Our start on our study of trees was sort of slow. The boys have been spending all their free time with our new puppy and I guess the only way to entice them to a nature walk is to bring the dog along.
We have a number of trees that are starting to get their autumn color and my son brought to my attention that the sweet gum trees are making the rocks underneath them shiny.
Note the leaves that have already fallen from the tree.
The leaves are getting shiny too.
Here’s what it says on Wikipedia:
“The gum resin, also known as liquid amber or copalm balsam, yielded by this tree has no special medicinal virtues, being inferior in therapeutic properties to many others of its class. It is a kind of native balsam, or resin, like turpentine. It may be clear, reddish or yellow, with a pleasant smell like ambergris.”
This is my garden companion….she is watching a bird on the lawn with great intent in this photo. (Ignore the weeds in the photo…they were left there in the name of challenge #30 or at least I keep telling myself that is the reason.) She does her own kind of tree study and is an expert tree climber.
We took a few hours to go up to a local apple orchard. We all enjoy the apple harvest time of year and all of its yummy treats, both the kind you eat and the kind you can see, smell, and feel.
The trees were loaded with apples.
Now for the kind of treats we look forward to all year. Apple doughnuts. No explanation needed
except for maybe the fact that we each enjoy a different kind…with nuts, or crumbs, or glazed, or plain, or cinnamon sugar.
I think there is no better way to learn about a tree than to eat the fruits of its boughs.
Way back last August of 2007 we started our first tree study out in the woods. We took a piece of yarn and staked out a big square around the tree and did observations within that square and then also about the tree. The oak is really big and has lots of interesting things about it.
Here is our yarned off square. You can barely see the purple yarn unless you click and enlarge the photo.
Not much there except a few new little baby oak trees.
And near-by there was this poison oak turning red…..watch out for that stuff.
Then we noticed that as we walked we were being stuck by this plant….star thistle. I would consider this a WEED! Our backyard had this plant growing all over the backside when we moved in twenty years ago and my husband has very lovingly removed it all one plant at a time. We found you have to pull it up roots and all in order to get rid of it. It is an invasive weed in our area.
After we got back to the car, we realized our shoelaces and socks were covered with stickers of all kinds. They stick like velcro.
Well that wraps up our year-long tree study for now. We will probably keep our yarn up and continue through another year to see if we see any more changes.
We have had hot smoky weather for the past two weeks with all the fires burning in our area. It is very unusual for the wildfires to start so early but my husband says that the fuel in the forests is so dry that it doesn’t take much to get it going. We had several dry lightning storms and two weeks ago we had extremely high winds. All these factors together make for extreme fire danger.
We have been enjoying our outdoor time both in the garden and out on hikes in our local area. First of all though, here is my son’s summer tree study.His tree doesn’t look that much different from our last study. There are lots of green leaves which my son thinks are darker than they were in the spring but it is hard to tell.
Here is a close up of the leaves.This time he measured around the trunk and found it to be 28 inches in circumference.
This is what he noticed had changed the most about the tree. It had these sprouts coming up from the bottom of the trunk. We usually snap these off as they sprout but my son wants to leave them just to see how they grow.
We are anxious to compare our summer tree with our autumn tree!
With each new season we learn more about the natural world and the wonderful cycles we find in it. The seasons are a way to measure time and to learn to understand the subtle changes we find in the plants and animals that live close to home. (Gen. 1:14) We started a year-long tree study nine challenges ago and it should be a good time to make our next seasonal observation.
“And what about those six trees that the children were watching since winter? Now children will see that they also flower, although those flowers may be as green as the leaves. …This is old news to grown-ups, but a good teacher will present all knowledge as new and exciting by imagining himself in the place of the child and being amazed with him.” Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1 page 53
Your tree should have leaves for this season’s observation and if you were not able to identify your tree before, this should help you do so at this time. If you are just starting your year-long tree study, consult the Handbook of Nature Study’s table of contents for trees and see if you can find a tree that you have close by your home. Turn to the corresponding section and it will give you lots of ideas for learning about your tree. You are not limited to the trees covered in the Handbook of Nature Study but if you choose a tree not listed, you will need to find your information either at your local library or on the internet.
Outdoor Challenge #20 Seasonal Tree Observation-Summer
1. We started a tree study project way back in Outdoor Hour Challenge #11 and made our first observations of our tree. If you would like to review this section in the Handbook of Nature Study, you will find it on pages 622-626. This week the challenge includes making the next seasonal observation of your tree. If your first observation was in spring, you are now into summer and your tree should look a little different. If you are just joining the challenges, pick a tree from your yard, your street, or a near-by park to observe over the course of the next year. 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. You can use the prepared seasonal tree study page to record your observations.
2. 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. If you need help with tree sketching you can use this resource. Clare Walkers Leslie’s Guide to Sketching Trees
3. If you have additional time this week, you could complete another small square activity from Challenge #9.
4. 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.
Mini-Challenge #20Year-Long Tree Study
This challenge can be done with or without the Seasonal Tree Study notebook page. If you have limited time or are trying to combine challenges, pick your tree and make a few short observations. Spend the balance of your time reading about your tree so that during the next season you can review what you have already learned and compare your observations from season to season.
For this challenge we were to choose a tree to study for a year, observing it in each season to notice the changes. My son and I used the Tree Study sheet to prompt our observations but in the Handbook of Nature Study on page 625 there is a section on “Spring Work” to use with your own tree.
My son has suddenly taken an interest in basketball and is bouncing a ball in every spare moment. I tore him away yesterday afternoon to have him to pick his tree and do a quick observation. He picked one of the sweet gum trees that we have growing just off our back deck. We have four of these trees planted as a shade break for the hot summer afternoons. They are perfect for shading us for the late summer sun and then they loose all their leaves in the winter and allow the sun to hit our house in the winter to make it light and cheery. They also turn the most magnificent colors in the autumn and make the view out our back windows very colorful and enjoyable to look at….I can see them as I wash dishes at the kitchen sink. they are not native to our area but they are very popular as tree plantings in neighborhoods and in yards for shade and their beauty.
So here is a copy of his notebook page for his journal. I am going to slip it into a sheet protector and hopefully the leaf will survive for the year that we have ahead. At least we will have the scan of the page so we can compare on the computer if we need to.
If you have been following along with the challenges and you picked a focus way back in challenge number four, you should be just about ready to wrap up your first focus study. Our family has been learning about garden flowers but we are soon going to switch over to wildflowers. (This is going along with my son’s study of Kingdom plantae in biology.)
This is a good time to start a seasonal tree study. You will be picking a tree in your yard or neighborhood that you could “adopt” for a year to observe and record the changes in each season. I encourage everyone to start their year long tree study with the group this week. This part of the challenge should take one week to complete and then in our next challenge we will be starting a group focus study of wildflowers or garden flowers.
Please Note:If your family is enjoying your current focus, you do not need to switch but you can follow your own path and keep us posted.
Observing our tree Fall 2007
Outdoor Hour Challenge #11
Begin a Four Season Tree Study
1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 622-623. Also read page 625, Spring Work. After reading, turn to the table of contents, to the tree section, and read the list of trees covered in this book. If possible, pick a tree from the list that you have in your yard, on your street, or in a near-by park that you can observe over the course of the next year. My boys and I have been working on a tree study with an oak tree since August 2007. The changes in the tree have given us something to study in each season. If you live in a more exotic location, like some participants who live in Australia, Brazil, or Spain, do your best to compare your tree to a similar tree in the Handbook of Nature Study. Many of the observations can be used to study a variety of trees.
Before heading out for your nature study time, read the introductory section for your focus tree with your children. Make sure to read the observation suggestions for your particular tree and keep these in mind as you go out to make your observations. You will be challenged in each season of the coming year to make an observation for your tree and record any changes. I have prepared a journal page to record your observations. See the end of the blog entry for a link to the journal page.
2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. We took photos of our tree to put in our nature journal or you can sketch them right into your journal. Keep in mind the suggestions for observation that you read in the Handbook of Nature Study. If you have younger children, just spend your time observing your tree and helping them to look at it closely.
3. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area (challenge #4) that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done to follow up interest found during your Outdoor Hour.
4. Complete the Seasonal Tree Study journal page with your child. Place the page in your nature notebook to have for comparison in the next seasonal tree challenge.
You can purchase all of the first ten challenges in a convenient ebook along with custom notebook pages.
Our square in the woods hasn’t changed much since last month. We did find some green acorns on the ground and there were quite a few more crunchy leaves on the ground.This trip we focused on trying to find some insects on our tree but we couldn’t find any at all. We did enjoy the variety of moss and lichen on the tree trunk.
Do you see the different kinds of lichen in the photo? Do you see the spider web?We also enjoyed drawing the tree on our notebook sheet that will include drawings of the tree in all four seasons.
Here are a couple notebook pages you can use for your study:
This system seems to work for us. We attach an empty ziploc bag to our clipboard and then use it to hold our little “treasures” that we find along the way. Until we devised this system, I always had my pockets filled with items the boys wanted to bring home. Now they can easily slip them into the baggie and hold it themselves.
We used our books to identify the tree as an interior live oak. We collected some leaves and acorns and then took a walk down the hill to see what we could find.
As we walked, we heard some sort of hawk above us screeching loudly. I could tell he was circling around us by the way the sound was carrying over the hill. Here are a few things we saw as we hiked back down the hill to the car.
Some sort of fungus.
Leaves from a California Buckeye tree
A beautiful sappy pine cone.
We had a great morning in the woods and will look forward to checking our square again next month.
That afternoon we ended our day with a bike ride with a friend on a local bike trail. The skies were grey but the boys had enjoyed their day outside.
Last Friday we spent some time over at my parents’ house down the road from our place. They have a great pond and we took the opportunity to do our nature study time there this week. As the days get shorter and the leaves begin to turn colors, I feel the need to fit in some time outdoors before the season slips away.
So we made ourselves a little “jilly jar” pond scooper (Amateur Naturalist page 146) and we dipped in to find lots of interesting things to examine. We found three little fish, a pond snail, a whirlygig beetle, and another unknown insect. My son caught a Pacific Tree frog in a jar and we took some time to look at him and enjoy his sweet little face.
Here are some of our nature journal entries for the day. We used our field guides to identify the critters we found and we even used our pond guide to identify the duckweed floating on top of the pond. We each picked a tree to identify and realized that our tree identification book wasn’t as thorough as we would like so we made a note to pick up a new one the next time we were at the book store.
My son picked an oak to sketch and he also made a leaf rubbing.
Here are some more journal entries for the frog and the fish.
The boys also did some exploring in the woods and found a great spot to stake out a place to come back and observe each month. They chose a place that has a tree and some stacked wood because they thought it might include a place that a critter may live. We shall have to see and we will share our results.
If you look carefully you can see the purple yarn and tent stakes that we used to mark our square in the woods.
So that was some of our nature day from last week. I will list some of the books we used to get our ideas for the activities for the day so you can check your library for similar books. I absolutely adore the “One Small Square” series and this is the first time we used it for the pond study. I highly recommend this series to get you started with nature study.
You can click the graphic above to see all of the autumn related nature study challenges here on the Handbook of Nature Study. Make sure to pin this challenge and the Autumn Index!
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