In a Nutshell

NUT_COVER2 It’s harvest time, and the  squirrels, acorn woodpeckers, and jays are harvesting the acorns in my yard.

An acorn is technically a fruit because it houses a seed, but due to its hard outer shell it’s classified as a nut. Only one type of tree produces acorns—oak trees (Quercus genus).

The following lesson begins in the fall and is completed in March, which reinforces the role of the seasons in a plant’s life cycle.

LESSON PLAN: In a Nutshell
In a Nutshell follows the life cycle of an oak beginning with an acorn dropping from a great oak. As it grows, animals nibble at it, a fire threatens it, but overcoming many challenges it eventually towers high in the forest, observing the changing human scene below. Eventually its energy passes into many other life forms–even the a little boy.

Suggested Grade Level: K-3


  • the book, In a Nutshell
  • a copy of the pdf Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns created by Ag in the Classroom. You’ll be using the science/math lesson described on pages 3-4, but there are additional lessons related to art, language arts, and social studies.
  • acorns
  • quart milk cartons
  • heavy plastic bags
  • container of water
  • container of sand
  • peat moss-based planting medium
  • fertilizer or compost


  1. Read aloud In a Nutshell. When finished have students recall the stages the growth of the oak tree, beginning with the sprouting acorn. Refer to the illustrations to prompt students’ responses. Help to instill an appreciation for the oak tree by discussing the challenges that it faced and the ways it survived. Ask, “What finally happened to the oak tree? Did it really die or did it live on in other forms?”
  2. Turn to the illustration of  the acorn sprout and explain the process of a seed sprouting. Tell students that they’re going to sprout and grow acorns, which will be planted on the school grounds (or other suitable place).
  3. Follow the directions under “Science/Math” on page 3 of the pdf Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns.

Common Core Standards (ELA K-3)

  • ELA Reading and Literature: Key Ideas and Details (K.1, K.2, K.3; 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3); Integration and Knowledge of Ideas (K.7, 1.7, 2.7, 3.7)

Next Generation Science Standards (DCI K-3)

  • LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
  • LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits


subscribe     Blog by Carol Malnor I love making connections: kids and nature, science and reading, fun and learning. I discovered the joy of connecting Dawn Publications' books with kids when I was a classroom teacher. Dawn's books were easy to incorporate into my lessons and the kids loved them. I used picture books with students of all ages, from primary school all the way up through 9th grade. Over the years, my relationship with Dawn changed and developed, and I authored Dawn’s Teacher’s Guides as well as writing books for children 4-14 years old. ARTICLE How to Use Creative Nonfiction Picture Books in Support of Common Core and Science ACTIVITIES Dawn Publications STANDARDS Common Core State Standards Next Generation Science Standards National Science Teachers Association Picture Perfect Science   OTHER FAVORITES Dawn Publications Children and Nature Network
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