Outdoor Hour Challenge #38 Elm, Hickory, and Chestnut

photo credit: flickr

After much deliberation, I have decided to make this week’s challenge a multiple choice challenge. Since it looks like those that voted on the poll have an equal number of elms, hickories, and chestnut trees, they are the winners of the final challenge for trees.

I honestly have no idea if we have any of these growing in our neighborhood so I will be among the crowd that reads the information in the Handbook of Nature Study and then sets out to discover both on the internet and in real life if we can find some of these particular trees. I am sort of looking forward to the challenge since most of the first trees were readily available in our area and provided no direct challenge at all except to get out and complete the nature study.

I would love to hear your personal feelings about trees since starting this focus study on trees. I know my thoughts have rambled around and I shared a bit of that earlier in the week but truly I have come to have a different appreciation for the variety and complexity of trees and how they have each come to live in their own habitat.

Some quotes about the trees we will study this week:

American Elm
“Because of its beautiful form and its rapid growth, the elm has been from earliest times a favorite shade tree in the eastern and Middle States….Moreover the elm is at no time more beautiful than when it traces its flowing lines against the background of snow and gray horizon.”
Handbook of Nature Study, pages 634 and 635

Shagbark Hickory
“The shagbark is so busy being something worth while that it does not seem to have time or energy to clothe itself in tailor-made bark, like the beech, the white ash, and the basswood.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 643

Horse Chestnut
“By October the green, spherical husk breaks open in three pars, showing its white satin lining and the roundish, shining, smooth nut at its center….Very few American animals will eat the nut; the squirrels scorn it and horses surely disown it.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 649

Outdoor Hour Challenge #38  
Focus on Trees-Elm, Hickory, or Chestnut

1. Read pages 634-638 on American elms, pages 643-645 on the hickory, and pages 645-650 on chestnuts in the Handbook of Nature Study. These pages will help you to identify if you have any of these particular trees in your area. The pages will also include suggestions for things to observe for each type of tree during your outdoor time. You can see my suggestions in step two.

2. Spend 15 to 20 minutes outdoors this week with your children in your own yard or on your own street. If you have an elm, a hickory, or a chestnut tree, spend your time observing the details of the tree as well as the overall shape and form. If you do not have access to any of these particular trees, please feel free to observe and study *any* tree that you have in your yard that we have not covered in a challenge already.

Suggestions for each tree:
American Elm: Page 637 suggests observing the tree in autumn and making a sketch of the autumn colored foliage. It also suggests looking at where the tree grows, noting the shape of the tree, observing the trunk and the branches and how they divide, and taking a close look at the texture of the trunk.

Hickory: Page 645 has specific suggestions for autumn tree study. Some of these ideas are to observe the trunk and branches, note the shape of the leaflets, and to describe the outer husk of the nut.

Chestnut: Describe and sketch the horse chestnut tree.

3. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes talking with your child about any trees you observed. 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 and then look it up in the index of the Handbook of Nature Study. Read more about it if it is covered in the book or check your local library if you need additional information. Make note of any trees you would like to study again in the spring as a way of comparing the changes made over the winter.

4. Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you would like to complete a notebook page, see the link below to choose one for your child’s journal. 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. Taking a photograph of your tree and then printing it for your journal is a great way to document the seasonal changes.

5. 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.

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


  1. Sorry for the double post. Mr Linky had saved the info from a previous link I had done on another site.

    We didn’t manage to find the trees in question… but we came up with something else that I thought tied in (at least somewhat).

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