Plant Your Own Survivor Tree

Lesson Type(s) Grade(s) Description

Social-Emotional, Social Studies, Service

K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th

Learn about the Survivor Tree and plant a tree in honor of 9/11.

Activity Prep Materials Heart Badges


Sapling, dirt. For starter pot: Tall glass, newspaper, stapler

Rescue, Environment, General


EXPLAIN: While cleaning up Ground Zero, rescue workers discovered a tree beneath the rubble. This Callery pear tree suffered from burns and many broken branches and roots. With diligent care from the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the tree recovered and is now known as the Survivor Tree. It symbolizes the enduring fight so many survivors have gone through to overcome the tragedy of the day’s attacks.

WATCH: National Geographic’s video about the Survivor Tree’s journey:

EXPLAIN: Now it’s your turn to share the message of regrowth and survival! Often, people plant trees in honor of great people. To honor the survivors, you can nurture and grow a tree for your own community. Any type of tree will do!


INSTRUCT: Make a Starter Pot

  • Lay three full sheets of newspaper on top of each other.
  • Fold the sheets together into thirds, like you would for a letter in an envelope.
  • Lay the cup its side on the paper strip with some of the paper extending past the cup’s rim.
  • Loosely roll the paper around the cup.
  • Tuck the overhanging paper into the cup.
  • Remove the cup.
  • Insert the base of the cup into the other side of the roll to flatten the folded portion inside.
  • Remove the cup.
  • Staple the top of your paper starter pot to itself so it doesn’t unroll.

INSTRUCT: Grow a Sapling

  • Fill your paper starter pot with dirt.
  • With your finger, make a small hole about an inch deep in the center of dirt.
  • Place a seed inside and refill the hole.
  • Moisten the dirt.
  • Place your pot in sunny spot.
  • Water it regularly.
  • When it’s big enough, transplant your sapling to the ground.
  • Continue to water it regularly.
  • Make a sign to mark the significance of your tree.


DISCUSS: What are other ways we can honor and remember people who have passed or are no longer in our lives?