Explore the lessons trees can teach us about turning towards Jesus’ light, planting ‘roots’ in the Bible, and our call to Christian community in this hands-on Nature Bible Study for kids.
1. Lessons from Trees: Face the Light
Have you ever noticed how trees and other plants bend toward light? It’s a process called phototropism. As trees grow, they need sunlight to be able to make food and energy in photosynthesis. This is very important for our little seedlings to germinate and grow into saplings, but even big mature trees will bend in the direction of the strongest light. How does it work? A growth hormone called auxin collects on the darkest side of the stem. It tells all those plant cells on the side away from the sun to grow faster and become longer. The result is a plant that can weave through a canopy maze to reach out to those energizing sun rays.
Bible Connection: John 8:12-20
In our memory verse, Jesus says “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12 NRSV) Our trees grow towards the light. They need the energy and strength only the sun can provide.
As God’s children, we also need to seek His light! When our Bible talks about ‘the darkness of the world’, it’s talking about the people who don’t know God. John shows us that Jesus’ life is our light shining in the darkness, and nothing can put it out. When we follow Jesus, his light leads us, so we don’t get lost in the dark. It nourishes us, comforts us, and guides us along our path.
And God wants us to be a light too! In Matthew, Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) When we accept Jesus, his light starts to shine through us in our actions and words. We can help people journey out of darkness and find God’s saving love.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NRSV)
- What’s the darkest place you’ve been? How did you feel? (worried, scared, alone?)
- What is the brightest place you’ve been? How did you feel? (confident, strong?)
- Why do you think Jesus says “I am the light of the world”?
- How can we be like a tree and follow his light?
- How can we be a light like Jesus for other people?
- See how plants can grow and weave through an obstacle course towards the light in this “A Maze for Plants” phototropism experiment from the New Jersey Agricultural Society (you’ll find it towards the bottom of their page)
- Discover “How do plants ‘see’ light” with this experiment from Untamed Science.
2. Lessons from Trees: Stay ‘Rooted’
A tree’s roots has two important purposes. First, roots ground the tree so it can stand firm and strong with its leaves reaching out towards the sun for photosynthesis. Second, they collect and transfer the water and minerals the tree needs to convert into food.
Fun fact, most of the tree’s roots are found in the top 6-24 inches of soil and spread out over an area two to four times the diameter of the tree crown. A tree’s root system is made of large perennial roots and smaller, feeder roots. The larger woody perennial roots help anchor and support the tree. They transport the water, minerals, and oxygen absorbed from the smaller feeder roots that grow outward and upward from these larger roots. In the winter, food is stored in the root system to help sustain the tree until Spring.
Bible Connection: Psalm 1
In the first Psalm, we learn that a person who follows God is like a tree “planted by streams of water” who “meditates” on God’s law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2-3 NRSV) This tree has lots of fruit and its leaves never wither.
A tree grows by being planted in good soil where it can seek out all those minerals and water it needs for food. The first thing we learn in our Psalm is that a righteous person meditates on God’s law all the time! A righteous person is someone who chooses the ‘right’ path and believes in Jesus. A person who meditates focuses all their attention and heart on something.
God wants us to plant strong ‘roots’ in His bible (the ‘law’). The bible is more than just an ordinary book. God gave us the bible to help us understand His love for us. He speaks to us through its different stories and writings, teaching us about Jesus, his plans for us, and how we can get to know him.
Just like our tree seeks out water to grow tall, we grow big and strong in our faith when we ground our ‘roots’ in ‘streams’ of Jesus’ water. Jesus tells us “…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 NRSV) Every living thing needs water. Our trees, flowers, the birds, animals, and us. When we are thirsty or hot, there’s nothing better than a tall class of cold water! God is like this water for our souls. Jesus’ water gives us a new life that we share with him here on earth and in heaven.
“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:3 NRSV)
- What does it mean to ‘meditate’ on God’s law?
- What do you like best about reading the Bible? What’s your favorite Bible character or story?
- How does the Psalmist describe the tree? Where is it planted? What does it do?What does it produce? What are its leaves like? What do you think makes it grow so healthy and strong?
- Why do you think Jesus describes himself as ‘water’?
- How can we be like this tree with roots grounded in Jesus’ streams of living ‘water’?
Seed Church House
Observe how seeds germinate and roots grow in this ‘Seed Church House’ experiment featuring our Psalm 1:3 memory verse.
- 2-3 Bean seeds
- Wet paper towel
- Zip lock bag
- Printing paper
- Crayons or markers
- Free Seed Church House printable
- Print off, color, and cut out the Seed Church House outline in your free printable
- Gently wet a paper towel, fold in half, and place inside your zip lock bag.
- Place 2 or 3 bean seeds between the side of the bag and your wet paper towel insert. Press down and seal your bag.
- Tape your Seed Church House outline onto your bag so you can see your seeds through its central opening.
- Tape your completed Seed Church House to a sunny window. Make sure the seeds face inside so you can see how our beans grow!
- Seeds will sprout over the next few days.
3. Lessons from Tress: Build Community
It might seem strange to think of trees ‘talking‘ to each other, but in a way, that’s exactly what they do! Trees have lively social networks, helping one another adapt to their environment and grow healthy and strong. Fungi called mycelium travel back and forth, linking the trees together to share information and nutrients. When one tree gets sick, the other trees help it get better by sending it special sugars through its roots. Standing together, a forests helps create its own special climate that shields the individual trees from harsh weather.
Bible Connection: Romans 12:3-8
Just like our tree friends, God calls us to be a community who shares and supports one another.
The bible is all about community. God shows us He is a community of three persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus chose 12 disciples to live and walk with him as his community on earth. And after his ascension, Jesus united all of us into a community of believers in his Church. We make each other stronger. We can teach and learn from other Christians, encourage our friends in their faith, and turn to them when we need help. In Matthew, Jesus says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20 NRSV) Isn’t that incredible? Whenever we gather together, we know for certain that Jesus is right there alongside us too!
“so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” (Romans 12:5 NRSV)
- Why do you think God calls us to be a community?
- What did Jesus mean when he said the church is ‘one body in Christ’?
- God has given each of us different gifts (Romans 12:4-6a) How can you use your gifts to help your Christian friends?
Celebrate all 3 lessons from trees today with this Tree Suncatcher. We chose a circle to symbolize our community and unity with other Christians; strong roots keep us grounded in Jesus; and stunning light patterns remind us to always ‘face the light’! Enjoy!
- Different colored leaves or flower petals
- Clear contact paper
- Printing paper
- Free Tree Suncatcher printable template
- Head outside and collect colored leaves (fall) or green leaves and flower petals (summer). For the best results, press your nature finds between two paper towels and leave under a big stack of books overnight to dry.
- Print and cut out your Free Tree Suncatcher template.
- Place your cut template onto the sticky side of clear contact paper. Cut along the outer circle. Tip: leave a centimeter of clear contact paper border to help you stick to the window when your project is done.
- Now comes the fun part. Stick on your nature finds and create your own color patterns.
- Turn over and hang up on your window to enjoy!
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Happy nature adventuring!