Learn to plant and maintain strong, healthy trees that will thrive for generations.

What the Old Oak Saw Composition

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Apply their knowledge of California history to a creative writing experience that reinforces the understanding that some oak trees are very old.

Time: 60 minutes


For each student:

  • Writing materials

For the class:

  • Chart paper and markers for timeline


Create a timeline for your city or town that goes back 300 years or so. Brainstorm with the class the important things to include, but be sure to include student birthday years, the year the school was built, the year your town was incorporated, Gold Rush, California statehood and the American Revolution. Talk about who was living in your city or town during each period. Then, tell students that a “heritage oak” would have been alive before all of these events, and draw a small oak tree at the start of your timeline.

Have students write a story or biography about a real or fictional oak in your community. Say it is 300 years old. What has the tree witnessed? Challenge students to write their compositions from the tree’s perspective.

Going deeper:

  • If you can locate a cross-section of a tree trunk, bring it into class and count the number of rings to determine how old the tree was. (Each year a tree makes a light ring during a time of rapid growth and a dark ring when less water is available. Count either the dark or light rings, not both.) Working from the outside in, use small sticky notes to label the years of importance to your class and the larger community. Relate this activity to the timeline.
  • Ask students to create a skit or play based on their “What the Old Oak Saw” compositions.