Saturday, April 28, 2012

Watch a Fruit Tree

This activity is perfect for kids up to about kindergarten or first grade.  It may seem like a long time to watch a tree over an entire year, but it helps kids connect to nature in new ways.  A full understanding of how weather and seasons cycle in your locale.  Start by choosing a fruit tree to observe throughout the year.  Sketch or photograph your tree once each month to observe how it changes from month to month.  Make sure to take note of the weather.  At the same time, observe the tree for other life as well.  What kinds of insects and birds are visiting it?  How many of each do you see?  Do you see more or less than the month before?  Are there any animals living in or around it?  You might even increase your frequency of checks during the spring and summer months to once per week.  Your child will learn more than you can imagine from this simple activity even if you miss a month - chances are, once invested, your child won't let you forget anyway.

As an accompianment to the activity you might also read "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein, "The Great Kapok Tree" by Lynne Cherry or any number of other wonderful books about trees.
Bonus Activities:
  • SCIENCE AND MATH:  For kids in elementary school, once you've finished collecting your information you could make a graph showing temperatures from month to month, frequency of visits from pollinators from month to month, or any other numeric data you recorded consistently along your tree observation journey.  To really take it to the next level, you could ask something like, "if the temperature on the day you observed the tree seemed to be related to animal activity around the tree".  Graphing is an important skill in both math and science education and if your child is invested in what is being graphed, he/she will learn a lot more from graphing something "real" to him or her than from doing worksheets about somebody else's graphs and information.
  • THE ARTS:  Ask your kids if they can artistically show their tree in all four of the seasons - this might mean drawing or painting (no the picture here was not done by a child), or it might mean they choreograph a dance that shows how their tree changed, or it could mean some sort of animation if you offer up a video camera and some clay or LOTS of paper. . .

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