A typical tree guide requires significant amount of background knowledge; much of which we adults take for granted. Wouldn't it be great to have the students design their own tree guide -- deciding for themselves the features that they deem most important for telling trees apart?
We are working toward that goal. In order to categorize the leaves that they find, students have begun collecting fallen leaves around the school yard and are listing all of the traits and qualities that they notice. K/1's started making Venn Diagrams comparing and contrasting sets of leaves. One of our first comparisons included looking at a white mulberry leaf and a catalpa tree leaf. We are on our way to collecting data for creating a K/1 guide to trees!
Students also spent time outside yesterday, between rain showers, studying an elaborately decorated maple tree. But before they even began depicting coloration to their drawings, students carefully counted the branches and trunk formations; we were surprised to count at least 7 large branches that started very near the base and looked like the tree had multiple trunks.