Teaching Unit: Forest Succession

A necessary first step in learning about forests is to gain an understanding of shade tolerance and the process of succession from the pioneer to climax stage. This knowledge is essential to making informed judgments about sometimes-conflicting information about forests and woodlands and the management of these lands.

A short PowerPoint presentation helps to explain the difference between trees that grow quickly when young in the presence of full sunlight and warm soils (shade intolerant or pioneer species), those that thrive as young stems on more shaded, cooler sites (shade tolerant species), and those that are the most shade tolerant species within a region that will grow on a particular soil type (climax species). Colorful graphics illustrate the dynamic nature of a forest by showing how pioneer species quickly occupy an opening in the forest, but then give way to more shade-tolerant species as crown closure creates a progressively more shaded environment.

Also included herein is a teaching unit providing ideas of how to present the topic of forest succession to students in the elementary and middle school grade levels. A number of activities are outlined that include role-playing, group discussion, art, and writing.

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