Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association | MCTA



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The Annual Cycle of the Tree Farmer

Below is the Table of Contents for Lesson Plans from The Annual Cycle of the Tree Farmer package, distributed free of charge by Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association.

The Annual Life Cycle of the Tree Farmer package is available for the cost of shipping only ($5.00). Please write or phone to place your order:

    C. Cranston
    197 Bellus Road / PO Box 77
    Ashfield, MA 01330
    (413) 628-3911

All lessons begin with a question that a tree farmer must answer to run is/her tree farm successfully. The questions are sequenced according to the annual cycle of activity of the tree farmer. Students and teachers must fact find and engage in problem solving activities to find answers to the questions raised. Often more than one method can be employed to find an answer and more than one answer will be acceptable as a solution. Critical thinking activities are part of every lesson. Lessons may be done in their entirety, or by part. Teachers may use parts of different lessons, all lessons, or only lessons applicable to their area of teaching. If all activities are done, the lessons will require a minimum of thirty teaching days. If lessons are extended, the time requirement may be as much as forty-seven days.

Lesson 1 - How many trees can you grow?
Math, Science
Students will help the tree farmer determine how many trees can be grown in the cow pastures.This lesson is appropriate for middle school, high school and college level. Adaptations are suggested for lower grades. Lessons are presented with decimal numbers that must be manipulated, with area equations and with ratios including map scales. The lessons can be adapted to whole number manipulation and less complex mathematical computations. Property maps from aerial photos and
diagrams drawn to scale are included.


  • to develop an understanding of area, the size of an acre, spatial relationships, tree requirements
  • to learn different strategies for determining land area of polygons including irregular polygons

Time: 2-3 days or more

Lesson 2 - Which trees will you grow?
Science 5,6,7,8 Biology, Environment
Students will help the tree farmer decide which trees to grow and where to grow them. They will learn about different soil types, soils maps, soil testing and different tree characteristics and requirements. A soils map of a tree farm is included as well as a chart describing the different soils on the farm and a chart listing characteristics of six different evergreen species. Adaptable to lower grades.


  • to create an awareness of different factors that impact plant growth such as soil characteristics, moisture availability, temperature regimes,  elevation, and insects and diseases
  • to create an understanding that different tree species have different growth requirements
  • to introduce the students to soil mapping, soil characteristics, soil types
  • to introduce the concept of consumer preference as a motivating factor in determining what to grow
  • to promote critical thinking by comparing, analyzing, and synthesizing

Time: 3-5 days

Lesson 3 - Where will you purchase the trees?
Math 6-8, High School, Lower level adaptations given
Students will examine catalog entries and will fill out an order for four different tree species from two different suppliers to help the tree farmer determine from which place to purchase seedlings. Catalog descriptions and order forms are included. Students will fill out an order form, find totals,
shipping and handling charges, and percents.


  • to create an awareness of different pricing strategies,
  • to understand how to fill out an order form,
  • to determine the best economic choice

Time: 2-3 days

Lesson 4 - How much will it cost to plant the trees?
Math Grades 2-8
Students will help the landowner determine how long it will take and what it will cost for three persons to plant 3000 trees on 2.5 acres. Tree planters do not work at a constant rate. Students will determine whether an hourly rate or a rate per tree yields the most income for the planters. Students will graph and compare the number of trees planted by the three tree planters. More advanced students will develop an equation to determine how many trees each will plant, and to calculate each person's earnings. Younger students will be asked to count by 5's and 10's and to create arrays.


  • to learn about patterns and functions, rates, arithmetic sequences, linear and non-linear relationships
  • to learn how to organize data in a chart
  • to learn how to present data by graphing it to calculate earnings
  • to compare different payment options

Time: 3-5 days

Lesson 5 - Bugs, Bugs, Bugs What can the tree farmer do?
Science, Math, English Grades 7-12, college; Modifications for 1-6
Students will help the tree farmer decide what to do about an infestation of spruce spider mites. They will use the Internet to find information. Several sites have been examined and are listed as excellent sources for information. Current research and articles by research entomologists about Integrated Pest Management, Plant Health Care, beneficial insects, and the impact of different chemical controls have been downloaded from the Internet and are available for reproduction. Younger students will study the life cycle of the spruce spider mite and four different beneficial predators and will learn how to check for the presence of all five. All students will do research to find facts, compare and contrast, analyze, evaluate and synthesize information. A letter will be written to the farmer with recommendations for controlling the mite outbreak.


  • to learn to search the Internet for information on a topic
  • to learn about populations that grow exponentially
  • to learn about insect and mite life cycles
  • to learn to differentiate between insect pests and beneficials
  • to learn about Integrated Pest Management and Plant Health Care
  • to learn about the impacts of chemical controls

Time: 7 - 14 days

Lesson 6 - How do you make the trees grow so that they are dense and symmetrical?
Math, Science, English: Elementary -High School
Students will find out for the LeSage family how trees grow and what they must do to produce dense, symmetrical, evergreen trees. They will write a letter to the family explaining what they must do to shape the pine trees in their back yard. Included are a tree terminology sketch and definitions list, photos showing annual growth rings, charts giving height growth for shaped and unshaped trees and height growth to branch growth ratios for shaped and unshaped trees, and information on how to shear and shape. Students will help the tree farmer determine what it will cost and how long it will take to shear and shape the 12 acre Balsam Fir Plantation.



  • to use real data from investigations to count, measure, collate,graph,
    average, compare and analyze information
  • to determine growth rates, find equivalent ratios to use ratios, charts
    and graphs
  • to determine total time to shear and prune all the trees


  • to learn tree terminology,
  • to learn how to age a tree
  • to interpret reasons for variations in tree growth
  • to learn how to prune and shape a tree

Time: 8-10 days

Lesson 7 - What are the benefits of growing evergreen trees?
Math, Economics, Science - All levels
Students are asked to help potential tree farmers understand the economic, the environmental, and the social benefits related to the growing of evergreen trees. Included are an eight year table of projected costs and income, a table of trees marked for sale with price per tree given, a true - false test for assessing student knowledge of benefits, and the Mass. Christmas Tree Growers' web site where students can read responses from real tree farmers about growing trees.


Math and Economics:

  • to learn to read, interpret, and find totals for tables and charts
  • to find profit, to determine cost -benefit ratios
  • to find average per acre cost of growing trees
  • to develop an understanding of wholesale vs. retail science
  • to develop an awareness of environmental benefits of growing trees
  • to raise awareness of recycling options and renewable, sustainable agriculture
  • to understand the many different reasons why people grow trees

Time: 5-7 day


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