Unit Overview

Summary Description of Unit

In this unit, students use creative, critical analysis, and scientific  processes to explore and understand the interdependency of trees, humans, and living things in their environment. A variety of drama conventions and dance activities are used to explore poetry, story and natural science concepts of sustainability and stewardship.  The story and struggle of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is introduced to students as an example of how one individual can inspire ecological and sustainable change. This unit begins with the planting of a seed, and ends with the growth of a forest, both literally and through the engagement of critical thought.

Overall Expectations


B1. Creating and Presenting: apply the creative process to dramatic play and process drama, using the elements and conventions of drama to communicate feelings, ideas, and stories

B2. Reflecting, Responding, and Analyzing: apply the critical analysis process to communicate feelings, ideas and understandings in response to dramatic works and experiences

B3. Exploring Forms and Cultural Contexts: demonstrate an understanding of a variety of drama and theatre forms and styles from the past and present, and their social and/or community contexts


A1. Creating and Presenting: apply the creative process to the composition of dance phrases, using the elements of dance to communicate feelings and ideas

A2. Reflecting, Responding, and Analysing: apply the critical analysis process to communicate their feelings, ideas, and understandings in response to a variety of dance pieces and experiences


Oral Communication:

1. listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes

2. use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes

1. read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning
Science and Technology
Understanding Life Systems:

1. assess ways in which plants have an impact on society and the environment, and ways in which human activity has an impact on plants and plant habitats

2. investigate similarities and differences in the characteristics of various plants, and ways in which the characteristics of plants relate to the environment in which they grow

3. demonstrate an understanding that plants grow and change and have distinct characteristics

Big Ideas 

Humans have a direct and significant impact on plants and plant habitats.

Plants and the environment have an impact on humans.
We share responsible for preserving our natural environment for future generations.
Dance and drama exploration is a powerful way to experience our connection to trees.
Dance and drama performance is a powerful way to communicate our connection to trees.

Guiding Questions

What relationships exist between trees, humans and animals?
Who benefits from these relationships? 
In what ways are we interdependent?
What can we do to reduce the imbalance between people and trees?
How can I live more sustainably? 
How can individuals make a difference to the natural environment? 
How did Wangari Maatha as an individual inspire a nation and beyond?

Critical Literacy (CL)

In this unit, students act as seeds, trees, stewards of trees and consumers of materials developed from trees, allowing them to critically examine the complex issue of deforestation from multiple points of view. Students also learn about what options are at their disposal when they are critical of the status quo and desire to affect change.
*Instances of Critical Literacy will be marked by the letters CL throughout the unit.

Read more about Critical Literacy and how it links to dance and drama.


Assessment and Evaluation: How will students demonstrate their learning?

Assessment of Learning

Students are evaluated through a writing in role task, a culminating writing and performance task (Salutation to  the Trees) and a final ensemble drama and dance performance.

The following tools and strategies are used for assessment of learning:

Assessment for/as Learning

A variety of tasks and sub-tasks are included in this unit in order to understand what students have learned and therefore how to assess their progress, based on the curriculum expectations and achievement chart categories.  A demonstration board, with a large representation of a tree with roots, trunk, branches, buds and leaves is posted in the classroom, and student work and reflections are posted here. Students continuously reflect on the learning experiences and their growing body of knowledge accumulates on the classroom "Tree of Knowledge". 

The roots represent something they learned including whether it reminded them of something else. This will encourage them to make connections.

The trunk represents something they did during the lesson.

The branches represent something that they feel they can now teach others about what they learned in the lesson.

The buds/leaves represent something they wish to improve upon or learn about in future lessons.

A wide range of assessment tools will be used throughout this unit in order to monitor student learning and give ongoing, specific feedback to students.  Some assessment tools include:

  • Tree of Learning
  • Tree Journals (e.g., responding to questions or debates in lessons)
  • Anecdotal Observations
  • Teacher feedback
  • Teacher as side coach
  • Peer Feedback
  • Self Reflections and Evaluation
  • Anchor Charts
  • Checklists
  •  Rubrics
  •  Graphic Organizers


Unit Lessons: How will assessment and instruction be organized for learning?

Approx. Duration 1 class= 50
Lesson 1


Students are introduced to the big ideas and guiding questions of the unit. They begin their learning about trees by investigating the conditions that are required in order for a seed to grow. In response to teacher narration, students physicalize and dramatize the journey of a small seed carried by the wind, finding its home and taking root.  Students compose a caring message to a seed, expressing their hopes and wishes for the seed. Students are encouraged to plant a seed as part of this lesson. A representation of a tree is posted to the bulletin board and will serve as a place to document student learning throughout the unit.

1-2 classes
Lesson 2

Parts and Function of the Tree

In this lesson students learn about the different parts and functions of a tree. They  brainstorm and learn about characteristics of each part of a tree, and then represent how this part of the tree moves and behaves physically. Students also investigate how trees adapt to their environment in order to thrive.  Students participate in writing in role, movement and choral reading of poetry. They generate success criteria and reflect on their own work and that of their peers.
2-3  classes
Lesson 3

Trees and Their Relationships

Students explore the concept of fair and unfair relationships and apply their understanding of fairness to the relationships between trees, animals and humans.  Through poetry, students evaluate a tree's relationship with animals and the environment. Students further explore these relationships through choral dramatization, tableau and role. 
1-2 classes 
Lesson 4

Trees and Their Relationships With Humans

Students continue their exploration of trees and their relationships, with a focus on humans. Another poem is introduced, inviting students to evaluate tree and human relationships. The tableaux crossover strategy allows students to experience both sides of the tree-human relationship.  At the end of the lesson, students  have a discussion about voice in text, and with the support of the teacher, learn to  identify missing voices in text constructions.
1 class
Lesson 5

Save the Trees!

Students learn about the importance of trees and the many reasons we depend upon them. Students research and learn about specific trees, and experience a school day with all tree products removed for a day. They also write short announcements to contribute to a campaign to protect trees. The lesson concludes with students reflecting upon their dependence on trees. 

1-2 class
Lesson 6

Tree Charter of Rights

Students discuss what to do with all the tree products that have been removed from the class. They discuss and present alternatives to their present use of tree products, and write a Tree Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the class agrees to. To consolidate the lesson, students create a movement and choral speaking declaration about the trees, e.g., We will use both sides of paper.
1-2 classes
Lesson 7

Wangari Maathai - Sowing Seeds

In this lesson, students are  introduced to Wangari Maathai through storytelling. Students  explore Wangari's story through role on the wall, hot seating and corridor of voices. To consolidate their learning about Wangari and the significance of her work, students write in role and share this in an inner and outer circle.
2 classes
Lesson 8

Wangari Maatha - Cultivating Change

This lesson builds further understanding of Wangari Maathai by exploring her teachings through dance. Students create a chant and participate in movement to illustrate Wangari's teachings. With teacher support, students  then create a four-beat pattern dance and chant to tell the story of the planting process. Students continue to reflect on their learning, adding thoughts and reflections to the Tree of Learning.
2 classes 
Lesson 9

Thank You Trees

In this lesson students are introduced to Aboriginal Teachings about the Tree. They  make connections between their understanding of Wangari and the teachings of the Aboriginal Peoples. As a culmination to their learning journey, students work in small groups to prepare a thank you salutation of movement for the tree.
2 classes
Lesson 10 Extension

Extension: Ensemble Drama: Cultivating Change

Students assemble pieces of their drama and dance explorations, and sequence them into a culminating performance that communicates what they now know, understand and value about trees. Audience members are actively involved in the learning experience, filling out checklists to assess their understanding of trees before and after the performance.
2-3 classes