During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing the leaf, “This is a white oak leaf,” the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name.
~Anna Botsford Comstock, “How to Begin Tree Study” in Handbook of Nature Study
And with these words of wisdom, let’s start the 50th edition of the Festival of the Trees: Through a Child’s Eyes.
What better way to introduce children to the wonders of trees than a gentle walk in the woods?
In Trees, JSK at Anybody Seen My Focus? takes us on a beautiful walk through Fort Yargo State Park in Barrow County, Georgia.
At the Handbook of Nature Study blogspot, Barb has a list of ways to train your senses during Summer Tree Observations. We often forget our senses of touch, hearing and smell when walking in the woods, and children can definitely benefit from using all their senses to explore trees. Barb’s blogspot has lovely nature sounds that play automatically when you visit.
Once a child has developed an interest in trees, you might want to explore the life cycle of a tree. How do trees get there? How do trees make seeds?
Welcome to Mike at Slugyard, who introduces us to how a walnut sprouts in Where do trees come from? How lucky to be able to find a seedling from a nut the squirrels hadn’t eaten.
We discovered ash samaras in our yard last week, and learned about ash trees.
Anna Comstock was an artist as well as writer and naturalist, and she recommended classifying leaves according to color and form and “thus train the eye to discriminate tints and color values.” Art, trees and children go together naturally.
There are a number of art projects in the chapter on trees in the Handbook of Nature Study. You can download the book here. (Remember that this book was written near the turn of the last century and many things have changed. For example, in the instructions on how to make a leaf print, there is no need to dilute the printers ink with gasoline. Yikes!)
In Art through a kid’s eye, Kimber at A Journey in Creativity blog shows us a page from her niece’s altered book project where she has done some torn paper collage trees. Altered books are a terrific way to re-purpose old books.
Making bark rubbings incorporates both art and science, and is a great excuse to get outdoors to play around with trees.
Hold a piece of paper firmly against a tree trunk and rub back and forth. You can use crayon or charcoal.
While children are experiencing the tough, rough feel of bark, it is a chance to explain how the delicate cambium lives just under the bark and how removing or damaging the bark can kill a tree. Doesn’t seem possible that something so tough could be so fragile.
Children can also explore trees through reading, writing, and storytelling.
In his ode to Trees, Joyce Kilmer said:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree….
Regardless of that sentiment, trees inspire poetry. Encourage your children to read and write poems about trees.
Dave Bonta has translated the poem To a Child in a Tree, by Jorge Teillier at Via Negativa. The poem is a celebration of tree climbing (More about that in the next section).
Kristine O’Connell George reads from her book of poems Old Elm Speaks at this link on her website.
Carol at Where will you journey to? reminds us that trees inspire stories and tales, such as the adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Woods. She repeats a fascinating tale her husband dreamed when he was young called the woodcutter.
Our own list of books about trees for children reflects our passion for nonfiction books. Reading books is always an adventure.
For an even bigger adventure, how about tree climbing and tree forts? Anna Botsford Comstock once climbed a tree during recess at her school and then refused to come down when she felt her teacher treated her unfairly. A few years later she was teaching at that school herself.
Caro at Caro & Co. has a celebration of sweet gum trees and a humorous report of tree climbing at Love me, love my conkers – Plants kids can play with #2.
Jade Blackwater grabs our attention with a fabulous childhood activity in The Making of Good Tree Forts at Brainripples. She has many good tips about creating a tree fort and what to do if you don’t have a backyard full of appropriate trees. Brings back fond memories, doesn’t it?
For more fun ideas of things to do outside, Emily has links to several kid-oriented nature organizations at The Maine Family: Outside
Finally, a way to excite children about trees that doesn’t require going outside is to brainstorm a list of all the foods that come from trees, and then have a tree-inspired snack. Here’s a short list to get you started:
- maple syrup
- hickory nuts
- mesquite (use the beans to make flour)
- saguaro fruit
I’ll bet you can list many more.
Here’s a recipe for Bread from Trees.
Can you guess all the ingredients that come from trees?
In a large bowl combine:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a separate bowl mix:
2/3 cup maple syrup, or to taste
1/2 cup warm decaffeinated coffee*
1 1/3 cup pitted, snipped dates (May substitute chopped dried apricots)
1 cup apples, peeled, cored and grated
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg beaten
2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Add moist ingredients to the dry ones, and stir until just moistened. Pour into a 9” by 5” by 3” greased loaf (bread) pan. Bake at 350° F for 60 to 65 minutes.
*Please ask an adult to assist with preparing or heating the coffee
And Jade just sent me a link to a wonderful Plum Cake recipe from Amid the Olive Trees. Looks scrumptious.
It turns out the next Festival of the Trees host, Peg at Orchards Forever has chosen the theme “edible trees.” If you write about one of these wonderful trees, send links to Peg at amberapple [at] gmail [dot] com by August 29.
A special “thank you” to everyone who participated.