Students explore the parts of a tree through mystery boxes, a blindfolded walk, and by sorting different leaves. This activity sharpens observation skills and descriptive vocabulary of trees and tree parts.
Parts A and B: 50 minutes
Part C: 50 minutes
For Part A:
- Natural objects from trees (see Getting Ready)
- Medium-sized box (no smaller than a shoebox)
- Old sock, tape or needle and thread (optional)
- Chart paper
- Bags or containers for collecting natural objects (one per student)
For Part B:
- Blindfolds or masks (one for each pair of students)
For Part C:
- Tree leaves
- Needle-shaped leaves or pictures (optional, see Getting Ready)
tree, senses, wood, food, paper, product, pulp
- Find an area where several different kinds of trees grow, preferably including your adopted tree. If your school has few trees, perhaps you could take the students to a wooded park. SAFETY: Check the site for any hazards, such as deep holes, sharp objects, or poisonous or irritating plants.
- Collect one or more objects from the ground underneath each of the trees. For example, you might collect several kinds of leaves (pointy edges, fuzzy underside, pine-needle clusters); bark (smooth, rough, crumbly); and nuts, seeds, or fruits (acorns, walnuts, pine cones). NOTE: Do not tear living parts off trees.
- Cut a hole in the top of the box. The hole should be no larger than necessary for a hand to fit through comfortably. You may want to tape or sew the top part of a sock to the hole to prevent students from peeking in. Put the objects you collected into the box.
- (Optional) If your site doesn’t have them, collect a few clusters of needle-shaped leaves from another location. If this is not possible, find a picture of needles that you can share with the students.
Doing the Activity
PART A—Mystery Box
- Ask the students what is important about the sense of touch. How do they use their sense of touch? Can they identify objects using only their sense of touch? Show students a variety of objects in the classroom, inviting them to touch and describe each object. List the descriptors (adjectives) on chart paper to make a “word bank” for the rest of the activity.
SAFETY: Remind students about appropriate behavior for working outside. (See Getting Ready for 1: Adopt a Tree activity.)
- Take the students to the place where you found the natural objects and give each person a bag or other container. Have each student reach into the mystery box you prepared earlier and feel as many of the items as possible. Have them describe the objects they feel.
- Then have students search for “tree parts” that match those in the mystery box. Point out that they should not tear living parts off trees or other plants. Tell them to put the tree parts in their containers.
- Bring the students together and ask volunteers to pull one object at a time from the mystery box. Have the students hold up the object they collected that matches the one from the box.
PART B—Feel the Difference
- Take students to the wooded area you selected for the activity. Divide the group into pairs, giving each pair a blindfold. Explain that partners will take turns wearing the blindfold and examining a tree using only touch. (Students can just close their eyes if they’re uncomfortable wearing a blindfold.) SAFETY: Point out any potential hazards students should avoid.
- Have the sighted partners carefully lead their blindfolded partners to a tree. SAFETY: The safest way to lead is to have the blindfolded person take the “sighted” partner’s arm and walk about a half step behind him or her. The “sighted” person should walk slowly and describe anything that needs to be avoided. When they reach the tree, the “sighted” partner should place the blindfolded partner’s hand on the tree.
- The blindfolded student should examine the tree’s bark and, if possible, its leaves and other features. After they’ve spent a few minutes at the first tree, have students move on to another tree. Tell them to pay close attention to the differences and similarities between the two trees.
- Have the students switch roles and repeat the activity. (If possible, have the students choose new trees for each blindfolded person.)
- When everyone is finished, bring the students together and have them describe the different trees they examined. Then see if the students can find which trees they explored based on what they felt. If they can’t find the tree, their partners can show them.
- Invite students to write a description of their experiences, using descriptive words drawn from the word bank in Part A.
PART C—Looking at Leaves
- Take students to the wooded area you selected for the activity. Ask each student to collect three to five different kinds of leaves. Encourage them to only pick up leaves from the ground, rather than pulling them off plants.
- Direct students to work in pairs or trios, pooling their leaves together. Ask them to examine their leaves and sort them into groups so that all the leaves in a group are alike in some way.
- Have students share some of the ways they sorted the leaves. Ask:
- What are some differences among the leaves?
- What do the leaves have in common?
- Do any leaves have teeth (pointy edges)?
- Do any have hairs? Where?
- What do the leaves feel like?
- Who found the biggest leaf? The narrowest leaf? The smallest leaf?
- Have any leaves been eaten by insects? How can you tell?
- Can you trace the veins on the leaves with your fingers?
- If no one collected needles, pass out some that you collected earlier or show them a picture of needles. Have students compare the needles with the other leaves.
- Have each student give one of their leaves to another student. Explain that they will find what kind of tree that leaf came from. Walk from tree to tree, and have students compare their leaves with leaves on the tree. If a student has a leaf that matches a plant, stop and examine it more closely:
- Where on the branch do leaves grow?
- Do the leaves grow far apart from each other, close together, or in clumps?
- If the leaves are needle-like, how many needles are in each cluster?
- Are all the clusters the same? Are all the needles in the cluster the same length?
- Do all the leaves on the tree look exactly the same?
- What color are the leaves?
- Are this tree’s leaves larger or smaller than the leaves of other trees in the area?
- What’s similar or different about this tree and another nearby tree?
- Continue looking at trees until all students have found the tree from which their leaf came from.
Remember to visit the Enrich tab for recommended children’s books that support the science concepts covered in this activity.