Oh Christmas Tree: Lesson Plan

Investigate the abiotic factors that support or limit the growth of plants in an ecosystem. Then learn about scientists who are studying what effect a warming climate will have on North Carolina’s $75 million tree industry, which ranks second in the country in Christmas tree sales.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • NCES.6.L.2.3 — Summarize how the abiotic factors (such as temperature, water, sunlight and soil quality) of biomes (freshwater, marine, forest, grasslands, desert, Tundra) affect the ability of organisms to grow, survive and/or create their own food through photosynthesis.

Learning Outcomes

Students will summarize the abiotic factors that support or limit the growth of fir trees.

Essential Questions

  1. What are the abiotic factors that influence the growth of trees? 
  2. How can these factors be measured? 
  3. How do these factors influence the tree’s ability to grow, survive and create their own food through photosynthesis?

Essential Vocabulary

  • Climate 
  • Elevation
  • Photosynthesis
  • Carbon dioxide 
  • Transpiration 
  • Pressure 
  • Evaporative


Students will go outside and explore the schoolyard habitat. Upon returning inside, have them create a list of the different features of the habitat they observed. Define biotic and abiotic, and explain that there are biotic and abiotic features in these biomes. Have students sort the elements on their lists into categories "abiotic" and "biotic." Allow the groups to share their lists.


Students will work collaboratively to research different abiotic and biotic features that can be found in a biome such as temperature, water, sunlight, soil quality, plants and animals. 

Gather pictures of a variety of biomes including freshwater, marine, forest, grasslands, desert and tundra. Break the students into small groups. Give each group a picture. Have them create a table similar to the one below. Have the students identify the biotic and abiotic factors and use the chart to show how they interact in the biome.

Biome Chart


Students will view the NC Science Now video Oh Christmas Tree. After viewing the video, students should answer the following questions. They can discuss their answers with a partner or in small groups.

  1. What are the abiotic factors at the Christmas tree farm? 
  2. What question are the researchers investigating? What variables are they measuring? 
  3. How is technology helping them to measure the relationship between the trees and abiotic factors and how they affect the ability of these organisms to grow, survive and create their own food?

4.What is the correlation between rate of photosynthesis, sap, and soil moisture?


Students will investigate a plant species in their area to find the abiotic factors that support and/or limit its growth.


Using the information gathered through the lesson and additional research, the students will create a slide show with the recommendations for growing Fraser Firs.

Additional Resources: