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Climate Change, Movement & Play


K, 1st, 2nd


Science, Earth and Space Sciences, English Language Arts, Health


50 minutes

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New Jersey


Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Take It to the Forest

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Dec 1, 2022


This lesson introduces students to the relationship between health and climate change through play and movement. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students complete an exercise warm-up and wonder about the question "Why am I breathing so hard?"

Step 2 - Investigate: Students play a game focusing on exercise, the carbon cycle, and climate change.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students discuss ways in which they can help address climate change, such as planting trees.


  • This lesson can be adapted to all environments and spaces.
  • Students will understand the importance of trees.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers should be familiar with the basics of climate change and the carbon cycle.
  • Teachers should become familiar with the Take It to the Forest Game and set up the game before students arrive to class.
  • Make sure to steer students away from possible misconceptions. Some students may think that:
    • Fewer trees is a good thing so there is more carbon dioxide for humans to breathe.
    • Breathing is bad because humans are creating more carbon dioxide.


  • The game is designed to have independent work happening within a group and whole class setting. As such, modifications for students with needs are inherently built into the game, as each student is performing what they need to be successful.
  • The game can be modified for classrooms and gyms that have limited space by adjusting the exercise activities and reducing the size of the circle pattern the students travel through.
  • Safety issues about spatial awareness and proper exercising techniques should be reviewed before starting the game.
  • Reminders for students to "honor the game" might be necessary.
  • Students with mobility limitations can go at their own pace and work with a partner if needed. Depending on the situation, the partner can assist or take directions from the student.

This lesson allows students to learn about the importance of trees in addressing climate change and improving air quality. Students get to play an interactive game to understand why we should conserve and restore the forests. The lesson has no scientific misconceptions, and all materials are well-sourced. This is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Comprehensive Health & Physical Education
    • Personal and Mental Health
      • 2.1.2.CHSS.4: Describe how climate change affects the health of individuals, plants and animals.
    • Physical Wellness
      • 2.2.2.MSC.1: Perform a combination of sequences of locomotor movements and rhythmic activities (e.g., walking, balancing, hopping, skipping, running).
    • Safety
      • 2.3.2.HCDM.1: Explain the consequences on a person’s health if he or she does not have adequate food and a clean environment.
  • Students enter the gym, open space, or classroom and get directly into a heart and breathing check. They should note that it might be hard to feel their heart or recognize their breathing, but it may be easier in a few minutes.
  • Students do a quick movement activity.
    • They can dance, run laps, do a tabata workout, etc.
    • As the students finish their activity, they place their hand on their chest to feel for their heartbeat. They should also take note of their breathing.
  • Students get into small groups of three to six member to "stretch and guess" as they come up with ideas about why their body made these changes after they exercised in their warm-up.
  • Students wonder about oxygen and its connection to nature, particularly trees.
  • As a full class, students share the answers their group discussed.
  • This will serve as a way of codifying the understanding and the students' ability to inquire.
  • Teacher remarks on the answers the students gave to the questions, providing appropriate clarity and support to the students' inquiry. This is vital in establishing genuine curiosity in the students. The teacher's role here, in this younger grade level, is to authentically provide feedback and excitement to the ideas the students generated about how the cardiorespiratory system works.
  • Teacher plays a respiratory system song and explains that the heart works with the lungs.
  • Teacher explains respiration in a way that is appropriate for K-2 students. For example, it can be as simple as "Now that you see how the cardiorespiratory system works, you understand that living things, including humans, give off carbon dioxide. What is really interesting is that trees use and store carbon dioxide to help them make their food. In that process, the plants release oxygen, which is what animals, including humans, need to survive."
  • Students play the Take It to the Forest Game.
  • Teacher quickly checks for understanding by asking:
    • Why did we run into the forest? What happened to the CO2?
    • In the second round, why did we add more stations? Why was it more challenging to find an available tree?
  • Students cool down from the game. Students "stretch and chat" with a few nearby students about what they learned in the game and what they think they might do to help with the carbon dioxide imbalance.
  • Students discuss the following questions, combining the facts they learned during the game with the facts they learned about the cardiorespiratory system:
    • Do more trees lead to more or less CO2 in the air?
    • Does more CO2 help air quality or make it worse?
    • How do our lungs respond to worse air quality?
    • What is something we can do to help air quality in our community?
    • How does this connect with climate change?
  • The class gathers together to discuss what was shared in the "stretch and chat" sessions.
  • As the class recognizes that planting a tree or trees will be of great help, the teacher can be sure to add that finding a tree partner can be another fantastic way to help.
  • Teacher suggests that every child find a tree that they can have as a partner. They can do their very best to keep the tree healthy and alive. They can make sure that no other children hurt their tree partner by scratching its bark or digging by its roots. The students can think of a potential tree partner near their home or school.
  • If time allows, students can watch this tree education video, which features an excellent summary of trees for K-2 students.
  • Teacher addresses any conversations from the "stretch and chat" sessions that came up regarding breathing and concerns for lung health. This aspect of questioning should remain positive and center on the cardiorespiratory system itself and its connection to trees.
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