Odd One Out


Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 5 – 7

Science topics:


Put your class’ observational skills to the test as they look to see what is the same and what is different about these three evergreen plants.

Run the activity

1. Show the three images above and ask everyone to come up with as many similarities and differences as they can. If they get stuck, prompt them to think about:

  • appearance
  • what they do
  • where they might be found

2. Then, everyone needs to decide which one is the odd one out and why. Encourage a reason for every answer and there is no wrong answer!

Background science

The plants in the pictures are a fir tree, holly and ivy.

Plants that keep their leaves all year need to be specially adapted to make sure that they survive the tough conditions of winter. They tend to be darker green so that they can make the most of the lower light levels. They tend to be stiff and waxy to protect themselves from drying out in the wind or being shrivelled by the cold. Some evergreens even contain special substances to stop their leaves freezing. Evergreens also need to protect themselves from being eaten by hungry animals when there is not much other food around, so their leaves are tough, or prickly or do not taste very nice. 

However fruits from these plants feed a vairety of animals. Squirrels and crossbills (a member of the finch family) eat pine cones and blackbirds, fieldfares, redwings and thrushes all eat holly berries. Nectar and pollen from ivy are favoured by many insects, including hornets, hoverfiles, bees and wasps while the berries are enjoyed by blackbirds.

Take it further

To explore evergreen plants more with your class, why not go out for a walk to look for different evergreens? Alternatively, bring some examples of evergreens into the classroom for close observation and comparison. You could also challenge your children to see how many “prickles” are on a holly leaf, and to investigate whether there is a correlation between the size of a leaf and the number of prickles.

Safety note: If children handle evergreens, be aware that some, such as yew, holly and mistletoe, have poisonous berries.

Image credits: Pine cone in a tree, by Skip Reeves via Shutterstock;

Christmas holly, by nnattalli via Shutterstock;

European ivy, by Wellcome