Tree Rings & Forest Fire Ecology

Tree-Rings Lesson Plans & Activities

These Tree-Rings and Forest Fire Ecology Lessons and Activities serve as a comprehensive resource for educators looking to design and implement workshops centered on forest fire ecology. It provides a suite of tools and templates, such as a brainstorming worksheet for activity, lesson, or unit creation and a lesson template for finalizing and publishing educational content through the Tree Ring laboratory. The content is organized into differentiated instructional units for middle school, high school, and elementary levels. Middle school lessons cover topics ranging from the introduction to fire ecology and the fire triangle to forest fire progression and tree cookie labs. For high school students, the focus is on forest density and fire progression, while elementary pupils engage with the topic through a reading activity based on the "Charcoal Forest" book. The page also lists multimedia resources like PowerPoints, videos, and photos that support these lessons, enhancing the learning experience across different educational stages.

Some workshop tools that could be handy when designing your own:

Middle school Unit

High School lesson 

Elementary School lesson 

Tree-Rings Summer Lesson Plans & Teaching Videos

The following provides an overview of educational resources and activities related to fire ecology, climate science, and dendrochronology, designed for educators from 4th grade through high school. These resources were developed from Teacher Workshops and field visits to the Valles Caldera research site in New Mexico, and from a summer camp specifically aimed at middle school girls, held over several summers. These initiatives, sponsored by NSF projects like the Jemez FHiRE Project and Monsoon Macrosystem Project, have led to a range of teacher-designed lesson plans and educational videos available for use. Additionally, the page highlights a special program, "CSI: Catastrophe Science Investigators," which focused on middle school girls exploring forest fires and climate through investigative projects, culminating in the creation of video projects. Contact information and additional links to related resources, including a photo gallery and an interactive climate change website, are also provided.

(Sponsored by the following NSF projects: Jemez FHiRE Project & Monsoon Macrosystem Project.)

These lessons and videos are the result of Teacher Workshops, visits to the Valles Caldera reserach site in New Mexico, and a Summer Camp for middle school girls, offered at different times the summers of  2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 and led by participant teachers. Lessons designed covered topics on dendrochronology (Tree-rings), fire ecology, and/or climate. 

  • View Lessons Designed by our teacher participants.
  • View Videos created by our teacher participants.

(Sponsored by the following NSF projects: Jemez FHiRE Project & Monsoon Macrosystem Project.)

This summer camp introduced middles school girls to the investigative process. They were tasked with researching how forest fires occur, why they are so big, and what can be done to address this problem. The girls were asked to create a video elaborating on their learning path.  Check out their Investigative Case File and week-long schedule and featured video projects. 

For more information, please contact Sara Chavarria.

  • Check out this cool interactive website from the National Climate Assessment group to learn more about climate change impacts.
  • Project activities with our educator partners in Jemez Pueblo
    • In April 2013, Walatowa High School students visited the UA to learn more about Dendrochronology and Climate Modeling. Read more.
    • In August 2013, Walatowa High School hosted a Jemez Pueblo community forum and invited our researchers to present about the work taking place in Jemez.

Tree-Rings Summer Enrichment Program

The UA Tree-Ring Lab's Summer Enrichment Program for Secondary Teachers, hosted by the University of Arizona, is an outreach initiative that spans three years with a focus on integrating forest fire science, climate data, and dendrochronology into educational curricula. The program began in the summer of 2012, with lead teachers and coordinator S. Chavarria shadowing scientists in various locations, including Valles Caldera and Arizona mountains, to tailor new scientific insights to classroom needs. This included a week-long institute at Biosphere 2, where they developed and planned to teach a teacher institute the following summer. The subsequent summers of 2013 and 2014 followed a similar structure, featuring the delivery of a week-long Teacher Institute at Biosphere 2 focusing on tree-ring, climate, and human inter-relationships, aimed at a national audience of teachers, including special stipends for teachers from Native American schools. This multi-year program emphasizes continuous development and implementation of lessons learned into secondary education settings.

  • Lead Teachers and S. Chavarria will shadow scientists (Valles Caldera and TBA Arizona mountains) and together work on how to best fit learned content into their existing classroom (May 27-June 1).  
  • Lead Teachers and S. Chavarria will design a lesson/activity for their classroom catering to the subject and student age. 
  • Lead Teachers and S.Chavarria would attend a 1 week Teacher Institute at Biosphere 2 (outside of Tucson) to see what these teacher led institutes look like (July). 
  • Lead Teachers and S. Chavarria would design a teacher Institute for summer 2013 that the teachers would deliver/teach to other teachers (July).
  • Lead Teachers would report to S. Chavarria how the lessons or activities they designed worked in their classroom. (stipend for the reporting effort will be available)
  • The 6 Lead Teachers and S. Chavarria would deliver a 1 week Teacher Institute on Tree-Ring, Climate, and Human inter-relationships at Biosphere 2 (July). The institute would be open to teachers from all over the US with stipend allowances available for up to 10 additional teachers that teach in Native American schools. 
  • Field shadowing in Arizona a possibility for the 6 Lead Teachers .

The 6 Lead Teachers and S. Chavarria would deliver a 1 week Teacher Institute on Tree-Ring, Climate, and Human inter-relationships at Biosphere 2 (July). The institute would be open to teachers from all over the US with stipend allowances available for up to 10 additional teachers that teach in Native American schools.

Tree-Rings Videos

Topic 4th grade Middle School High School
High Severity Fire Fuels Severity Suppression Legacy
Dog Hair Thicket Thicket

Dense Forest

Dog Hair Thicket
Ladder Fuels Ladder   Ladder
Fire Scars Scars   Scars
Wildland Urban Interface Forest Community   WUI
Healthy Forests Healthy   Ponderosa
Forests After Fire   Re-growth  
Adaptation Human Adaptation
  Fire Adaptation
Tree Burl Burls    
Archaeology     Bandelier

Check out our Catastrophe Science Investigators (CSI) middle school girls summer camp videos designed by Tucson area middle school students.