Washington's Cherry Trees: A Gift from Japan

Washington's Cherry Trees: A Gift from Japan
Helen Taft: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two to three class periods


Nellie Taft was instrumental in securing the beautiful flowering cherry trees that encircle the Basin in Washington, D.C.  They were a gift to the United States from Japan.


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with this story and to help them develop an appreciation of the beauty of our nation’s capital.  

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; access to print reference materials; curriculum biography of Nellie Taft; art materials .


1.  Tell students that they are responsible for the publicity for a tour of the Washington Basin during the Cherry Blossom Festival!  Their job is to create a brochure to be used as an advertisement for the tour.  Working in groups, they are to design, illustrate, and write the copy that includes the following information (the teacher may add other requirements): 

  • History of the Basin area
  • Story of how the trees were given to the American people
  • Map of the location of the trees in Washington, D.C.
  • Pictures from either the web or their own art work of the trees in bloom

Extending the Lesson:

The teacher may also choose to divide the brochure creation among several groups and produce only one larger artifact from the entire class.  Also, the teacher may choose to include this lesson with others (search the timeline for “Washington, D.C.” or “nation’s capital”) to create a unit dedicated to the history of Washington, D.C.
Students might also do a social studies project on Japanese culture, or a combined art, language arts, and social studies project similar to the one shown on the following website:

Sources & Resources:


The History of Cherry Trees in Washington, DC

Cherry Blossom Festival

This lesson was developed by Bette Brooks, Kent State University.