OHC Summer Series #2: Summer Tree Observations

Well, our summer is off to a great start and with the focus on using our senses we are observing far more than we usually do even on a casual basis. The evenings here have been perfect for nature study and last night we were out and about just at sundown. We saw a fox! He was a big guy with a beautiful tail, more than likely a Gray fox. He stopped for just the briefest of moments and looked right at us before he darted off into the brush. Amazing sight!

Special Note: Alex was gracious enough to send me this helpful link for more information on watching wildlife at night: 10 Tips for Watching Wildlife at Night. Thanks Alex.

Summer Series #2
Seasonal Tree: Summer Tree Observations

“The leaf is a factory; the green pulp in the leaf cells is part of the machinery; the machinery is set in motion by sunshine power; the raw materials are taken from the air and from the sap containing food from the soil; the finished product is largely starch. Thus, it is well when we begin a study of the tree to notice that the leaves are so arranged as to gain all the sunlight possible, for without sunlight the starch factories would be obliged to ‘shut down’ “.
Anna Botsford-Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

Train Your Senses

  • Sight: Look closely at the bark and leaves. Stand or lay under your tree and look up. Use a magnifying lens to look at the bark and leaves. Look for birds, animals, or insects in your tree. Look for all the parts of your tree: trunk, crown, branches, and spray.
  • Smell: Smell the bark. Rub a leaf and see what it smells like.
  • Touch: Close your eyes and feel the bark. Feel the leaf or needle from your tree and describe its texture.
  • Hearing: Quietly sit under your tree for one minute. Can you hear the leaves or branches moving? Can you hear a bird in the tree or insects buzzing near the tree?
  • Taste: If your tree has fruit, you can choose to taste the fruit.

Inside Preparation Work:
Read pages 618-620 in the Handbook of Nature Study: The Parts of a Tree. For your summer tree study, make sure you read the information on these pages so you have in mind the parts of a tree: trunk or bole, head or crown, spray, and branch. Also, make sure you have a general idea of how a tree makes its own food by reading in the section, How a Tree Grows, on pages 620-622. Your job will be to relate any of this information that you think might be of interest to your child as you study your tree.

Note: If you have the free PDF version of the HNS, you will need to look in the Trees and Plant Life ebook, pages 240-243. If you have the free download of the entire HNS, you will need to look on pages 726-729.

Outdoor Hour Time:
Your tree should have its leaves now and we are going to spend 10-15 minutes of your outdoor time using the ideas from the Handbook of Nature Study to do some focused observations of your tree. Remember you may want to start using the proper vocabulary for the parts of a tree when you are completing your tree observations.

Follow-Up Activity:
After your outdoor time, complete a nature journal entry using the notebook page provided for the Summer Series, the original notebook page, or your own blank journal. Photos of your tree are a good record in your nature journal as well. This might be a good season to press a few of the tree’s leaves for your nature journal.

Here is my simple press idea: How to Make a Flower Press.
If you would like all the Summer Series Challenges in one place, I have an ebook gathered for you to purchase for your convenience. Here is a link to a complete description:
Summer Series of Outdoor Hour Challenges
Summer 2010 Nature Study Final

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy



  1. I have a question. We came across your site several weeks ago and I’ve been going through the first 10 challenges (as suggested) and we have mostly completed them. I haven’t really posted much just summaries so I haven’t linked up. But my questions is since we’re just now starting this weekly journey with you – how do we go about choosing a tree? And is this the same tree we’ll be following for the rest of the seasons?
    Love this blog!

  2. Yes, this is the tree you already started observing in previous seasons or the one you would like to start with this summer.

    I always suggest that you choose a tree that you have in your yard or one that is in your neighborhood so you can actually keep an eye on it between seasons and notice the changes. As far as what kind of tree, you may want to skim the list of trees covered in the HNS and see if you can find one in your yard that your children are interested in learning more about that is talked about in the book. There is no reason it has to be in the HNS but it might make it easier.

    This challenge is to use all your senses to observe your tree so you don’t even need to know what kind it is if you are not sure. Keep it simple and make sure your children are in on the decision about what tree to use.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. We sniffed a tree. :) Folded a Leaf. Listened to the leaves. Lovely! Glad I saved it for a space of time that we could savor the scents outside. :)
    I am working on using tables in my studies – on my wordpress page. If any of your readers knows how to use them with Windows Live Spaces – feel free to leave a tip or two. :) Frustration abounds. :)

  4. We don’t have many trees in our neighborhood since it’s new construction, but we did observe the ornamental trees in the entrance of the subdivision, and then went hiking at the nature preserve to find more trees. :)

  5. We had a great time as usual! Thanks Barb!

  6. Love this study for all ages. Nice one to do as you roll out of bed the morning after 4th of July fireworks.

  7. Barb – Our tree observation is fascinating. We have learned and are continuing to learn so much about the trees in our front and back yard. The exciting part of this observation is the opportunity to take this information and observant eye wherever we go!

    We are having a wonderful time. It will be several days now that we will spend in this observation because of all of the exciting new discoveries!

  8. We had fun finishing up our year of tree study with the trees we picked last year. Thank you for everything!

  9. Hello…. I am so excited to be doing these challenges. Thank you for helping me ease into homeschooling in such a wonderful way! (I hope that I did this right….) :)

  10. We finally had weather that wasn’t oppressive to go out in so we were able to visit the girls’ favorite trees. If you can believe it, Minnesota has been having weather in the 80s and 90s with dewpoints in the 70s and 80s as well.

    The humidity has been difficult to deal with – it has felt like 110-116 degrees on some days. Literally.

    With it being a much cooler 79 degrees today, we enjoyed doing the Summer Tree Observation challenge.

  11. I think Summer was my favorite observation, maybe because it was so much fun explaining on the walk to our trees about our senses…and the delightful images and smells that came across our eyes, ears and noses!

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