Using a “Forest of Benefits” Activity

How much does your community benefit from forests? Your students will be environmental scientists and foresters, conducting experiments, mapping their urban forest understanding its benefits, and developing ideas about conservation.

Familiarize yourself with the National Tree Benefits Calculator. Collect materials for the National Tree Benefits Calculator activity: For each group, One tape measurer and one 8-foot (2.44 meter) length of string.

Before class, have students go to Oregon Wood Innovation Center’s Common Products We Get From Trees. Each student should find at least one product on the list that they currently have in their homes. Have them bring in their product and share with the class how it’s made from trees.

Ask students to share the product they identified from home. Depending on student responses, discuss additional things they may not expect- like medicine and toothpaste.

How do forests benefit my community? Explain to students that they will be calculating how much the benefits of each tree are worth to their school and community.

Break students into groups, and assign each group a separate area of the schoolyard or other urban forest. Have them collect data on the area’s trees to use with the National Tree Benefits Calculator and record findings.

Collecting and entering data for the National Tree Benefits Calculator is easy.

  1. Go to
  2. Enter your zip code
  3. Record the tree species. Use a field guide from either of the following sources: Peterson Field Guide Series by Roger Troy Peterson,’s Zip Guides (field identification guides specific to your zip code), Arbor Day Foundation’s What Trees is That? Guide
  4. To find the diameter of the tree, first find the circumference by wrapping a length of string around the trunk, approximately 4.5 feet up from the ground. Mark the string where both pieces meet, and measure the length (the length is the circumference). Calculate the diameter of the tree (diameter= circumference/pie).
  5. Land-use type- choose “small commercial business” from the drop-down window.

Back in the classroom, have students input the collected data into the National Tree Benefits Calculator. Have them calculate and record: therms of energy saved, gallons of storm runoff prevented, amount of carbon collected.

Have groups share findings and calculate the total dollar amount of benefits provided by the trees measured. Discuss how their urban forest benefits their community and school.

Encourage students to use the National Tree Benefits Calculator to complete a survey of the trees around their own home and neighborhood. Remind them to share the results with their families as part of a discussion about why trees are important and ways to protect and increase the benefits trees provide their families.

Have students research the feasibility of planting more trees on school property. Ask them to prepare a presentation for the principal or school board using information from the National Tree Benefits Calculator. They should show how even one more trees could reduce school energy bills, increase property value, and provide a healthier environment. Take the presentations even further and show village, town, or city officials the benefits of more trees in the community.

Engage your students in a career in conservation. Invite a forester, landscaper or city, state, or national forest ranger to speak with your students about the threats to local and global forests- and what students can do to help. Encourage them to come on the day your class is measuring trees, and have them show students how it’s done.

Share the information your students have collected with us! Ask students to write a summary of what they have found, benefits of their urban forest, list ways they have pledged to help protect these benefits and how others can do the same. Send summaries to We will post student summaries on the blog, newsletters, facebook and website.

Content adapted from Finding my Forest Curriculum


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