Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nature Study: Trees

We took a trip out to the Tasmanian Arboretum last week for a final look at the fall foliage before autumn came to a close. Many of the trees were quite bare all ready, but a few were still kind enough to sport a bit of color for us. The idea was to go and have the boys each pick a tree to claim as "their own", and then have them do a few fun things with the said tree. The problem is it's very easy to be distracted by the many wonders the Arboretum has to offer, so rather then worry about the distractions we had a fine time looking at everything that was before us, with our main focus being on the trees.

After our quick picnic lunch I pointed out a few trees that had fallen in the recent rains and had then been cut for removal. I wanted to show the boys how to tell the age of a tree, and this was a beautiful opportunity to do so!

This tree was easy to count in the center, but became more difficult towards the outer edges where you can see some of the problem areas. We learned that each year a tree grows a new layer of wood and this creates the visible growth rings when a tree is cut down. The boys found another tree which was a tad decayed, but Morgan managed to count about fourteen rings before he had difficulty tracing out the rest.

We ventured back to the dam/pond area which is always a treat because there's a lot of wildlife out in the water. We had a lot of fun watching the platypus (no pictures, he was too far out for a good one), and the swans. This past spring we had the joy of seeing the cygnets out and about, but this time we only saw two adult swans.

Aren't his curly tail feathers amazing? Even when they fall off they are curly, we found a few laying around! These fellows were quite friendly and were following us around.

It was quite amusing to go over one bridge and see them come under it, and then go over another and see them come right up and honk ever so softy at us. It was unusually personal for a black swan, but we fully enjoyed it.

I told the boys to keep their eyes peeled for one tree that they felt especially fond of so they could do a few fun things with it. There were many trees to pick from but they wanted to just keep right on looking, just in case a better one was around the corner. After a popcorn break, and more swan watching they each decided they knew which tree they wanted to "play" with.

This was Jayden's Cypress tree, he called it the "orange Christmas tree". I'm not sure, other then the thought of Christmas what drew him to it, but he had a grand time with it. I'd made up some simple little notebooking pages, which had a place for the boys to do a leaf and bark rubbing. There was also room for each of them to record what they observed about the leaf and bark. On the back was room for them to draw the tree and record information about the tree.

These were a bit hard for the rubbing, and because the tree was so amazingly bushy that they had a hard time getting under it for a proper rubbing of the bark, but Jayden had a lot of fun sitting down and studiously drawing his tree. Because Morgan's tree was so much farther away he was happy to have all the colored pencils to himself at one time.

He went into great detail with the colors, all though his shapes were something else entirely. I was really impressed with his concentration on this project. Plus, because he was the only one drawing at the time he was very pleased with his final product. Normally he becomes distressed that everyone else's drawings are better then his, which is one reason why I gave him a paper with a place for leaf and bark rubbings. It also has a place for a real picture of his tree, which we'll add to it when the picture printer is back up and running.

Morgan picked a Blue Spruce, which he kept referring to as a "white Christmas tree". Despite his reference he still plucked a green pencil out of the bag to draw his tree with. He walked around it several times before selecting a bit of bark and some needles to rub for his paper. He did a rather detailed drawing, something he truly enjoys, and then I asked him a few questions to help him gather information for his paper. Things like, 'what does the bark feel like?' and 'what shape are the leaves/needles?'

Here's the tree I opted to use for my rubbings, it's called a Sweet Gum tree, or a Japanese Maple. I liked the vivid colors, and the leaves have a similar shape to a Sugar Maple tree. We use to have a Sweet Gum (twice as big) growing outside our kitchen window at our old house. It was beautiful to watch through the seasons.

I also suggested the boys close their eyes and smell their tree. Now, as odd as it sounds, it was a great way to see if each tree had a unique smell to it or not. We also used string to measure the girth of our trees. The idea was to compare the girth of the trees we did measure with the ones that we found fallen or cut down and from there to see if we could guess the ages of the living trees. It was a well spent fun afternoon.


Edwena said...

Beautiful pictures, Kendra.

Tracey said...

Very nice pictures.

Linda Wasylenko said...

What a beautiful arboretum. Loved the pictures!

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Leanne said...

Now that is what I call a nature study day. BEAUTIFUL PLACE!!! It will be fun to watch the photos of your visits through the seasons.

Love Leanne