Trees. I grew up climbing them, reading in and under them, swinging on ropes hung from them, even planting them. Not everyone is so lucky. Even if your library does not include green space and trees, there are fun and interesting ways to share trees with your younger patrons.
As always, I start with some books… below are some titles I especially like.
Branching Out: How Trees are part of Our World, by Joan Marie Galat
In the Heart of the Village: The World of the Indian Banyan Tree, by Barbara Bash
Seeds of Change, by Jen Cullerton Johnson
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins
Trees, by Maria Angeles Julivert
Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, by Franck Prevot
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa, by Jeanette Winter
Next, talk about trees! If you have trees on your property, go visit them! Talk TO the trees! Hug the trees!
The kids will feel especially silly doing this at first, but they will probably enjoy it as you continue. Talk about the textures of the trees. Compare bark on different trees. See if anyone in the group can identify the types of trees you have on the property. If you are not good at this, you may want to check it out before hand so that you know what they are. Or take along a tree identification book, and figure it out together. After communing with the trees, either take the group back inside for the next part, or stay right there and enjoy the shade while you do it.
Tell the kids you are going to “build” a tree, and that they will be the tree’s parts. Using the Tree Factory activity from Project Learning Tree is a great, fun way to learn about the parts of a tree. A printable version of the activity can be found here: https://www.plt.org/family-activities-tree-factory
In this activity, kids are assigned different parts of the tree to “become.” Each layer of the tree is added one at a time, with the kids repeating key phrases which will help them to remember what each part of a tree does. For example, the heartwood supports the tree. So the child assigned to be the Heartwood stands in the middle of the group, flexes his or her muscles, and says “I support! I support!” Subsequent layers of the trees are added one at a time from the inside of the tree out, followed by the roots and leaves. All the while, previous layers of the tree continue to chant about what they do for the tree. Printed cards with the parts of the tree named on them may be laminated and strung on necklaces for the kids to wear their assigned roles. I have done this with both kids and adults, and everyone finds it fun and informative!
To add another dimension to the lesson, consider including tree core samples, such as these.
Make friends with a forestry agent, and you can likely borrow a set for use. They are useful for generating all kinds of interesting discussion, and add another, tactile way to envision the different layers inside the trunks of trees.
The lines between the various layers of the trees, which would appear as “rings” in a
tree cookie (cross-section of trunk) are interesting fun for many kinds of activities, including math applications.
For more information, see:
Tree cookies can be purchased relatively inexpensively from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Vintage-Wood-Slices-20-small/dp/B00HMBV3R4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1431680843&sr=8-4&keywords=tree+slices or could likely be borrowed from a forestry agent or possibly Extension office agent.
You can also purchase tree rubbing plate sets, like this one. http://www.amazon.com/Constructive-Playthings-R-5815-Childrens-Rubbing/dp/B001AZ587Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431681048&sr=8-1&keywords=leaf+rubbing+plates Numerous different tree leaves, some with included flowers, seeds or pods, can be used to create interesting art or for comparison to living trees on your property.
Trees are amazing! This program would tie nicely to an Arbor Day celebration, Earth Day celebration, or just about any other outdoor/nature related theme. Appreciating their complexity and diversity fits nicely with a wide variety of topics. Both kids and adults can enjoy a program about trees. And we literally can’t breathe without them!