Let the Trees Be Your Teachers: Family-friendly tree activities – Part Two

Tree Canada


Hooray, spring is finally here! The days are getting longer, the sun feels brighter and as budding begins, our trees become the stars of the show.

As restrictions ease across the country around the use and access to our green spaces and parks, it is an opportunity to experience the beauty and benefits trees provide us.

Continuing from our first ‘Let the trees be your teachers’ activities, here are a few more to do with your family. With some of these activities conducted over time, watch the changes in your yard or to the trees around you, as nature wakes up from winter and the beauty of spring is revealed.

The Young Explorer (ages 5-7)

Life around Trees

Carefully poke around in the fallen leaves and observe any creatures or other signs of life. Note what is found or seen.

Take turns describing your discoveries to each other and how these might affect the tree.

Perhaps dig gently into the soil around the base of the tree and carefully lift loose pieces of bark from dead trees to see what kind of life is hiding there.

Remember to respect all the animals, plants and trees you come into contact with – as each one of them plays an important role in an ecosystem.

Tree Grab Bag

Bring some paper bags to the park and wander around to collect objects from a tree you feel drawn to without showing each other.

Once everyone has collected a few items, have one member of your family come forward, reach into a different bag, touch the object and attempt to describe it. Remember: no peeking!

Once everyone has had a chance to touch and describe the object, guess what it could be and then pull it out. Talk about why the object might be important to the tree and what its purpose is.

The Young Researcher (ages 8-10)

How old is your tree?

Ever wonder how old your favourite tree is? A tree’s age can say a lot about the area where it grew and its history.  For example, a hundred-year-old tree would have been around when soldiers were just coming back from World War I and the world was recovering from Spanish flu.

Once you figure out the age of your tree, imagine what the world was like when it was planted. Did your neighborhood grow around the tree or the other way around?

Materials required: tape measure, calculator, notepad and pen, tree species growth factor chart

Step 1: Measure the circumference, or distance around the tree by wrapping a measuring tape around the trunk. Record the number in inches.

Step 2: Calculate the diameter by dividing the circumference by 3.14 (or pi).

Step 3: Figure out the species of your tree and then multiply your diameter by the growth factor from this chart. This number equals the age of your tree in years!

Step 4:  Subtract the age of your tree from 2020 to determine the year of the tree.

What was happening in that year?  Was it significant in some way? Perhaps share a story about what could have happened in that year.

The Young Decision Maker (ages 11-16)

Life in a Square:

Spring is the perfect time to observe changes in the natural world as everything begins to wake up after a dormant winter.

Do this activity over a span of time to allow for comparisons and observations of the plant and animal life in a designated area.

1. Select an area in your yard that will not be disturbed.
2. Mark the area so you can make repeated observations.
3. Select a comparison area that will be mowed and treated as normal.
4. Create a chart on which to record: date and time; plant types and numbers; animal types and numbers; and environmental conditions, such as available moisture, shade, sunlight, compacted soil.

Using your chart, record conditions and changes in both areas, as we move from spring into summer. What are you noticing?

Try to predict what would happen over several years if the area could return to a more natural state. How would the local wildlife be affected? How would people be affected?

Protect our Trees:

Bring along a camera (if possible), or notepad and pen, and record any tree problems you see, such as vandalism, paved over roots, or exposed roots on paths. Take pictures or draw your observations.

Using your photos and recorded observations, get involved in protecting your trees with some of the following activities:

  • Write an article for the local newspaper on the need to care for the trees in your neighbourhood and how this might be done. Consider why trees are important for our well-being during this time.
  • Create a poster on the need to conserve trees.
  • Prepare a short presentation on how to care for trees. Share it with your family and friends.
  • Write to your local parks department to find out what can be done to save your neighborhood trees.
  • Visit Tree Canada’s resource page and blogs on tips and tricks to take care of your trees

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