Tree’s Like Me Weren’t Meant To Live If…
2-3 class periods
High School Social Studies, Environmental Science
Contemporary America, 1968-present
Common Core Standards Addressed:
Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
Laura Sproul (2004)
“The lumberjacks of yesteryear in Maine and the Great Lake States went into the woods in the fall and did not come out until the logs boomed down the streams in the Spring. During those winter nights in the shanties if the lumberjacks, or shantyboys, had any entertainment, they furnished it themselves.” (Quoted from Folk Music of the United States: Songs of the Michigan Lumberjacks). It was during those times that many songs and ballads were composed (Songs, Preface). “Ye Noble Big Pine Tree” is a unique song in that it does not contain the most common topics found in lumberjack songs, women, drinking, and poor working conditions. Instead it relays a lumberjack’s thought process when he encounters “the forest king.”
The words and music of “A Day in the Life of a Tree” from the album Surf’s Up was written by Brian Wilson and John F. Rieley of the Beach Boys.
What does the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” mean?
What does it mean to be an environmentalist? How has this term changed in the history of the United States?
Songs Used in Lesson:
1. First allow students to look at the photograph by Ansel Adams titled “Oak Tree, Snowstorm” and answer the following questions:
2. Next, the students will read/sing the lyrics to W.N. Allen’s songs, “Ye Noble Big Pine Tree” and answer the following questions:
3. Then the students will take a further look into the life of a “shanty-boy” by looking at photographs and answering questions. Some suggested photographs:
4. After viewing the photographs, ask:
5. Further the discussion by introducing the apparent shift in American values with regard to the environment. In Sociology: A Down-To-Earth Approach, James Henslin states, “values, both held by individuals and those representing a nation or people, can undergo deep shifts.” One example of a value shift or emerging value is concern for the environment. “During most of U.S. history, the environment was seen as a challenge—a wilderness to be settled, forests to be chopped down, rivers and lakes to be fished, and animals to be hunted.” “It is difficult for many of us to grasp the pride with which earlier Americans destroyed trees that took thousands of years to grow.” “Today Americans have developed a genuine and (we can hope) long-term concern for the environment” (Henslin, 56).
6. Next show another photograph by Ansel Adams titled, “Tree, Stump and Mist, Northern Cascades” while listening to the song “A Day in the Life of a Tree.” Have the students answer the following questions:
Each student will select one of the following culminating activities. They are expected to do independent research and properly cite all sources used.
“Woodman, Spare that Tree” by George Pope Morris (1830)
“Woodman, Woodman, Spare that Tree” by Irving Berlin and Vincent Bryan (1911)
Upper Level Grades:
Middle School and Elementary School:
“A Day in the Life of a Tree” available at
“Ye Noble Big Pine” available at
Other Resources Used in Lessons:
Adams, Ansel. “Oak Tree, Snowstorm” and “Tree, Stump and Mist, Northern Cascades” viewable at The Ansel Adams Gallery http://www.anseladams.com/
“Laying low the mighty, redwood forest, Humboldt County, California.”(1915); “Wonderful scenes mid the giant redwood on the line of the Northwestern Pacific R.R.” (1912); “The Father of the forest, Cal., Rerwood [sic] Park.” (1907) all viewable at The American Memory http://memory.loc.gov.
Henslin, James. Sociology: A Down-To-Earth Approach. Prentice Hall, 2002. p 56.
Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1st edition 1971.
Silverstein, Shel. Giving Tree. New York: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 1st edition 1964.
Songs of the Michigan Lumberjacks [Preface of the sound recording]. Ed. E.C. Beck. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress Recording Laboratory, 1965. (Copy located at the University of Pittsburgh Music Library)
“Woodman, Spare that Tree” written by George Pope Morris. Music by Henry Russell. http://www.contemplator.com/america/woodman.html
Other Resources not used in lessons:
Off the Mark- Environmental Cartoons by Mark Parisi.
Additional Photographs in Ansel Adams Gallery http://www.anseladams.com/ (Ansel Adams Calendars are a great cost effective way to collect quality prints.)
Environmentalism in Song.
The American Memory http://memory.loc.gov has scanned the original sheet music of the following songs. Some have illustrated covers.
Short but Informative Books:
Dobson, Andrew. Citizenship and the Environment. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. This book makes a connection between citizenship and the environment. Dobson expresses his belief that high school teachers have the ability to make ecological citizens.
Kline, Benjamin. First Along the River: A Brief History of the U.S. Environmental Movement. San Francisco: Acada Books, 1997. In only 140 pages this books highlights the foundations of the environmental movement in the United States. Major historical figures and events are located in the extensive glossary. This is great for teachers!
Nelson, Gaylord. Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2002. Nelson’s purpose in writing this book is “to pick up where we left off thirty years” after the first Earth day. It highlights the most serious threats to the United States and calls for a renewed sense of purpose and energy in the current environmental movement.
Rothman, Hal K. The Greening of a Nation? Environmentalism in the United States Since 1945. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998. This book traces the last 50 Years of environmental history. It recounts the vigor that characterized the environmental movement until 1974, when the economy began to turn. It claims that there is a contradiction in the proclamations of environmentalists today and their actions.
Helpful Electronic Researching Resources for Students
Environmental History Timeline
Temperate Forest Foundation
Copyright 2011-2012 Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh Library System