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Lesson Idea: Leafsnap! A great app to connect kids with the outside.


Looking for lesson ideas to get your kids outside and learning? Give the FREE app Leafsnap a try! Developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Leafsnap is an interactive electronic field guide that will have your students identifying trees in no time.  Easy to use, open the app and snap a leaf from a tree. Based on the  leaf outline, the app makes a suggestion as to what type of tree this could be. Sometimes it provides 2 or 3 suggestions with the most likely listed at top. What I love is it is up to the student to make the final determination. Leafsnap provides incredible pictures of each tree including  “leaves, flowers, fruits, petioles, seeds and bark”. This way students can deduce and make the final decision on the type of tree, thus adding it to their collection. The app also has an interactive map feature, for those who choose to participate, you can drop a pin on the map showing the location and name of where you found a tree. Even if you choose not to have your class participate in this portion they can look at it to see other types of species are around.


Classroom tips/ideas 

Working in pairs works well.

Have the students collect outside various leaves, and then have a “station” or “stations”  set up in your room or library where they can take turns using the app to help identify their tree.  Have white paper available so they can set their leaf on it for the picture.

Have students create a graph of the different species of trees they have found. This would be a great way to introduce spreadsheets, or maybe use the leaves for a bulletin board graph.

Have students keep a journal about their discoveries, noting type of tree, describe location, weather that day, and any other observations.

What species was the most?  The least?  Are there species they though they would find that were not there

Have students bring samples from home.  Create a new graph. Compare and contrast the graph from school to regions around where students live. Any differences in concentration of types of trees? Why or why not.

Connect with a school from another geographic location. Have them document trees where they are, and you do the same. Share results.  This could be a great collaborative project sharing results in Google Sheets, or sending hand made graphs to exchange with the schools along with a written summary of the findings. Imagine the anticipation waiting for the results from a partner school to arrive and compare the trees in their area to yours. 

I am sure you have other thoughts on how you can use this fun and engaging app.


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