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The Fallen Log (Adapted
lesson of Project Learning Tree): students will gain an understanding of
how decomposition takes place while closely observing microhabitats and the
organisms that create a community in these places.
parents and students: Throughout their lives,
trees collect nutrients from the environment and use those nutrients to grow.
Decomposers, such as bark beetles, fungi or bacteria, will move into trees and
start the decomposition process before the tree dies, often speeding up the
death of the tree.
What can you find on a
1. Begin by asking students why forests aren’t
piled high with fallen trees, leaves and branches. What happens to a tree after
it dies? Tell students they will be examining dead logs to answer that
question. Some additional questions to answer might be:
In addition to answering these (encourage
students to come up with their own questions) students will be keeping track of
each different kind of plant and animal they see, and where on the log they
2. Explain that students should examine their log,
trying their best not to disturb the living things on it as much as possible.
Encourage them to look for evidence of animal activity, such as piles of
sawdust, holes, tracks, webs, patterns in the wood under the bark. They can get
a closer look at creatures by putting them in containers (and then return them
to the spot they collected them). If they cannot identify the creature,
encourage them to sketch it to identify later. Make sure they note any plants
or animals they find!
3. When they are finished examining the log,
have them examine areas around the log (under leaf litter, at the base of a
tree, under rocks). They should note animals and plants that they found on
their logs that also live in the surrounding areas.
4. Back inside, students can identify what they
could not identify in the field. Here is a great resource for insect
5. Have students revisit the questions from step
1. Additional questions to consider might be
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