Explore Branching Patterns in Nature


Trees are a common theme in children’s representational drawings. Many children, as well as adults, seem to have a favorite tree or a tree that is significant in their lives. The task of coming to know a tree by recreating it is a way to begin forming a relationship with the natural world and to appreciate the diversity within it. It is easiest to study trees, especially deciduous trees, in the spring just before they go into bloom, or in fall, after they have lost their leaves.


Take a minute to think about how trees are helpful to us and to the environment. (They change carbon dioxide into oxygen, provide shade, give us nuts and fruits, are used for building and heat…) Observing and creating tree branching structures is a way to study and get to know more about trees and about different ways of branching…

Let’s observe the structure of a few well known trees. Trees have characteristic branching patterns which become clear when we observe their silhouettes. We can easily pick out the pine, elm and palm trees below. Following the line structure of a particular tree is a way to observe and to recreate its distinctive way of branching.


Introduce the large line printing tool and discuss strategies for creating branching structures.

Point to one of the tree photos and ask, if you were going to print this tree, how would you do it? Where would you begin? Share the following children’s strategies.


Share & Reflect

As students print the branching structure of a particular tree, they also take on the challenge of how to represent other parts of the tree such as the crown, needles, leaves, cones, flowers, roots, and texture of the bark. They always come up with unusual ways to do this. Be sure to share their solutions.

You might ask, how did _______ create:

  • The drooping structure of the weeping willow?
  • Curving branches?
  • The texture of the pine tree trunk?

Teachers at a summer retreat used the process of line printing to reflect on and create prints of trees in their surroundings.

Variations & Extensions