All children, no matter their age, have an idea of what a tree looks like, but many are unfamiliar with the actual structure of a tree. In this activity, children will go outdoors to take a closer look at trees and their parts.
Doing the Activity
Before your next nature walk or outdoor adventure, have children close their eyes and picture a tree. Ask them to think about its shape, branch arrangement, and trunk and leaf texture. Have them draw a picture of a tree from memory. Next, head outside with a camera or sketchbook to have a closer look. On your walk, locate several different tree species for children to observe.
Ask the following questions:
- What is the shape of the trunk? Tall, straight, bent, or gnarled? Is there one trunk or does it split into multiple trunks?
- What color is the bark? How does it feel? How does it look?
- What shape are the branches and twigs?
- Are there any seeds, flowers, fruits, nuts, or cones on the tree?
- What color and shape are the leaves or needles? Where are they located on the tree?
- What is the overall shape of the tree crown?
Sketch, Photograph, or Write a Poem
While outside, have the children sketch a picture of a tree and record their observations. Once observations are complete, have children draw a second tree picture from memory. Compare and contrast the two drawings. What new details appeared in the second drawing? What characteristics were similar? Also check out these nature journaling tips.
Some children may not be confident in their drawing abilities or may not take the time necessary to complete field sketches. In lieu of drawing, consider using a camera to collect data. Photography, especially once paired with a story or poem, can deliver a powerful message.
Get the Full Activity
This family activity is adapted from Project Learning Tree’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide which can be obtained through an in-person professional development workshop or online course.
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