Outdoor Hour Challenge #34 Tree Focus: Maples

Maples. I am not sure if we have a maple tree in our neighborhood but we will be on the lookout for one this week. My dad has a Japanese maple in his yard but it is most definitely not a native species to our area. It is a beautiful tree though and I will keep track of it over the next few weeks as it starts to turn its gorgeous fall colors.

So what can you do this week if you don’t have an maple tree to observe? Check out the second option in the challenge for additional ways to get to know a tree in your neighborhood this week.

Extra credit this week: Taste some real maple syrup.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #34

Focus on Trees-Maples

1. Read the section titled “Nature-Study and Object Lessons” on pages 7 and 8 of the Handbook of Nature Study.

“The child should see definitely and accurately all that is necessary for the recognition of a plant or animal; but in nature-study, the observation of form is for the purpose of better understanding life.”

2. This week read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 628-634 to learn more about maple trees. Even if you don’t think you have any maples in your area, it is still interesting to read the information for future reference. The information may help you to identify a maple in your neighborhood that you did not realize was there before. Make sure to note the ideas suggested for a fall observation of maples in the lesson at the end of the section-Lesson 174.

3. Spend 15 to 20 minutes outdoors this week with your children in your own yard or on your own street. This week you will have two suggested activities.

*If you have a maple tree of any variety in your yard or on your street, use the ideas from the lesson on page 632 to 634 to guide your observation of the maple tree. The lesson suggests studying the maple out of doors if possible.
*If you do not have a maple tree to observe or you have an additional time period for nature study, choose another variety of tree to observe. Use the suggestions on page 623 to observe the roots of a tree.

“Describe what you can see of the tree’s roots. How far do you suppose the roots reach down? How far out at the sides? In how many ways are the roots useful to the tree? Do you suppose if the tree were turned bottom side up, that it would show as many roots as it now shows branches?”

4. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes discussing any trees you saw. Ask them to give you a brief description of something they saw while on their nature walk. If your child collected an item during your outdoor time, take a few minutes to look at it closely. Ask if your child has any questions that they would like to research over the next week. Make note of anything they are interested in learning more about. Look it up in the index of the Handbook of Nature Study and read more about it if it is covered in the book. Check your local library if you need additional information.

5. Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry. The lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study suggests sketching the fruit including the seeds. Another suggestion is to sketch the leaf and to watercolor your maple tree. A nature journal entry can be as simple as a sketch, a label, and a date. Press any leaves you collected this week and add them to your nature journal later on.

6. If you identified a tree this week, add it to your list of trees in the front or back of your nature journal. You can also use the Running List notebook page. Make a note indicating whether it is an evergreen or a deciduous tree.

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


  1. We’ve been on several “Trees in Winter” walks with a wonderful local naturalist/park ranger. One “hook” he used (with great effect!) with the kids was to tell them that in our part of the country (New Jersey) any native tree they saw with opposite branching was a MAD HORSE — either a Maple, an Ash, a Dogwood, or a Horse Chesnut. Amazing how that stuck with the kids. For weeks afterwards I heard that many of them were going around their neighborhoods looking for Mad Horses, and it’s still the first thing my son checks for when he wants to ID a tree, which, of course, was the whole point!

  2. We were quick and did this challenge this morning. .

    Here is our post since there isn’t a Mr. Linky on this challenge.

    Now we need to catch up on the few we have missed.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is there a printable download available for this challenge number?
    [email protected]

  4. Thanks Holly for reminding me to get the PDF up on the website.

    It will be up shortly.

    Thanks again,
    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Barb! I’m such a paper, paper, paper person it is hard to following directions off the computer screen. Gotta print it out; we run out of ink on our printer quite regularly due to my obsessive need for paper. LOL
    Many Blessings,
    [email protected]

  6. We’ve done several observations of our maple tree,and I’ve linked to the post. Though I don’t always post right away, we’re really enjoying these nature study challenges.

  7. This one wasn’t quite as entertaining as our previous study, but we still enjoyed it, spent some time outdoors, and learned some things!

  8. We have lots of maple trees in our neighborhood, but we’ve never seen how maple sugar is tapped. It was fun to read about how that’s done (and why it doesn’t work in our area) in the Handbook of Nature Study.

  9. we decided to tackle this challenge today since my kids have become obsessed with maple trees after choosing the norway maple in front of our house for our year long tree study.

    we had a great time outdoors!

  10. Our year-round study tree is a maple, so we actually combined this challenge with #36. Maples are my own personal favorites, so I especially enjoyed this one.

  11. I should have posted this long ago… though I’m late, I wanted it be a part of the participant list as I’m hopeful someone will find value in it later when seeking out information on Maple Trees.

  12. Abi Elizabeth Vasquez says:

    What Handbook of Nature Study are you referring to? Is it the one by Anne Botsford Comstock? Or is it a different one? The one in Anne Botsford Comstock’s book “Handbook of Nature Study” is on pages 731-744. It begins with “How to Begin Tree Study” and ends on page 744, talking about Maple Trees in Spring.

    Am I completely off here? We have TONS of Maple Trees around us here in West Michigan, and we have collected several leaves in various colors to do a Wax Mosaic of. I thought it would be wise for us to learn continue learning about the Maples, which is why I came to your website. =)

    If you are using a different book, I would love to know which one it is, so I can purchase it and use it accordingly with your website. Thank you!! <3

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