Trees, Leaves, and Twigs
Trees are a very important part of our world. Trees give humans and animals what we need most to live — oxygen! Humans breathe in oxygen every time they take a breath, and then our bodies turn it into carbon dioxide, which we breathe out. Oxygen is what we need for our cells, organs, and bodies to function properly so we can be healthy. Where does the oxygen that we need to live come from? It comes from trees. Through the magic of nature, the leaves of trees take in carbon dioxide that we breathe out and turn it into oxygen, which goes back into the air for us to breathe in. Already you can see why trees are so important. But trees also provide food, shelter, and shade from the sun for squirrels, koalas, woodpeckers, owls, monkeys, and many other animals as well as humans. Stuff people use every day is made from lumber that comes from trees, including houses, boats, and big-league baseball bats. Newspapers and books are printed on paper made from trees. Rubber and maple syrup come from the soft inner layer of the tree, just under the bark. The bark of a tree is also turned into products, such as cork and different kinds of medicines, such as aspirin, slippery elm, tea tree, and quinine (used to treat malaria). Budding from the twigs of the tree are the nuts and fruits that we enjoy eating. We are also able to get fuel by burning the wood scraps from a tree, some of which are turned into steam to make power.
It would be hard to imagine life without the products made from trees. But trees are being cut down and forests are disappearing faster than new ones can be planted. The process of clearing or cutting down the trees in our forests is called deforestation, and it's unhealthy for our environment. Organizations like the Sierra Club help to protect trees and to teach people about the importance of caring for and planting new trees. You can help, too. Along with planting new trees, you can stop more from being cut down by reusing stuff made from trees. Scrap pieces of wood, old newspaper, and used paper that will be thrown away can be reused for new craft or school projects. (You'll learn about the importance of recycling in the final chapter.) For the protection of living trees, whenever you need bark, twigs, and leaves for an Organic Crafts project, please collect what you need from the ground.
Ages 6 and under
There are so many different types of trees. If you took a walk in your neighborhood or a nearby park, you could probably find at least 10 different types of trees. You also might see very different types of plants that are really trees in disguise. Did you know that the twisting trunks of the mountaintop bristle-cones out west and the spiny boojum shooting out of the desert are trees? Trees come in all shapes and sizes and can be found everywhere in the world. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of investigating to see if that funny-looking plant is really just a tree in disguise. Some trees, such as the oak, are friendly. They have strong branches that you can hang a tire swing from and thick trunks in which squirrels can make a nest. Some trees are not as friendly. Poison sumac can look a lot like a small shrub or a tree, but is dangerous to humans, causing a painful rash. A great way to learn about types of trees and to teach others about trees is to make a Tree Talker.
Leaves, needles, bark, and/or seeds from different trees, different sizes
Tree identification (naming) book
1 package 3 x 5-inch unlined index cards or paper cut the same size
1 sheet poster board, 18 x 24 inches
5 sheets different-colored tissue paper
Small cup for mixing glue
Craft glue or homemade Natural Glue, p. xiv
1 cup water
1 ½- or 1-inch paintbrush
1. Sort the leaves, needles, bark, and/or seeds you've collected into different piles so that all the items from the same tree are together. Use a tree identification book to make sure that you have the correct name of the tree for each collection pile.
2. Take an index card and turn it so that the short sides are on the top and bottom. Fold the index card in half. Write the name of the tree inside the card for each of your collection piles.
3. Place the poster board flat on a table or work surface.
4. Tear your colored tissue into large strips about 1 inch wide and any length from 6 to 12 inches.
5. Put 7 tablespoons of glue into your mixing cup. Add 1 teaspoon of water so that the glue becomes a thin mixture. Using the paint brush spread some of the glue mixture on your poster board
6. Place your torn tissue strips on top of the glue in every direction. Sometimes overlap them (to make a new color) and sometimes not, to make a colorful background for your board. Using your paintbrush dipped in the glue mixture, lightly coat the top of the tissue so that your tissue design will stay put. The board does not need to be covered completely. Leave spaces between each strip of tissue paper. Just make sure to place your tissue paper in a design you like.
7. Let your board dry completely.
8. After your board is dry, lay out your collection piles with their tree-title index card on the board.
9. Using the glue from the bottle, stick each piece from each tree collection to the board next to the correct tree-title index card. Glue down the back of the folded tree-title index card so that it can be opened up to show the name of the tree. Leave enough space between your cards and collections so that it's clear which collections belong with which card.
10. When your board is completely dry, you can play guessing games with your friends, your family, your classmates, and your teacher about the types of trees that grow where you live!
Ages 7 and up
The word paper comes to us from the Latin word papyrus. Papyrus is a reed, or tall thick grass, that grows in the Nile River valley in Egypt. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptian people needed something to write on. They crushed and pressed the papyrus reeds. Then they pasted the pressed reeds together to make a strong sheet several layers thick. This produced a very heavy form of paper. Like the Egyptians, you can make your own Homemade Paper using grasses, lint from your dryer, and old scraps of waste paper.
Adult supervision required
1 sheet newspaper
2 sheets paper, such as office, construction, or scrap paper, 8½ x 11 inches
1 measuring cup that will hold at least 2 cups liquid
¼ cup dryer lint
¼ cup crumbled or shaved tree bark and broken up twigs (optional)
¼ cup leaves
2 cups water
1 handful small flower petals and grass blades
1 12 x 12–inch piece of an old window screen with very small openings
Rectangular plastic tub, at least 9 x 11 inches Can of nonstick cooking spray
1. Take the old papers and newspaper and shred them into very tiny pieces. Put the shredded paper into a measuring cup, filling it about three-quarters full.
2. Fill the measuring cup completely by adding some of the dryer lint, tree bark, leaves, and grass. Put this mixture into a blender along with 1 cup of water.
3. Blend on low until all the paper is finely shredded and you have a thick mixture that looks a lot like paste. You should be able to stir it with a wooden spoon. If your mixture is too thick to stir with the wooden spoon, slowly add a little more water until the mixture is smooth.
4. Add your flower petals but do not turn on the blender. Instead use your wooden spoon to stir your flower petals into your paper mixture. Mixing them thoroughly will help make them part of the mixture and more securely attached to the paper.
5. Place your window screen flat on top of the plastic tub. Spray it lightly with the nonstick cooking spray.
6. Carefully spread your paper mixture on top of the screen with the wooden spoon. The tub below the screen will catch all the extra water as your paper mixture dries.
7. Allow your paper to dry completely. This may take a day or two.
8. When it is all dry, peel your Homemade Paper from the screen and use it to write on.
Ages 6 and under
A family tree can be used to learn about our family or to tell others about it. A family tree can be a drawing of lines and circles showing who the members of a family are and how they are related. Or it can be a picture of a tree where you write names of the members of your family on the branches. From our sisters and brothers to our mother and father, and our grandparents and our grandparents' parents, family trees are fun ways to learn about who we are and where we come from. With just a few leaves and twigs you can make your own Family Tree.
1 piece scrap paper, 8 x 12 inches
1 sheet construction paper or poster board, 24 x 36 inches
1 long twig, 12 inches long
10-15 twigs, 2-5 inches long
Wood glue for twigs
Craft glue or homemade Natural Glue, p. xiv
Heavy book, such as a telephone book or dictionary
20 or more large leaves
1 sheet construction paper, 8 ½ x 11 inches, different color from the larger one
1. Make a list of names to include on your Family Tree. The list should include your brothers, sisters, mother, father, and grandparents. Don't forget to include yourself. You may also want to include your cousins, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who is part of your family.
2. Draw a practice sketch of your Family Tree. Planning how your Family Tree will look will make doing your craft easier. Start by drawing the trunk of a tree and several branches, using your pencil and the scrap piece of paper. Write your name on the trunk of the tree along with any brothers and sisters you may have. Above those names write your mother and father's names, and above them those of your grandparents. Add any other names you wish. Just make sure that your father's family is on one side of the tree and your mother's on another. But remember that your Family Tree is your own design and can be designed any way you wish. This sketch will guide you when you are making your craft.
3. Place the large sheet of construction paper flat on a table or work surface.
4. Put your twigs on top of the paper in the shape of a tree. The biggest twig, the one measuring about 12 inches long, should be placed vertically on the paper, like a tree trunk. The remaining twigs can be placed on either side of the large twig, shooting out, just like tree branches.
5. When you are happy with the way your tree looks, carefully pick up each twig, one at a time. Squirt a little bit of the wood glue on the underside of the twig and then place it firmly back onto your paper. Do this for each twig until your tree has been glued firmly in place. Carefully place a large, heavy book, such as a telephone book or dictionary, on top of the twigs. Let your work dry.
6. Now you will need to add leaves to your tree. Just as with the twigs, place the leaves on the paper first to decide which branch they will be connected to. Do this until they are all where you want them. Some can be placed above and some below each branch. But remember, this is your own work of art; you can make your tree look any way you like.
7. Put a few drops of glue on the back of each leaf and press it firmly in place. Again, do this one at a time to protect your design.
8. Finally, add the names to your Family Tree. On the second piece of colored construction paper, use the marker to write down the names of the members of your family. Begin with your name and then the names of any brothers or sisters you may have. Next, write down your parents' names, those of your aunts and uncles, those of cousins and grandparents. After you have written down as many names as you know, you may want to ask your parents to help you with more names, such as those of great-grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles. You can make your Family Tree as big or as small as you like.
9. When all the names have been written down, carefully cut each one out.
10. Now place each name on the tree where it belongs. You may want to start with your name somewhere near the trunk of your tree and your brothers and sisters nearby. Put your parents' names above yours, and your grandparents' names above them. As babies are born and people marry, new people become part of your family. You may want to save some paper to add those names when the time comes. Your names may be placed on top of leaves, twigs, or on the background paper. The more you overlap items, the more your Family Tree is an artistic collage.
11. When you have placed the names where you want, use the glue to stick them to the paper.
12. Once your picture has dried completely, you can hang it up in your room or in a special place where everyone can admire your growing Family Tree.
Ages 6 and under
A journal is a book in which you write your secret thoughts, record all your fun adventures, and draw pictures of things you see. A journal can also be used to record, or set down in writing, things you've learned or discovered. John James Audubon used a journal to record notes and draw pictures of the birds of North America. Wilderness explorers Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) used journals to record what they saw on their journeys out west in 1804-1806. Many things we've learned about history and our natural world come from historical journals. Maybe someday the Nature Journal you make will become an important piece of natural history!
5-10 sheets 8½ x 11-inch paper or Homemade Paper (see activity on p. 4)
2 pieces cardboard, 8 ½ X 5 inches or larger
3 or more colorful leaves
Marker or pen
Craft glue or homemade Natural Glue, p. xiv
¼ cup water
2 strands twine or ribbon, 12 inches long
1. Fold each sheet of paper in half, lengthwise. Cut each sheet of paper in half along this fold line so that the paper size is roughly 8½ x 5 inches. These pieces of paper will be the inside of your journal. Your cutting doesn't have to be exact or neat. In fact, the rougher the edges, the more artistic your journal will look.
2. Cut the two pieces of cardboard down to roughly the same size as your paper. These will be the front and back covers of your journal, so make sure they are big enough to cover the pages.
3. Use your hole puncher to make two sets of holes through your front and back covers along one of the longer sides of your cardboard, one set of holes nearer the top, one set nearer the bottom.
4. Take several sheets of your paper and line them up underneath one of the cardboard cover pieces. Use a pencil to mark a dot for where you should use the hole puncher.
5. Use the pencil marks to line up the inside pages of your journal and use the hole puncher. Line up the two pieces of cardboard, and put the front cover with the holes atop the cardboard for the back cover.
6. Write your name and the title for your journal on the front cover piece of cardboard.
7. Squeeze two or three drops of glue on the back of your colorful leaves. Put the leaves on the cover of your journal to decorate around the title. Pour a spoonful of glue into your plastic cup and add a few drops of water. Mix it thoroughly with your paintbrush until it looks like paint. You may have to add a little more water to get the mixture smooth. Add it slowly. Using your paintbrush, paint a thin layer of glue over the top of the leaves to cover. This will not only make your leaves stick to the front of your journal, but also will give the cover a strong, shiny coat. Let dry overnight.
8. Now it is time to assemble your journal. Place the back piece of cardboard down. Then stack the paper and the cover cardboard on top so that the punched holes line up.
9. Thread your twine or ribbon through the punched holes and tie a firm knot or bow. Trim the extra length of twine with your scissors.
You are now ready to write about your world in your homemade Nature Journal.