Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Tree Observation - Outdoor Challenge #20 and Summer Series #2

I was looking at the Handbook of Nature Study website, and came across Summer Tree Observation - Outdoor Challenge #20 and OHC Summer Series #2: Summer Tree Observations. I'm combining these into one nature study.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
- Bold - are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
- Italics - are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
- Regular - are my own words.

Indoor Preparation


If your first observation was in spring, you are now into summer and your tree should look a little different. Check in the Handbook of Nature Study to see if your tree is listed there and then do the reading about that particular tree. There should be some suggestions for observations that you can follow.

Read pages 618-620 in the Handbook of Nature Study: The Parts of a Tree. For your summer tree study, make sure you read the information on these pages so you have in mind the parts of a tree: trunk or bole, head or crown, spray, and branch.

Also, make sure you have a general idea of how a tree makes its own food by reading in the section, How a Tree Grows, on pages 620-622. Your job will be to relate any of this information that you think might be of interest to your child as you study your tree.
"The leaf is a factory; the green pulp in the leaf cells is part of the machinery; the machinery is set in motion by sunshine power; the raw materials are taken from the air and from the sap containing food from the soil; the finished product is largely starch.

Thus, it is well when we begin a study of the tree to notice that the leaves are so arranged as to gain all the sunlight possible, for without sunlight the starch factories would be obliged to ‘shut down’ ".

~ Anna Botsford-Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study ~
Train Your Senses

Outdoor Hour Time

Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. You can take photos of your tree to put in your nature journal or you can sketch the tree in your journal.

I'm taking pictures of the girls standing next to their favorite tree so that they have an accurate representation of how their tree, the immediate environment, and they change over the course of a year.

Olivia is standing by her favorite tree:
a white pine in the backyard.

Olivia noticed as we were standing by the pine trees that the needles still had quite a bit of water on them from the rain that fell earlier in the day.  She shook some of the branches out which created a "shower" for the grass below.

The girls then had the idea of having one another stand under the branches while the other shook a taller branch. Each one had a refreshing "rain shower" which they said felt good given that it was in the 80s.

Sophia shaking a pine branch filled with water
onto Olivia. "That felt good!" she said.

We headed out to the nature trail and then into the back part of the property where Sophia's tree is located. The last time we visited her tree was in the spring on a very chilly day.

Today, it was beautiful and sunny, the birds were flying overhead, and there was a nice breeze.

Sophia by her favorite tree: a maple tree.

Your tree should have its leaves now and we are going to spend 10-15 minutes of your outdoor time using the ideas from the Handbook of Nature Study to do some focused observations of your tree. Remember you may want to start using the proper vocabulary for the parts of a tree when you are completing your tree observations.

Sight: Look closely at the bark and/or leaves. Stand or lay under your tree and look up. Use a magnifying lens to look at the bark and leaves. Look for birds, animals, or insects in your tree. Look for all the parts of your tree: trunk, crown, branches, and spray.

Sophia brought in a trio of leaves from her maple tree. With a magnifying glass, she noticed "bumps, tiny cells, and a half-eaten leaf...like a bug ate it. One of the leaves is slightly lighter than the other."

Tree galls on a maple leaf.

She said, "On the back side of one of the leaves where the bumps are there are brown stains and the remainder of an old web."

I didn't know what the bumps were, so we looked it up on the internet. We found out that they are tree galls.

Tree galls look like green or brown bumps, and may resemble a wart, blister or pouch. Galls are created when insects, mites, nematodes, or other organisms such as bacteria or fungi feed on a tree's leaves.

Galls usually do not cause any serious damage to a healthy tree. However, large numbers of galls can affect the tree's appearance and cause premature leaf drop.

There were no birds or animals in the maple tree. The tree galls indicate that there were insects at some time in Sophia's favorite tree.

For Olivia's favorite white pine tree, she said that she did not notice any birds, animals, or insects. 

Smell: Smell the bark. Rub a leaf and see what it smells like.

Sophia smelled the trio of leaves. "It smells like box elders. It doesn't smell good," she said.

Olivia rubbed her fingers over the pine needles. She said, "They don't have much of a scent. There's nothing" she said in terms of smell.

White pine needles.

Touch: Close your eyes and feel the bark. Feel the leaf or needle from your tree and describe its texture. A tree gall is an abnormal growth on a tree's leaves and stems. The growth is the plant's reaction to the feeding of insects or other organisms.

Sophia described her leaf as: "...kind of leathery.  Maybe kind of silky. You can kind of feel the veins. They feel like pieces of string on a piece of paper...but maybe not as pronounced."

Olivia said the pine needles felt "soft and silky."

Hearing: Quietly sit under your tree for one minute. Can you hear the leaves or branches moving? Can you hear a bird in the tree or insects buzzing near the tree?

After taking a look at her tree, Sophia said, "I'm going to lay down by it." She found a nice area of tall grass and laid down. "It's so soft...like a bed!"

We talked a bit about the deer who sleep in the grass at night and how soft the grass is for them.  As she was laying down said she could hear birds.  "I heard insects buzzing around my ears which was kind of annoying. I also heard a dragonfly. I could hear the wind blowing through the grass."

Olivia said she heard wind near her tree, but no other sounds.

Follow-Up Activity

After your outdoor time, complete your Seasonal Tree Study notebook page sheet or record your tree observations in your nature journal. Take a few minutes to talk about your time outdoors to see if there is anything that your child wants to learn more about. Follow up any interest shown.

We learned about tree galls which was something new to us all. We found out that you don't have to spray the tree which is good - the natural predators will eat the insects on the leaves.

We walked by the willow tree which reminded the girls of having picnics under it last summer and early fall. "Can we do that again?" Olivia asked. "Can we take Eenie outside with us again?" Sophia asked.

The willow tree. It was planted about 9 years ago and
was about 5 1/2 or 6 feet tall at the time.

Once the weather cools down a bit and the mosquitos aren't as bad, the girls and I will definitely be having some picnics under the willow tree.

After your outdoor time, complete a nature journal entry using the notebook page provided for the Summer Series, a general notebook page from the sidebar of my blog, the original notebook page, or your own blank journal. Photos of your tree are a good record in your nature journal as well. This might be a good season to press a few of the tree’s leaves for your nature journal.

The girls each wrote in their nature journals, attached a pressed leaf or pine needles, and put photographs to accompany their entry.

1 comment:

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

What a change in the maple tree since the last study! I really like the idea of taking photos each season with the tree...what a great way to personalize the study. I want to come get a "rain shower" under the pine!

Thank you so much for sharing your entry with the OHC.