Getting to Know a Forest Icon


Instructional Level: High School - Biology

Driving Question(s):

  • How are interactions among different organisms important to the environment?
  • How do changes in environmental conditions affect organisms?


MD E-Lit: 4B 4C 4E


The American chestnut (Castanea dentata) offers a compelling story of how forests change and why some management is needed to maintain native forests. Prior to 1900, chestnuts and oaks predominated in over 200 million acres of forest from Maine to Florida and west to the Ohio Valley. Students will be introduced to this American forest icon, its characteristics, role in the Eastern deciduous forest and importance to society.  This activity will engage students through the use of video and web resources.

Overhead image of students planting a tree.
American chestnut tree planting at Washington Middle School in Allegany County, Maryland. Photo: J. Adam Frederick


Students will:

  1. Describe the ecological and societal values of American chestnuts in the United States.

Lesson Materials

Computers or computer workstations

American chestnut graphic organizer


  1. Use the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry videos to help students become familiar with American chestnut history and have students begin to complete the American chestnut graphic organizer
  2. Go to the Encyclopedia of Life website and type "American chestnut" in the SEARCH window and click GO.
  3. Using OVERVIEWDETAIL and MEDIA tabs have students complete the American chestnut graphic organizer.  Specifically, have students focus on the American chestnut's:
    • physical characteristics
    • role in the forest ecosystem
    • importance to society


Accessing information related to American chestnut ecology


SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry,

Encyclopedia of Life,

NGSS Common Core Connections:


Standards: Life Science, Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

Performance Expectations: Evaluate the claims, evidence and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.

Name and NGSS code/citation
Specific Connections to Classroom Activity
Science & Engineering Practices

Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Accessing information related to American chestnut ecology

Crosscutting Concepts

Stability and Change, Cause and Effect: Mechanisms and Explanation

Accessing information related to American chestnut ecology

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS2.C Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience

Accessing information related to American chestnut ecology

Common Core State Standards (CCSS):


Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multi-step problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Environmental Literacy Goals (E-Lit):


Population, Communities and Ecosystems

Population Dynamics: Analyze the growth or decline of populations and identify a variety of factors.


Population, Communities and Ecosystems

Community and Ecosystem Dynamics: Explain how the interrelationships and interdependencies of organisms and population contribute to the dynamics of communities and ecosystems.


Population, Communities and Ecosystems

The Blue Crab: Callinectes Sapidus

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