Lively Lessons: Bustin’ Tree Myths

This week’s Lively Lesson asks students to evaluate the MythBusters’ methods and process according to essential science practices as they test different home remedies for keeping Christmas trees healthy and green.

Looking for additional project ideas?  Join in a collaborative learning experience that empowers students to compare holidays celebrated around the world and even invent their own.


Lively Lesson Resources: video segments Preserving Christmas Trees (2:46), Prepping the Trees (3:30), Testing the Trees (1:46), Christmas Tree Results (1:31)

Students may have a Christmas tree at home or have seen trees in their community.  How many different ways have they heard of keeping trees fresh?

Pique student interest by showing students the video segment Preserving Christmas Trees.  Ask students if they know of any methods to keep cut trees green, and, if time allows, ask students to survey their families or friends on how they keep their trees fresh, or have students search the internet for articles or recommendations.  Then, have students practice active listening and communication skills in small groups with SOS: Talking Stick as they share and support their ideas for keeping trees green.  Ask a scribe in each group to note all of the different methods of keeping trees fresh and how many times each method is identified.

Ask Questions

Based on student ideas and discussions, ask students to craft a scientific question about keeping trees fresh.  Their results may be similar to “What’s the best way to keep a Christmas tree fresh?” or “Why would (X) help keep a tree fresh?”

Develop a Model

Ask students to draw or otherwise create a model of a cut Christmas tree.  Depending on student levels or abilities, have students label what they think are some of the key factors of tree freshness (green needles, needles staying on tree, smell, etc.), what happens when a tree is cut (water is absorbed by trunk, feeds branches and needles, moisture lost through evaporation, etc.), or why a particular method would keep trees fresh (spraying with hairspray would prevent evaporation, etc.).

Plan an Investigation

How would students test different methods for keeping trees fresh?  Allow students to brainstorm ideas for conducting an investigation.  You may want to help structure student thinking by having students craft a question and identify variables and their controls.

Have students watch the video segment Prepping the Trees, in which MythBusters Grant, Kari, and Tory describe their design for an investigation.  Do students agree with their methods?  What would they change?  What would they keep the same?

Analyze and Interpret Data

Midway through their investigation, the MythBusters provide a check-in in the segment Testing the Trees.  In it, they describe tree freshness as being judged both on needle loss and color of the tree, but they don’t show a means of communicating this information.  Have students design a model for measuring and interpreting observational information (color) and quantitative information (needles lost) that helps show patterns and relationships.

Use Mathematics and Computational Thinking

At the end of the six week test, Grant, Kari, and Tory calculate which tree preservation method worked the best.  Review Christmas Tree Results and have students graph the outcomes of the MythBusters experiment based on their interpretive model above.

Construct Explanations

Have students consider, based on what they know about trees and the methods used by the MythBusters to keep trees fresh, why the most effective methods worked.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Based on what students know from the MythBusters results, have students make a claim about the merit of one of the tested solutions or provide a critique of the MythBusters’ procedure or results, based on the evidence provided.

Obtain, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

How will students spread the word about these busted myths for keeping trees fresh?  Have students create a public service announcement (PSA) debunking some of the false claims, or allow students to create a commercial for the most effective method for keeping trees fresh.  Students can present the information in a number of different formats, including using Discovery Education Board Builder.

Looking for more MythBusters?  Check out the MythBusters Content Collection in Discovery Education Streaming.



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