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"Giving Tree" Book Activity

by Debbie McCarson

"The Giving Tree" is a children’s picture book by Shel Silverstein first published in 1964. It is the story of a relationship between an apple tree and a boy. Throughout the boy’s life into adulthood, the tree willingly and sacrificially provides resources for him, regardless of his ability to reciprocate. The book retains the reputation as one of the best books for children and continues to offer inspiration for classroom projects across the curriculum.

Science

Brainstorm with your students to list all the benefits a tree provides. Ideas could include cleaning the air by absorbing pollutants. Trees provide oxygen. They conserve energy by cooling temperatures in our homes. They prevent soil erosion. They protect us from sun’s harmful rays. Trees provide fruit and firewood. They provide beautiful and healing environments. Have each student select one benefit and design a poster illustrating it. Hang posters for Earth Day or Arbor Day.

Math

At one point in the story, the boy confides in the tree that he needs money. The tree suggests he pick her apples and sell them. This provides a springboard for math lessons. Buy a bushel of apples, or ask each student to bring an apple to class. Younger students can use the apples as math manipulatives for problems that require sorting, adding and subtracting. Older students can work on multiplication problems involving currency. Explain that apples are sold per pound. Weigh each child’s apple and have them determine the price of their apple by multiplying the weight by the current price per pound. Add more apples to the scale to formulate additional problems.

Community Service

Review the resources the tree provides for the boy and discuss what kinds of resources your students have available to them. How can these resources be used to give something to others? Can they sing? Perhaps they could perform for residents in a nursing home. Can they bake? They could make cookies for someone who is sick. Artists can make cards to give to people in the hospital. Writers could write letters to soldiers who are deployed overseas. Plan field trips to perform these acts of community service.

Art

Students can use apples to create artwork with apple stamps. They can make wrapping paper, prints for framing, or decorative canvas bags. To make a stamp, cut an apple in half or quarters to create a smooth, flat surface. Paint an even layer of paint over the cut area. Pat dry with paper towels. Stamp the paper or canvas with the apple. Keep in mind that the stamped image will get lighter with each impression, so you may need to reapply paint if you do not want this effect.

About the Author

Debbie McCarson is a former English teacher and school business administrator. Her articles have appeared in "School Librarians’ Journal" and "The Encyclopedia of New Jersey." A South Jersey native, she is a regular contributor to "South Jersey MOM" magazine.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images