Do you know the saying "A picture's worth a thousand words"?
If that's the case, I'm going to tell you that a hands-on science activity answers 1,000 questions :)
Giving kids a way to get up close while learning helps provide the details for all the "why is this happening?" and "what does that mean?" questions that they ask as while exploring the world.
Today we have both for you -- a few pictures along with an awesome & easy hands-on activity that's worth it's weight in gold!
Hands-on Tree Identification Activity
During Autumn, it seems that so many of the questions revolve around trees --
Why do leaves change colors?
Why does this tree have pinecones and the other have acrons?
Giving your child the opportunity to explore more about trees will allow them to better understand nature, the seasons and also life cycles.
This activity is going to cover two areas of science -- both tree identification (ecology) and also how water can be used as a magnifier (which is a physics concept). I love finding easy and fun ways to introduce advanced science concepts to kids :)
You'll need a few items for this activity:
1. Glass or plastic jars/bottles
We used a few of both types just to look at the differences in how water worked in each. If you working with young children, I would suggest plastic bottles as they're safer and lighter to hold.
You can either wash out some of the jars or bottles you have at home or find Clear Plastic PET Jars with tops like these (affiliate link) if you want a uniform collection.
And someone always asks 'what's that green thing in the photo?' -- it's a hedge apple from the hedge trees in the Midwest. They have a wonderful scent and are great for nature baskets!
2. Leaves & Seeds from trees around your area
This can be a great opportunity to have the kids help with set-up. For each tree, find a few leaves and any seeds to put in the jar or bottle. Seeds might include small items such as 'helicopters' or larger items like acrons or pinecones.
Using Water as a Magnifier
Once you have the leaves & seeds in the jars, fill them will water.
You can see in the photo above how the pinecone and needles will appear larger in the water.
Adding water to the bottles serves two purposes:
• first, it keeps the leaves fresh so you can use them for a week or longer without their getting brittle
• second, you'll get a nice close-up look at the tree items
Using water as a type of magnifying glass is such a cool experiment! I know, the kids are probably going to ask how it works, right ;) Here's the explanation -- when light travels through water, the light beams will slow down and bend. When that happens, the light spreads out and the object in the water will appear larger.
Name that Tree!
In order to know what types of trees you have in your area, use this free tree identification printable and seed list.
I've included names of the most popular trees in this Tree Tag printable -- just cut out the ones that work with your tree jars so the kids can see which tree names are associated with their leaves & seeds.
I printed ours on bright orange cardstock so they were easy to see when handing from the trees. You can hole-punch and attach the tags with twine or hang them from the trees with clothespins.
There are two ways you can play "Name that Tree!"
For younger kids, as you collect the leaves and seeds, attach one of these tree name tags to each of your jars.
You can put your tree jars in a basket along with some loose tree seeds (like pinecones and hedge apples) for a great sensory experience! Here's a similar Wire Basket with handles (affiliate link) if you want one for the activity.
With older kids, it's fun to put the tags on the trees and have them take the filled jars to the different trees to see which ones match before they attach the tags. It's like a tree scavenger hunt :)
So get out there and have some fun this week -- there's nothing like a great nature activity in Autumn!
MORE NATURE ACTIVITIES
Here's a few other outdoor activities the kids will enjoy: