Forest Succession Lesson Plan

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Forest succession is a process that occurs over hundreds of years. Your students will learn about forest succession as they read a text, create a forest succession display and complete a worksheet.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define forest succession
  • identify the stages of forest succession
  • explain what occurs in each stage of forest succession


  • 1.5 - 2 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • HS-LS2-6

Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.

  • HS-LS2-7

Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.



  • Begin the lesson by telling your students that forests go through a lot of changes before they become the full of trees forests that we enjoy. Ask your students to tell you some of the reasons why forests may go through changes.
  • Pass out the Forest Succession: Definition & Stages text lesson.
  • Start the reading from the beginning and pause after reading the 'What is Forest Succession?' section. Then, ask and discuss the following:
    • What is forest succession?
    • What are some examples of disturbances that can interrupt forest succession?
    • What is the difference between shade tolerance and shade intolerance?
  • Continue the reading the lesson and pause again after the 'Shrub Stage' section. Now, ask and discuss the following:
    • When does the first stage of forest succession occur?
    • What is a pioneer species?
    • Why are pioneer species very shade intolerant?
    • What is the second stage of forest succession?
    • Why do the shade intolerant shrubs die off during the shrub stage?
  • Continue the reading through the end of the 'Climax Stage'. Pause the reading to ask and discuss the following:
    • When does the young stage occur?
    • Why do the second-generation seedlings die off during the second stage?
    • Which types of trees begin to thrive during the mature stage of forest succession?
    • Which types of trees are prevented from growing during the climax stage?
    • Why is their growth prevented?
  • Read the 'Lesson Summary' to your students and answer any questions they have at this point.
  • Give your students the lesson worksheet to complete individually.
  • Go over the lesson worksheet together as a class.

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