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Regional Focus

  • Global

What Happens If We Cut Down All of a City’s Trees?

Author: TED-Ed
Grades: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
Subjects: Science, Social Studies, Biology, History, Geography, Health
Format: YouTube Video
Resource Types:
  • Video, 5 minutes, 25 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Interactive Media
  • Article
  • This TED-Ed animated video describes historical examples of trees benefiting human civilizations and explains why trees are crucial to humans in urban settings. 
  • Students will learn how trees filter water, store excess stormwater, filter pollutants from the air, stabilize soils, absorb and store carbon dioxide, provide shade to buildings and sidewalks, provide mental health benefits, and provide habitat to many species. 
Teaching Tips


  • This easy-to-understand video describes the benefits of trees that students may not be familiar with. It provides real-world examples from human history.
  • Students can test their comprehension of the video with the interactive questions in the Think section and participate in guided discussions in the Discuss section.
  • The Dig Deeper section provides students with an article that contains links for further exploration.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should have some knowledge of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.


  • History classes could use this video to open up a discussion about resource use in ancient civilizations. Students could discuss how different civilizations used ecosystem services.
  • Elementary science classes could make a list of the benefits that trees provide to people, animals, and the ecosystem.
  • Other resources on this topic include this video unit on urban trees, this Ecosia video about the benefits of trees, and this SubjectToClimate game on urban tree planting.
Scientist Notes
The resource underscores the arboreal benefits of trees in urban spaces to mitigate climate change impacts, reduce pollution, and improve air and water quality. The resource is valid and recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
      • 5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
      • HS-LS2-4 Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.
      • HS-LS2-5 Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
      • HS-LS2-7 Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: History
      • D2.His.1.6-8 Analyze connections among events and developments in broader historical contexts.
      • D2.His.15.6-8 Evaluate the relative influence of various causes of events and developments in the past.
    • Dimension 3: Developing Claims and Using Evidence
      • D3.4.3-5 Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions.


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