students use a worksheet to help them identify unhealthy trees and potential causes.
    • Materials needed: Worksheet copies
  • Learn how to take data measurements of trees with this PLT activity.
    • Summary: Students learn how to measure a tree's circumference and height using basic materials. 
  • Watch this video about measuring trees: 
    • Summary: This is a 2-minute video showing how to measure tree height, circumference, and crown spread.

  • Materials needed: Metric ruler (or yardstick) and a large ball of string or measuring tape, a large sheet of paper and marking pens, or another way to record group measurements.


Next Generation Science Standards addressed in this activity:

3-LS3-2: Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.


Extension Activities:

  • Adopt a Tree.      
    • Start a Tree Journal (may be completed over many class periods throughout the year).
    • Summary: Students choose a tree, regularly observe it, and maintain an observations journal.
    • Engage in these STEM Strategies to learn more about your adopted tree.
  • Learn about leaf color change in the Natural Inquirer article Are You Red-dy to Change.
    • Complete FACTivity from page 15.
    • Summary: Students imagine what sugar maple trees in the northeastern United States might look like at four different times during the fall. There will be a discussion about what causes the leaves to change color. 
    • Materials needed: Four sheets of plain white paper and crayons or colored pencils.
  • Engage in STEM connections for tree measurements.

Forest Ecosystems and Wildlife: Moon Trees and the Larger Ecosystem

Learning Objectives: Students can explain and identify forest ecosystem energy cycles, nutrient flows, the interdependence between organisms, and ecosystem services. Students can connect how Moon Trees play a role in the larger ecosystem.

Core Activities: (three 50-minute sessions): 

  • Watch the following video about forest ecosystems: 
    • Summary: This 2-minute video explains the basic definition and functions of a forest ecosystem.

  • If time permits watch the following video: 
    • Summary: This 24-minute video shows two kid-adventurers exploring and learning about their local forest ecosystem.

  • Complete Project Learning Tree's Web of Life Activity.
    • Summary: Students learn about photosynthesis, energy flow, and nutrient cycling by modeling a food web.
    • Materials needed: Paper, string, or safety pins for name tags; 200 feet of string or yarn.
  • Read about Ecosystem Services on pages 6-9 of the Natural Inquirer Ecosystem Services Edition.
    • Complete the FACTivity from page 39.
    • Summary: Students explore their schoolyards at different scales. The question students answer is: What are the similarities and differences of the schoolyard ecosystem at different scales?
    • Materials needed: Yarn/string, scissors, clipboard, paper. 


Next Generation Science Standards addressed in this activity:

5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

MS-LS1-6: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms. 

MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

MS-LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solution for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.


Extension Activities:

  • Read Don't Litter the Stream and learn about how invasive species affect food webs.
    • Complete the FACTivity from page 81.
    • Summary: Students utilize data and calculate averages to understand how invasive species are changing the food web. 
    • Materials needed: The food web circles on pages 83-84 (copied on card stock if possible), sheet of plain paper for calculations, pencil, string or yarn, tape or glue, scissors. 
  • Watch the following video about wildlife habitats:
    • Summary: This 7-minute discusses key components, functions, and types of habitats.


Tree Benefits: Moon Tree Environmental Impacts

Students can identify and calculate the many benefits trees provide society (wood products, clean water, recreation, etc.) using i-Tree Design. Students can explain the importance of sustainable forestry and forest products. Students are prepared to calculate the benefits provided by Moon Trees.

Core Activity: (one 50-minute session; one activity will take a few minutes each day for a month):

  • Watch this video from PBS about forest resources and sustainable forestry.
    • This 4-minute video explores a variety of forest resources and how sustainable forestry is an important practice to maintain a healthy forest.
  • Read Flow Down, an article about how managing forests helps maintain water supplies.
    • Complete the FACTivity from page 39.
    • Summary: Students make rain gauges, measure precipitation over a 1-month period, record data, and discuss results as a class.
    • Materials needed: Five 2-liter bottles, scissors, duct tape, ruler, permanent marker, stones/pebbles, water, and paper.


Next Generation Science Standards addressed in this activity:

5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment. 

MS-LS2-5: Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. 


Extension Activities: 

  • Learn how to calculate benefits from trees by completing activities 1 & 2 from Teaching with I-Tree (Note: You will need to login to download the activities at no cost.)
  • Read Speak-o-logical and learn about the ecological value of wilderness:
    • Complete the FACTivity from page 64.
    • Summary: Students write stories about going home from the viewpoint of an animal who makes his or her home in the forest. At the end of the activity, students will discuss whether using the distance from roads is a good measure of naturalness.

Globe Tree Observer: Becoming Moon Tree Citizen Scientists

Learning Objectives: Students will utilize their knowledge of tree biology, ecosystems, and measurements/observations to become Moon Tree citizen scientists. Students can describe the important role of citizen scientists and are able to share and analyze tree measurement data. Students are prepared to report Moon Tree data.

Core Activities: (One to two 50-minute sessions):

  • Watch this introduction to GLOBE Tree Observer: 
    • Summary: This 1-minute video shows how citizen scientists can use the Trees tool in the Globe Observer app to measure tree height and circumference.


  • Watch this video about How to Take a Trees Observation using the Globe Observer App: 
    • Summary: In this 8-minute video, Globe Observer Tree science lead Brain Campbell demonstrates how to use the Globe Observer App to take a tree height measurement.

  • Complete the Globe Tree Height Comparison Activity
    • Summary: Students compare tree height measurements using a hand-held paper clinometer versus the Globe Observer: Trees Tool for citizen science and explain any difference between the two measurement methods.
    • Materials: string, tape, paper drinking straw, paperclip, clipboard, smart device with NASA Globe Observer app installed.


Explore Forest and Plant Scientist careers with your students through the Forest & Plant Scientist Cards. There are over 70 related scientists cards, and each one features a Forest Service scientist and their research. All of these cards can be ordered, downloaded, and even printed as posters! 

Susan Best, Plant Pathologist

Susan Best, Plant Pathologist
Click here to download the front of this card.

Susan Best, Plant Pathologist

Click here to download the back of this card.
  • M.S., Iowa State University
  • USDA Forest Service Scientist
  • A plant pathologist specializes in plant health.  Keeping plants  healthy requires an understanding of the organisms that cause disease, as well as an undertanding of how plants grow and are affected by disease.

Dr. Qinfeng Guo, Research Ecologist

Click here to download the front of this card.

Click here to download the back of this card.
  • Ph.D., University of New Mexico
  • USDA Forest Service Scientist
  • A plant ecologist studies plants and how they function on the landscape.


Kerry Dooley, Forester

Kerry Dooley, Forester
Click here to download the front of this card.

Kerry Dooley, Forester

Click here to download the back of this card.
  • M.F.S., Yale University
  • USDA Forest Service Scientist
  • A forester examines the growth, function, health and management of trees.