Autumn is in full glory here in New England and the trees seem ablaze. The colors are stunning and we never grow tired of stopping to appreciate the beauty of the season. It passes by all too quickly. So, with all this fall beauty why am I suggesting you and your child spend time looking at the trees’ bark?
Besides being an activity to encourage your child to get close and personal with nature, it’s a great way to identify tree families when the last of the leaves have fallen. Have you ever stopped to really notice a tree’s bark? I thought I had until my children started pointing out some details as well as similarities and subtle differences among the different tree families in our yard. They even noticed differences in the bark of trees of the same type. Here are some photos taken from two different red maples (Acer rubrum) in our yard:
- Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids by Gail Gibbons
- Winter Trees by Carole Gerber
- Trees, Leaves & Bark by Diane Burns
- Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Hugo
Before you head outside, gather a few supplies: a magnifying glass, some crayons, and our printable. Once outside, have your child choose a tree that interests him. Ask him to spend some time observing it’s bark closely. Look at the bark at different levels and all the way around the tree. Is it all the same or are there differences? What color(s) it is? Are there any insects? Lichen? Can anything different be seen with a magnifying glass? How does the bark feel? How does it smell? Why might this tree have bark like this?
Now ask your child to make a bark rubbing. This is a great tactile activity and a fun way to record the bark texture for his nature journal.
When your child is done investigating the first tree, help him find a second one who’s bark has different features (a maple and a birch, for example). Ask him to compare and contrast the two. Don’t forget to make a bark rubbing of this one too.
If you’d like to explore tree bark further with your child, here are some helpful sites to visit:
- Arbor Day Kids: Life of a Tree
- The Forest Academy: Trees in Our Lives
- Audubon Guides: Trees (you must register but it’s free and well worth it)
Have a happy, nature-filled week!