The second half of April 2015 is a special time for Mother Nature, and for the people who adore her.
Earth Day, with its many boots-on-the-ground activities scheduled on and around April 22, will once again reinforce the knowledge that we need to do a more bang-up job of taking care of our planet. Then, on the 24th, we will hopefully see the planting of countless new trees from coast to coast in celebration of Arbor Day. Because we can never have enough trees!
As you and your kids take part in Earth Day and Arbor Day festivities in your community, here’s a hands-on activity that will get your little ones up close and personal with the trees in their own backyard and throughout their neighborhood.
What You’ll Need
- a tree reference book (from your local library or a bookstore)
- paper squares
- construction paper
- crayons, Pencils, Markers
- hole punch
- glue stick or tape
- Trees CD by Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly
How To Get Started
“Let’s go to the woods, maybe just a little farther than we should…”
Molly Ledford and Billy Kelly sing it best at the start of their new record Trees: Grab your compass and your Henry David Thoreau, and go deep into the woods this spring!
Spring is the ideal time to get outdoors together as a family and to explore the wild and wonderful world of trees, sticks, leaves, pine cones, and acorns. The duo’s silly and sweet CD is the perfect soundtrack for the season as well as for this Arbor Day learning activity. So turn the music up loud and get ready to make your very own Book of Trees!
Take a walk around your backyard, a local park, or the nearest wooded area — anywhere you’re likely to find different varieties of trees. As your child finds their favorites, let them make bark rubbings on squares of paper using the peeled-down side of a crayon or the edge of a pencil’s tip. Then consult your handy guidebook to identify their chosen trees. Finally, have your kiddo(s) collect a leaf, a bud, or a few needles from the trees, to affix to the pages of their Book of Trees later on.
Next, sit down together near each tree and have a good long look at them. Start a conversation with your child about the trees, encouraging them to make a few observations about each: Is it tall or short? Is the trunk skinny or wide? Does it have leaves? Are they green all year-long or will the leaves change colors?
Listen and look for birds, squirrels and other creatures too, and think about what types of animals might live in the trees during the day and after nightfall. Are there other critters who use the tree for shelter in a storm?
Journal your child’s thoughts about each tree or have your young writers take their own notes along with the leaves/needles collected and bark rubbings to assemble their Book of Trees once back home.
Make a Book of Trees
Cut a few pieces of colorful constructions paper in half, line them up neatly and punch holes along the side. Glue a bark rubbing paper square to each piece of construction paper and do the same with each corresponding leaf, bud or needles.
Have your child write the name of the tree at the top, a few of their observations as adjectives along the bottom and sides, and maybe draw an animal or two that might call the tree home.
Repeat until you have a page for each of the trees your child collected data on. Finally, knot small pieces of yarn through each of the holes and voila! your Book of Trees is complete!
If your local trees, like most of ours, aren’t full of leaves yet this spring, attach a bud now and then revisit them to collect a leaf or two later on this summer to add to your Book of Trees.
Tip: Additional pages can easily be added to your Book of Trees as you discover new kinds of trees during summer vacation!
Maybe you don’t want to wander around looking for a variety of trees, or maybe you don’t have that many nearby. That’s okay. Instead of a book, make a year-in-the-life of a single tree study instead. Identify one tree and follow the same steps above every season/quarter. Ask your child how the tree is changing, if different animals inhabit it or use it for shelter. Take a photo of it or have your child draw the tree as it changes throughout the year.