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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tree Study

Our science this year is a loose study of biology. In the elementary school years, I feel it's important for kids to explore the world and learn about it through their hands first and with books second. We have found that a textbook approach just doesn't work for us at this stage.

Two years ago, we did a study of the ocean, mostly using Janice Van Cleave's Oceans for Every Kid book. We also threw in studies of ocean animals including projects, lapbooks, and many books from the library. We had such a great time that year, and I felt like we all learned so much.

Last year, we attempted to use one of the science textbooks from a popular Christian publisher. It didn't work for us at all. I felt like the text was too dry; my kids weren't at all excited by science, and it was painful for all of us. We abandoned that text and sort of floundered our way through the rest of the year.

This year, I knew we needed to go back to what we love. Studying science through exploration. Our topic is biology, so we are studying animals, plants, and the human body. So far this year, we have studied the platypus, earthworms, and owls. We're learning about the animal kingdom and classification within our studies. We've had a lot of fun with dissections, diagramming, and lapbooks plus a number of books we've checked out of the library. Next on our list is alligators and crocs.

We are taking a break from the animal kingdom at the moment, though, to take advantage of the fall. We are starting a study of trees and leaves. 

We have two great resources we are using to start: Fun With Science: Trees and Leaves by Rosie Harlow and Gareth Morgan and Common Trees of Pennsylvania by DCNR, a free resource we picked up at our local fair.

The first book has some great experiments in it to learn how trees work. Today we made posters about one of the trees in our backyard. We measured it to find out how old the tree is (one inch = approximately one year), made bark rubbings, identified the tree by its leaves and bark, measured the height of the tree, and learned to measure the area of the crown. We listened to the sounds of the tree and talked about the ways in which it is good for our environment. We compared this tree to another, older, slightly different variety in our yard. We even found a mourning dove and its nest in the tree. The dove sat and watched us while we worked and watched it in return. 

It's too big!

He just discovered the tree is older than his granddad.

Can you see the mourning dove and nest?

The kids loved this science class, and we had a beautiful day for it. We have a great deal more to do with the trees in our yard, and I am hoping to do some work with other trees in our town. I am planning to graph the trees in our town, continuing to identify what we find with the help of our common trees book, and learn more about why trees lose their leaves, etc. I am very excited for this project and am looking forward to it with the kids!

What kind of science do you do in your class? Do you have any fun tree ideas for us?

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