Outdoor Hour Challenge #11 Year-Long Tree Study

If you have been following along with the challenges and you picked a focus way back in challenge number four, you should be just about ready to wrap up your first focus study. Our family has been learning about garden flowers but we are soon going to switch over to wildflowers. (This is going along with my son’s study of Kingdom plantae in biology.)

This is a good time to start a seasonal tree study. You will be picking a tree in your yard or neighborhood that you could “adopt” for a year to observe and record the changes in each season. I encourage everyone to start their year long tree study with the group this week. This part of the challenge should take one week to complete and then in our next challenge we will be starting a group focus study of wildflowers or garden flowers.  

Please Note:If your family is enjoying your current focus, you do not need to switch but you can follow your own path and keep us posted.

drawing our tree
Observing our tree Fall 2007

Outdoor Hour Challenge #11
Begin a Four Season Tree Study

1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 622-623. Also read page 625, Spring Work. After reading, turn to the table of contents, to the tree section, and read the list of trees covered in this book. If possible, pick a tree from the list that you have in your yard, on your street, or in a near-by park that you can observe over the course of the next year. My boys and I have been working on a tree study with an oak tree since August 2007. The changes in the tree have given us something to study in each season. If you live in a more exotic location, like some participants who live in Australia, Brazil, or Spain, do your best to compare your tree to a similar tree in the Handbook of Nature Study. Many of the observations can be used to study a variety of trees.

Before heading out for your nature study time, read the introductory section for your focus tree with your children. Make sure to read the observation suggestions for your particular tree and keep these in mind as you go out to make your observations. You will be challenged in each season of the coming year to make an observation for your tree and record any changes. I have prepared a journal page to record your observations. See the end of the blog entry for a link to the journal page.

2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to study the tree you are going to observe over the next year. We took photos of our tree to put in our nature journal or you can sketch them right into your journal. Keep in mind the suggestions for observation that you read in the Handbook of Nature Study. If you have younger children, just spend your time observing your tree and helping them to look at it closely.

3. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area (challenge #4) that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done to follow up interest found during your Outdoor Hour.

4. Complete the Seasonal Tree Study journal page with your child. Place the page in your nature notebook to have for comparison in the next seasonal tree challenge.

You can purchase all of the first ten challenges in a convenient ebook along with custom notebook pages.


  1. Finally! We’re back again – don’t know what to do after this one, though. It’s probably a bit late to start buying flowers/seeds to plant in our garden, so should I just jump back in with Challenge 17?

  2. Barb,
    we have two “twig” trees and a small Southern Magnolia, which I love. I’d like to pick the Magnolia to study but it doesn’t change much throughout the year…other than the blooms in late spring/early summer.
    Do you think I could make it work or should I pick a tree that changes more throughout the year?

  3. I love magnolias and we have one in our front yard, a little messy but so pretty and green all year long.

    Do you have a tree on your street or in a near-by park that you could pick since it might be more fun to see “changes”?

    If not, go with the magnolia and just watch the subtle changes in that. I know we enjoy the buds, then the blossoms, then the red seed things. You might have to do your observations more often than every season since you are right that they don’t change much.

    Magnolias are fun to draw too and the leaves are really big so you could do a study of those too.

    Make it work for your family.
    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  4. Hi Barb!

    We started our year long tree study today. I had thought about holding out until the leaves started to change colors, but I decided to start it today. I figured the kids would get a kick out of observing the rapid changes the tree will be going through soon.

    Thanks again for organizing these challenges!


  5. Hi! Just thought I’d get this entry in before our nature study slows down a bit. Winter is well and truly here in Russia, so I think I need to rethink our nature study times.

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