2011 Winter Series Outdoor Hour Challenge #5 - Pine Trees
Inside Preparation Work:
This week read in Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study pages 670-675 to learn more about pine trees. One of the interesting things we learned was that "the very tip of the central stem in the evergreens is called 'the leader,' because it leads the growth of the tree upward."
After reading the pages, we went on a short ten-minute drive to take Olivia to/from speech therapy. Both girls pointed out some very tall leaders on pine trees that we saw on the drive.
Back at home, we noticed that Sophia's tree had one clear leader while Olivia's appeared to have two leaders. However, in re-reading the Handbook of Nature Study it appears that it may be actually "two stems near the top...[which] is a story of injury to the tree and its later victory."
Heading out to explore pine trees in the yard.
Outdoor Hour Time:
It was suggested from the Handbook of Nature Study website that a parent spends 15 minutes outdoors this week with her children in the family's yard or street. We ended up spending close to an hour outdoors since it was over 30 degrees outside (very warm compared to the single-digit or below-zero temperatures just a few days ago). It was wonderful to be outside and enjoy spending a Friday afternoon exploring nature at a deeper level.
The first thing I did was have each of the girls select a pine tree from the front- or backyard. Sophia picked one, but Olivia wasn't sure which one she wanted to study. I suggested that she look at the Austrian pine that Papa (my dad...the girls' grandfather) and Uncle Jim planted in the front yard. When it was transplanted, it was so small that it fit in a wheelbarrow. It's been nice to see the tree grow so well during the past 15 years.
Once the girls picked their pine trees, I spent time with each one individually as she answered questions that the website suggested. While one was answering questions and collecting pine needles and pinecones, the other was free to play and enjoy being outside.
Below are the questions I asked Sophia and Olivia. These were in the Handbook of Nature Study as well as on the website.
What is the general shape of the pine tree?
I asked Sophia to take several steps back from her tree and look at its overall shape. She said it looked like a rectangle to her. Later, inside I had her look at the picture below. She said she still sees a rectangle.
Sophia by a white pine.
Olivia stood in front of the Austrian pine. Initially, she thought it looked like an oval. However, when looking at the picture below on the computer and tracing the outline of the tree with a finger, it became clear to her that the tree wasn't shaped like an oval, but a triangle.
Olivia by the Austrian pine.
Is there one central stem running straight up through the center of the tree to the top?
Both girls answered this questions "yes." According to the Handbook of Nature Study, "All cone-bearing trees have typically a central stem from wich the branches come off in whorls."
On the Real Trees for Kids website, it said, "If your tree is a pine tree, you can estimate its age by counting the whorls (places where branches have grown out each year). The number of whorls will give you the age of the tree. However, this only works with pine trees...fir and spruce trees don't work the same way."
Pine trees have a central stem from which all
branches grow from...many at a 90 degree angle.
We looked up the trunks of several of the pine trees. All had the one central stem. The angles that the branches came out of the central stem varied between 60-90 degrees, with the majority closer to the 90 degree angle.
What color is the bark?
The bark color for both the trees that the girls examined were similar in that they were "brownish" and "gray." Sophia also said hers had an "ash" color as well.
Bark of an Austrian pine.
Is the bark ridged or in scales?
White pine with two different bark textures.
Sophia noticed that the white pine that she was examining had two different textures of bark. From the base of the tree to her shoulders, the texture was rough whereas from her shoulders to the top of the tree, the bark was smooth.
Olivia's Austrian pine had the same texture from base to tip.
Study the pine leaves. How many needles in the bundle?
Sophia's white pine had 4 needles per bundle. I had her pick two different bundles to see if there were the same or different number of needles. "There are 4 in both!" she was excited to see. (Note: The Handbook of Nature Study says that a white pine has five needles in a bundle. However, the tree company that planted the trees in the backyard said that the trees that they planted were white pines. So, I'm not sure why there is a difference in needle count.)
Olivia's Austrian pine had 2 needles per bundle. Like Sophia's tree, the bundles consistently had 2 needles per bundle. This is consistent with what's written in the Handbook of Nature Study.
The start of new pinecones.
Does it have pinecones?
Both pine trees that the girls were studying had pinecones.
The white pine had cones near the top of the tree.
Sophia was able to get one pinecone off a nearby white pine tree. However, on her tree the pinecones were all at the top of the tree.
Olivia picking pinecones.
The Austrian pine had many pinecones from the base to the top of the tree. This was good for Olivia because she could pick a few pinecones from her tree to study indoors.
Two pinecones in the afternoon sunlight.
The Handbook for Nature Study website suggested that children are given time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry. So, Sophia and Olivia each wrote some observations in their journals about the pine tree they examined as well as included a bundle of pine needles from the tree they studied.
Sophia's journal entry about pine trees.
They measured the length of the needle and noted how many needles were in a bundle. Sophia's white pine needles were 3.5 inches long; and Olivia's Austrian pine needles were 4 inches long.
Olivia's journal entry about pine trees.
Also in their nature journals, they traced the outline of a pinecone, noted how many rows the pinecone had, and taped one small part of the pinecone into their journals.
Other things we did related to pine trees:
Measure a pine tree - The girls measured two pine trees - the largest one at the farm as well as the one right next to it. I had each one estimate the circumference of the largest tree (how many inches around). Sophia initially guessed 60 inches and Olivia guessed 70 inches. Once Sophia saw a 60-inch tape measure she changed her estimate to 75-80 inches.
The largest tree at the farm.
The circumference of the largest tree here: 120.5 inches! The tree next to it was much smaller - 44 inches.
Measuring a pine tree in the front yard.
Climb a pine tree - The girls both wanted to climb onto some of the largest lower limbs of the biggest pine tree at the farm. Sophia was able to get up into the tree on her own. Olivia needed a bit of a boost.
Find evidence of wildlife near the pine trees - The corn cob feeder needed a new corn cob since the old one was missing. The girls put a new corn cob on the eye screw/chain feeder.
Simple feeder for the pheasants.
There were pheasant tracks leading to and underneath the row of pine trees on the east side of farm.
There were rabbit tracks under the pine trees.
One of the trees under the largest pine tree had bark missing on its trunk.
Tree with bark missing.
This tree is under the pine trees.
Not sure what animal would strip the bark like this. This is probably 3 1/2-4 feet off the ground, but under the pine tree - so it's not the most accessible spot. Any ideas?
We plan to do more activities about pine trees - painting and drawing them; and observing which animals and birds visit a specific pine tree over the course of a week. We all agreed that this was a fun way to spend the afternoon. We're looking forward to our next nature study!