Seeing a Tree from Multiple Viewpoints

Seeing a Tree from Multiple Viewpoints

Using different viewpoints, learners contemplate the role of a single tree and develop empathy for the many organisms that connect to the single tree.


4 - 12


Biology, Storytelling, Experiential Learning, Photography

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This is an activity to encourage learners to see and contemplate the role of a single tree from many different viewpoints. It helps learners develop empathy as they consider all the connections to a single tree, and how these different viewpoints influence what they notice.

Guiding Question
Who needs trees and why?

When to Use This Activity
Complete this activity BEFORE learning how to generate questions and concerns from multiple viewpoints that illustrate the complex interconnections involving a single tree.

Learning Objectives
Learners will:

  • Contemplate a tree using different viewpoints
  • Develop empathy for the organisms that connect to a single tree

Teaching Approach

  • Learner centered instruction

Teaching Methods
Encourage Contemplation

Encouraging students to slow down and use all of their senses to interact with phenomenon, to become aware of aspects that might have been overlooked at first glance, and to examine both what is happening around and within them as they attend to the phenomenon.

Skills Summary

  • curiosity
  • wonder
  • empathy
  • communication
  • seek interconnections

What You’ll Need

  • Materials you provide: How I Wonder… Through Different Viewpoints
  • Required technology: N/A
  • Physical space: school yard or park
  • Grouping: small groups of 2-4
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Ease of Use: simple

This activity provides a way for learners to study a tree using different viewpoints.


  1. Introduce a tree to your learners. This could be through a picture or outside under a tree. Have learners look at the tree and everything around the tree for a minute. Then tell them the goal of the activity is to observe the tree through different viewpoints and contemplate the role of the tree through and develop empathy for the different viewpoint. Define the terms if learners need help.

  2. Before interacting with the object further, brainstorm a list of different viewpoints that might interact with the tree. Examples could include a bird flying over the tree, an ant climbing up the tree, a flower under the tree, a tree next to the tree.

  3. If at all possible, walk out to the school yard or a park and assign different trees. You can also use different photos of trees.

  4. Distribute the ‘How I wonder… through different viewpoints’ tool with learners. Have learners select different viewpoints they would like to consider.

  5. Encourage learners to complete the tool adding noticings and wonderings from each viewpoint. Allow learners to express their noticings and wonderings in the way they feel best captures their thinking. This could include words or drawn pictures, or both. To encourage contemplation, have learners identify two or three noticings from each perspective. You can use a sentence stem such as: If I was “a bird” flying over this tree, I would see _______.” The wonderings to develop empathy could be framed around a question such as: How would I feel if this tree was not here?

  6. Have learners discuss their wonders in small groups of 2-4. Have them identify commonalities and trends from their sharing, as well as questions they find most intriguing.

Modifications, Variations, and Extensions

  1. This activity could be done around any object learners can observe from multiple viewpoints. It could be something they hold, something they see outside, or even a photograph (such as the bee photos by Anand Varma on this page that can be looked at from a distance or up close, sideways or upside down, through a mirror or with the use of a magnifying glass.

  2. For young learners, limit the number of viewpoints to two or three.

  3. Challenge learners to consider representing the interconnections of the different viewpoints and what the impact would be of losing the tree from these different viewpoints.

  4. For older students, consider assigning students to broader viewpoints, such as ecological, geological, or cultural. These will generate new ideas that broaden the discussion beyond one tree. A supporting resource for this is Exploring Multiple Perspectives.


Conijn, J., Rietdijk, W., Broekhof, E., Andre, L., & Schinkel, A. (2021). A theoretical framework and questionnaire for wonder-full education. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 54(3), 423-444.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Elizabeth Wolzak, Director, Learning Innovation, Edu Lab, National Geographic
Heather J. Johnson, Associate Professor of Practice of Science Education, Vanderbilt University
Stephanie Hamilton, Education Consultant, Global Inclusive Learning Design Reviewer
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Bayan Atari, National Geographic Society
Graphic Design
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Rights Clearance
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

March 4, 2024

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