Thursday, April 21, 2011

Outdoor Hour Challenge - Spring Series #1: Year-Long Tree Study

For this week's nature study, we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge's Spring Series #1: Year-Long Tree Study - Spring Tree Observation.

(Please note:  for this post, bold-face type is from the Handbook of Nature study blog; type in italics is from the book "Handbook of Nature Study" by Anna Botsford Comstock; and words in plain type are my own.)

“Like a friend is a tree,
in that it needs to be known
season after season and year after year
in order to be truly appreciated.
A person who has not had
an intimate, friendly acquaintance with some special tree
has missed something from life.”
(Anna Botsford Comstock, A Study of a Tree)

Inside Preparation Work:


Read pages 625-626 in the Handbook of Nature Study: Spring Work. This part of Lesson 172 should give you lots of things to think about as you prepare for your spring tree study observations. If the tree you chose to study has a section in the Handbook of Nature Study (check the table of contents), you might want to read the lesson for your particular tree in preparation for your Outdoor Hour time as well.

The Handbook of Nature Study suggests measuring the height of your tree using a stick 3½ feet long and a measuring tape. See page 626 Lesson 172 #4 for details.

We did not measure the height of the trees since it was very windy and cold outside as well as overcast.  To measure the tree as explained in the book, the day should be sunny so that the ruler and tree both cast a shadow.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Now that spring has come, it is time to check on your tree from your Year-Long Tree Study. If you are just starting out with a tree study, pick a tree from your yard that you can watch through all four seasons. 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.


Simple Suggestions for Spring Tree Study:


Pick a tree in your yard or on your street and look for its new leaves and blossoms if appropriate.

Sophia picked a maple tree in the far south pasture (where the nature trail use to be).  This is tree that we planted many years ago.  When it was transplanted, it was no more than about 6 feet tall.  There were some buds, but it is still too early for leaves.

Sophia by the maple tree she'll be studying for a year.

Olivia picked a white pine in the backyard.  This one was transplanted in the backyard around 1999-2000 at about 10-12 feet tall. 

Olivia by the white pine that she'll be studying for the year.

Olivia's pine had plenty of green needles. It was interesting that some of the tips of the needles were brown and the rest were green.  We didn't see too many needles like these bi-colored ones.

White pine needles on Olivia's tree.

I picked my favorite oak tree in the northwest pasture.  There are buds on the tree, but they are so high up that I couldn't examine them.

My favorite oak tree in the pasture.

Is it just beginning to show leaves? Can you tell if your tree has all of its leaves yet?

None of the trees had leaves.  It's still too early in the season.

Sophia's tree had some buds on it.

Can you see any insects or birds in your tree?

We didn't notice any insects or birds in Sophia's or Olivia's trees.  However, my tree had a robin building a nest.  The robin flew to a tree limb with a long piece of grass hanging from her beak. 

Robin with some grass for her nest in the oak tree.

She put it down in the nest, then hopped in the nest.  She would stand up, sit down, move a little, stand up, sit down, move a little, and so on.  Read in a book that birds do this to create the shape of the nest.

As a side note, in the book "Exploring Spring" by Sandra Markle, it said, "A male [robin] will stake out a claim as big as half an acre.  Then the proud landowner will patrol the perimeter of his territory, repeatedly stopping at selected perches to sing." It suggested trying to observe one male on his regular rounds and seeing if you can map out that robin's territory.

Collect a few leaves to use for leaf rubbings in your nature journal. You could also make a leaf bouquet.

We did bark rubbings directly on the tree instead of leaf rubbings. 

Olivia doing a bark rubbing of a white pine tree.

This is a bit challenging to do, and the rubbings didn't quite turn out like we envisioned.  However, it made us notice the difference in bark on the same tree as well as how the bark differs between the types of trees (maple, white pine, and oak).

Compare two leaves from the same tree. Are they exactly alike?

We were unable to do this since the leaves aren't on any of the trees.

Use your nature journal to record a sketch of the leaf and any blossoms.

We each will place a photograph of the buds or pine needles (depending on the type of tree each person had) in the nature journals rather than sketching them.  Olivia also taped some of the pine needles into her nature journal so she could touch them. 

How has the tree changed since autumn? Winter?

We just began the year-long tree study, so we haven't explored each tree closely in autumn and winter.

Follow-Up Activity:


After your outdoor time, complete a nature journal entry using the notebook page. Photos of your tree are a good record in your nature journal as well.

The girls did the first page of their nature journal about their trees based on what they collected and observed.  At a later date (once the photographs are developed), they will do another page in their nature journals.

Sophia's nature journal entry about the maple tree.

Olivia's nature journal entry about the white pine tree.

My nature journal entry about the oak tree.

Another activity we did was suggested in the book "Exploring Spring" by Sandra Markle called "Surprise Package."  The activity said, "...each spring bud is [a surprise package].  To find out what's inside, pick a swelling bud rom a tree or bush and carefully open it. 

Tray of spring branches with buds...ready for dissection.

Sophia cutting open a bud with a knife.

Then use a pin to separate any tiny leaves you find inside.  How many leaves are there?  Compare this number with what you find inside a bud from a different tree or bush. 

Inside one bud, were these separate leaves/petals.

Don't pick more than one bud from each plant, though.  These leaves are needed to produce food."

While we were dissecting the buds, I cut some of the thin branches for the girls so they could see what they looked like on the inside. 

The inside of a twig.  It had a white, solid center
that was surrounded by a green layer. 
The bark encircled the green layer.

And...only because I read a few jokes to the girls and got the groans of "I-don't-believe-you-just-told-that joke," I felt like I needed to include a couple of them here.  These are all from the "Exploring Spring" book:

What bird is a thief? (A robin)
What bird is there every time you eat? (A swallow)
What flowers do all people have? (Tulips)

1 comment:

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

I love that each of you has chosen your very own tree! The photos of the girls by their trees will be fun to redo in each season to compare the differences.

Your nature journals, as always, are awesome and thoughtful. Thank you so much for sharing your family's study.