Outdoor Hour Challenge: Crop Plants-Tomato

Outdoor Hour Challenge
Crop Plants #7


Inside Preparation Work
We have come to the last of our crop plant challenges. This week we will be observing tomatoes. Since there is no section in the Handbook of Nature Study for the tomato, I found a couple of things that will help you share information with your children. You might like to read the article and watch the video in preparation for this challenge.

1. Read pages 20-21 “Gardening and Nature Study”.
This small section will remind you of the value of keeping a garden or at least a small box or container with a few plants to observe.

2. Make sure to get fresh tomatoes to observe during your follow-up time. The ideal way would be to pick them from your own garden but buying them at the grocery or at your local farmers market will work just as well. If you can, have on hand two different kinds of tomatoes to compare during your follow-up time: cherry tomato, plum tomato, beefsteak tomato, green tomato, or different heirloom varieties.

Outdoor Time 3. Make sure to spend 10-15 minutes outdoors in your backyard or a near-by park. If you have tomatoes or other crop plants growing in your garden, make sure to spend some time observing the plants, insects, birds, or other living things that visit from time to time. Collect a few leaves or flowers to put in your press and then in your nature journal. You might check on your seasonal tree to see if it has changed since your last observation.

Follow-Up Activity
4. Take a few minutes to talk about anything your child found outside that was interesting.
Use the Handbook of Nature study, previous challenges, or local field guides to learn more information. Give you child a chance to express in their own words something they experienced outdoors.

5. If you have a real tomato to observe and taste, you can make a journal entry to record a sketch or thoughts about the tomato. (If you purchased the Crop Plants notebook pages, you will have a page to record your observations.)

Here are some journal ideas to get you started:

  • If your tomato has a stem and leaf, make sure to sketch those in your journal.
  • Measure the size of your tomato with a measuring tape.
  • Compare different tomatoes.
  • Cut your tomato crosswise and observe the seed pattern.
  • Describe the texture of the tomato skin and the inside flesh of the tomato.
  • Take time to observe the smell of the tomato and record your description.
  • Remove some seeds and compare them to other seeds you have studied during the crop plant challenges. (size, shape, location, color, texture)
  • Make a watercolor painting of your tomato or just its cross-section.

Crop Plants Notebook Page Cover Button
New for this series of challenges are custom made notebook pages for each crop plant we will study. I have designed simple to use pages that will complement each challenge and will be an easy way to start a nature journal. Each of the eight notebook pages is in full color, but they are just as great in black and white.



  1. Just found your wonderful blog. What a beautiful way of exploring the world. I’ll be spending some time here to learn more. We homeschool and spend much of our learning time outdoors. Thank you!

  2. Dear Barb

    Thanks so much for your kind, sweet words at my blog. I absolutely will be continuing with my nature studies, following your wise lead. We have completed our first ever seasonal tree study (more on that soon!) and I was just planning my next lot of weeks work from your sidebar #12 and on to find that we would be doing eight weeks worth of study on garden plants (how fantastic- it is spring here in 1 day!!). As I was writing out my eight weeks of planning I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be great if Barb would put all these into another booklet… maybe someday” and then I moved on to my next subject are and to cut this shorter “O) I had to come back looking for something and what do I find but the booklet on garden plants! How happy am I!!!!! Thanks Barb- you are a marvel!

  3. wintersown.org is a source of FREE heirloom tomato seeds. Just have to send a SASE. I received my seeds promptly – many varieties so we’ll be experimenting next year with all of them. The website has some great directions on growing seeds cheaply (outside using recyclables).

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