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Monday, July 25, 2011

School Bell: Tree Science Craft

All joking of last weekend's Weather Rock put aside, there are other science activities that can sometimes capture the reluctant scientist.  Here are a few summer activities to try. [Be sure not to check out poison ivy or sumac or oak!]

Take a sheet of white paper and some crayons to a park or other place with different size, type of trees.  Place the paper on the tree bark and color the paper with a crayon, capturing images of the rough or smooth bark. Collect different kinds of bark rubbings. Older kids may want to label each rubbing with the kind of tree and where they found the tree [plus of course, like any good scientist keeping records.... add the date and their name!]

Tree/Plant Conversations:
Go for a walk in a place, neighborhood, or park with different kinds of trees.  Talk with your child about what they see. [If you have binoculars or a simple magnifying glass, bring it and show them how to use it.] Help them see the details that make different plants and trees individual.  Here are some ideas to start....Is it a tree or a plant?  A flower or bush?  Why?  Are there blossoms? [single or several on a stem, clusters? All same color or different shades?]
Are there needles? [Are the needles in groups or not? Are there cones? What shape?] Are there leaves? [Are the leaves pointed or rounded? What shape are the leaves? ] IS there bark? [Smooth or rough? Light or dark? Peeling? Vertical or Around?] Are the leaves sharp? smooth, scratchy, long or short?]

Photography Match:
Help your child take pictures of different kinds of trees [or bushes or even flowers] that you see in your area, a park, or on a trip. Help them make a scrapbook of all the trees or plants they discovered.  They will learn observation of differences and similarities, especially if you've already helped them during tree conversations. 
Have your child take separate pictures of the tree trunks, the tree branches, and the leaves. Do this with several different kinds of trees.  Print the photos and mount on 3x5 or 4x6 index cards. Scramble and make a game of trying to match the right bark, branch pattern, and type of leaf . Go back to the original trees if you need to check your guesses.
Research online to determine the name of the kind of tree and put that on a fourth card. This makes sets of four for each type of tree.  Try to get enough different sets you can play card games like old maid with them by gathering sets of each tree's components and name.  [Maybe take a pic of a tree stump or dead tree for the old maid card?]

Keep a Tree Trunk Journal:
Pick a tree and follow it through the summer.  Observe and take notes about what you see. Date each visit.  Ideas of things to look for:  Insects on the bark. Changes in the bark.  Fungus or lichen or moss on the bark. Signs of birds or woodpeckers.  Signs of squirrels, chipmunks other animals. Signs of humans?
What kind of things are growing around the base of the tree trunk?  How tall are they now?  How tall are they in a month? Can you reach around the whole tree trunk?  How many people do you need to reach all around the whole tree trunk? Are there blossoms? leaves? seeds? cones? Do they change or disappear? What other things can you track?

Remember, the goal is to help them observe, think, and record..... and to have fun with you while doing it!

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