Fresh (not dry) leaves
Mini paint roller or paintbrushes
Paint (any kind)
Paper (thicker paper works best)
With your roller or brush, apply a thin layer of paint to the underside of each leaf (the side where the veins are most prominent), including the stem. Press the leaf, paint side down, onto a piece of scrap paper to get off some of the paint, then press the leaf onto your project paper, gently patting it all over to help the paint transfer evenly. Carefully peel off the leaf and you should see a perfectly imperfect print. Repeat with as many leaves or colors as you wish.
Reading Tree Rings
You can learn a lot about the life of a tree by examining its rings. Every spring and summer, a tree adds layers to its trunk; quicker spring growth appears light and slower summer growth appears dark, so by counting the number of dark rings, you can calculate the tree’s age in years. In years when the tree was healthy, you will observe broad, evenly spaced rings. Narrow rings indicate that the tree was lacking resources that year. Perhaps there wasn’t enough rain, or there were too many trees nearby crowding it out and it didn’t get enough sun, or perhaps it had an insect infestation. Several narrow rings in a row usually indicate a drought. If the rings are broader on one side and narrower on the other, that can indicate that something was leaning against the tree as it was growing. You may see scarring on a ring from when the tree survived a forest fire. If you know when the tree was cut down, see if you can find the ring from the year you were born, or the year your parents were born. What was happening in the tree’s life then?
Tree identification guide
Using a tree identification guide, go for a walk around your neighborhood and see how many species of trees you can find. Record them in a notebook and collect a leaf from each, or take a photo of each species and label it with its name.
Clear plastic bag, like a produce bag from the grocery store
Twist tie or string
On a hot sunny day, choose a tree and tie a dry, clear plastic bag around several of its leaves. When you return a few hours later, you should notice drops of water all over the inside of the bag. How did they get there? Trees draw water from the soil with their roots and pull that water up through their trunks, through their branches, and out to their leaves. Some of this water collects on the underside of the leaves and evaporates into the air in a process called transpiration. Trees transpire the most on hot, dry days. About ten percent of the water in our atmosphere comes from trees and other plants in this way. Scientists estimate a mature oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons of water every year!
Knife or small spatula
Make a treat for the birds that call your trees home! First, tie a piece of string to the top of your pinecone. Fill a plate with enough birdseed to cover it. Using the knife or spatula, spread a thin layer of peanut butter all over the pinecone, then roll it in the plate of birdseed. Hang your bird feeder in a tree and then wait for the grateful birds to visit!