Signs of Change: Studying Tree Rings

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In this very hands-on lesson, learners will investigate dendrochronology (the study of tree rings to answer ecological questions about the recent past) and come up with conclusions as to what possible climatic conditions might affect tree growth in their region. Learners determine the average age of the trees in their area, investigate any years of poor growth, and draw conclusions about the reasons for the years of poor growth. This detailed lesson plan includes background information, evaluation suggestions, and enrichment ideas. Note: materials cost does not include equipment for acquiring core samples or tree cross sections. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • band saw or chain saw (if using cross sections)
  • increment borer and grooved core holders (if using core samples)
  • sand paper
  • dissecting microscope(s) and/or magnifying glasses
  • dendrochronolog sheets to record tree ring information
  • graph paper
  • pencils


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth's History
      • Geologic Time
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Classification
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
      • Human Impact
    • Evolution
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Colberg, Nancy


  • All rights reserved, Northern Climate ExChange, 2011