Friendship is a sheltering tree.

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Friendship is a sheltering tree.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Autumn is on its way – a perfect time for looking at trees at the height of their beauty.  I love trees.  They are grounding and central to life itself.  There are so many shades of colour in autumn and endless art activities that can be undertaken in the classroom.  Some of my favourite stories have trees at their heart – ‘The Giving Tree’, ‘The Minpins’, ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’.

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A classic is the story of ‘The Giving Tree’ a heart-warming story that follows the life of a boy and a tree.  In spite of receiving nothing in return the simple act of giving to the one that he loves makes the tree happy. It is great to read at Autumn time, particularly if you are celebrating ‘Thanks Giving’  as it leads you beautifully into the discussion of how we can be more giving.

Here is a link to a beautiful retelling of the story on YouTube –

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I saw some lovely ideas for Giving trees or just trees in general on Pinterest.

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http://www.uniqueteachingresources.com/Giving-Tree-Lesson-Plans.html

There are more ideas on the website above, including the fact that the teacher in the first photo takes all the leaves of the tree as they enter winter and sprays the branches with fake snow! A display for all seasons!

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Trees are fantastic for evoking mysterious, magical and moody atmospheres.  Use them at the centre of a mind-map for groups of children to collect words and phrases that describe the picture and create a mood.  Those words can be saved for story writing and stuck on working walls.

Trees are fabulous for inspiring poetry.  The words collected above can be used in poems too.

Tree, gather up my thoughts
like the clouds in your branches.
Draw up my soul
like the waters in your root.

In the arteries of your trunk
bring me together.
Through your leaves
breathe out the sky.

by J. Daniel Beaudry

I have always felt the living presence
of trees

the forest that calls to me as deeply
as I breathe,

as though the woods were marrow of my bone
as though

I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching
arc of the larger canopy

beside a brook bubbling to foam
like the one

deep in these woods,
that calls

that whispers home

by Michael S. Glaser

There are hundreds of myths and legends about trees.  The Celts used the image of ‘The Tree of Life’ in their carefully constructed knot work and folk tales talk of The Green Man, the spirit of the woods and forest.

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I found a super website that contains hundreds of trees myths and legends from around the world, poems and teaching types for science.  I would love to learn some of the tree stories from the site and the retell them orally in the true spirit of storytelling.

http://spiritoftrees.org/

It also reminds me again of a film I discussed previously ‘Avatar’.  The Na’vi talk about ‘The Tree of Souls’ which links them all together and holds memories for them. Still images from the film are simply beautiful and lend themselves beautifully to fantasy story writing.

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Woods can be terrifying places, think Blair Witch or the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter.  I always use woods or forest as a chapter in a quest story based on the idea of The Hobbit.  Short clips from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit films forest scenes are great for stimulating ideas and engaging children…obviously don’t use clips from the Blair Witch!!

Woods can also be whimsical and magical places too.  Think of the Magical Faraway tree…fairies, pixies, elves…fairy rings and toadstools.  It is where Hansel and Gretel got lost and where witches live in tumbled down cottages…

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Alone with myself

The trees bend

to caress me

The shade hugs

my heart

by Candy Polgar

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