Plant Dance

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This lesson will help students develop a stronger sense of place and connection to the natural world by allowing them to take on the perspective of a plant while creating a movement piece.


Students will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of their plant
  • List 2 ethno botanical uses for their plant
  • Create a short movement-based representation of their plant, how it grows, or its relationship in the ecosystem or to human communities
  • Explain how their movements relate to/represent the plant
  • Name 2 plants represented by their group mates, and describe some characteristics.


  • Notes and sketches about their plant in their journal. Do they have some descriptions for each of the 5 senses? Did they include texture, smell, color, and other characteristics of their plant? Can they list 2 ethno botanical uses for their plant?
  • Their performance. Did they put time into coming up with a movement? Does their movement piece represent their plant appropriately, and can they explain why they chose the movements they did?
  • Participation in debrief discussion. Did they learn something new about their plant through this experience? Can they reference others’ performances and describe other plants?

Age: 4th-6th grade

Venue/s: Any wild zones/trails

Time: 40 min

Materials: E1T1 cards, pencils, journals

Set up: None

The Lesson Plan:


This activity provides students with an opportunity to connect more intimately with an IslandWood plant or tree. To prepare them for the lesson, lead a discussion assessing how comfortable they are using their bodies for expression (have they ever performed in front of a group?).

Explain the role of this activity in the lesson or the week: “Now we are going to explore an IslandWood plant from an artistic perspective.”



Learn about their plant (20 minutes)

  • Give students time to learn about their plant. They can either choose it themselves, or it can be assigned from the instructor. If you have already done Each One Teach One, this can be a great chance to continue learning about and working with that plant.
  • Have students sit with their plant in a Wild Zone or off the edge of a trail. In their journals, have them record what they notice about the plant using their 5 senses: how does it look, what does it smell like, what do they hear, how do they think it would taste, how does it feel? They can even divide their journal pages into 5 squares to record each sense in. Encourage them to use description words as they consider these questions:
    • “What are the characteristics of this plant?”
    •  “How would you describe it to a friend?”
    • “Think about how you describe people. Could you say that the hemlock tree looks sad, or the salmonberry bush looks excited?” (You can even introduce personification…)
  • Encourage students to draw their plant and make some notes about where and how it is growing. What visual and other characteristics do they notice? Are the leaves pointy or smooth? Do the branches curve up on the ends? Does this plant seem happy or sad? Is it big or small in comparison to the other plants in the area? Remind them to consider color, texture, size, smell, durability and think about the different parts of the plant, too. Allow them to use colored pencils to add to their notes and sketches.
  • If students have already done Each One Teach One with this plant, have them write down what they remember about the ethno botanical uses. If they have not done E1T1, provide them with the E1T1 card or a field guide, or simply tell them a few highlights. Have them tap into other resources from the week, too (did they hear any stories they can reference?).

Express their plant through movement (10 minutes)

  • “Create a dance, stretch or short skit that represents your plant.” Encourage students to consult their notes and sketches. How would a cedar tree move? How does salal grow? How can they represent the ethno botanical uses for evergreen huckleberries? How can they use their bodies to show the shape of the Douglas fir tree?
  • Make sure to demonstrate an example for the group. Show them how to use their whole body and think creativity and abstractly (depending on the age, students’ performances may be highly literal). Let the students know that they will be performing for each other.
  • Students can either work on their own or with partners or small groups. Make sure to check in with each student or group to help them if they are struggling.
  • When students are ready to share, create a performance space and remind everyone what it means to be respectful audience members. Decide if you want students to announce their plant before their performance, or if you want the audience to guess what they were representing.
  • **Alternative: if you team seems shy about performing, or struggles focusing, they can each create a movement that can be strung together into a team, ecosystem/nature dance. This is also a great option if you don’t have as much time, or if you want to encourage collaboration. Make sure to still give them time to develop their movement on their own before coming together to share.

Debrief (5-10 minutes)

  • “What did you learn about your plant from making your performance?”
  • “What did you learn about the other plants from watching your peers’ performances?”
    • *Prompt them by referencing performances and asking them why they think the big leaf maple reached it’s hands/leaves out, or why the douglas fir moved so slowly.
  • “How did you enjoy performing in front of people?”
  • “Do you think this will help you remember your plant?”
    • *Talk about how having action along with learning helps solidify knowledge


Possible Extensions

Additional Resources:

  • E1T1 Plants
  • Species Account
  • Prep room books: The Tree by Dana Lyons and The Shaman's Apprentice: A tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynn Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin

Written by: Jenna Catsos, IW EEC Class of 2014