Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making Good Observations - The Tree Project

To get outside.
To improve observation skills.
To improve writing and communication skills.

To learn about trees.
To learn about the park next to our school.
To see and feel and think about the changing seasons.

For these and many other reasons, I started The Tree Project this year. The class heads outside once a week or so and makes observations about a tree they have chosen in Memorial Park, next to Sunnyland.

They have been taught to really sit with their tree. To study it and the area around it. To compare their tree to others in the vicinity. Each trip outside, they take notes about the weather, sights, sounds and smells they observe, and about their tree. They observe the tree's size and shape, it's texture, and any changes since the last observation. When all the trees had leaves, they focused on the size, structure, shape, and texture of a leaf of their tree. The students describe their observations in great detail; they also make sketches and take photographs.

Recently, I asked the students to choose their best observation and type it, so that it could be included on their Google page. Here are a couple of fine samples of their work. You can access each student's observation by visiting their Google page.

Thanks for reading.

Student #1:
Facing south - I see different trees in the background than normal because I normally face west.
It’s chilly with a north easterly breeze. There is a clear sky. There’s no grass around my tree anymore, the soil’s moist. My trees bark is smooth in some places but ruff in others. My tree has multiple small holes in the side of it that look like it was drilled by a wood pecker. There’s a lot of liken on my tree, I wonder if the soil around my tree has silt in it of if it has clay in it. The lump on the bottom of my tree hasn’t changed.  It used to be shrinking.

Student #2:
       I am on the south side of my tree facing north. I’m standing out in the sprinkling droplets of rain with the patch of trees that have lost their colorful leaves. My hands are turning numb and bone white as I write this observation of my tree. Outside I felt like I was in a freezer.
      Leaves are constantly falling down my tree and when just one leaf falls of my tree it deeply changes the completion of my tree. The bark on my tree looks like puzzle pieces slightly separated from each other that are the color of dirt. A majestic moss green bug stands in the crevices of my tree standing there; I think the bug was waiting for the rain to stop.
       Also while I looked on the soaking wet ground I saw dozens of torn leaves on the grass. On my tree I see some dark brown twigs and leaves surrounded part of my tree, sometimes I think it’s an old nest since I don’t see birds around it. Sometimes when I listen closely I hear leaves being knocked of my tree. 

Student #3:
Today, my tree seems boney and frail in this chilly weather. As I write this the rain keeps coming down harder and harder.
To get up close to my tree you have to go through some spiky bushes bouncing up in my wake, not a very good day not to wear socks.
Since Sam (the name I gave my tree) is very near the highway I can hear the constant roaring and growling of the automobiles.
I think Samuel is at least 15 Linnea’s tall.
My tree still has most of its needles left. Its branches seem to stretch upward in hope of warmth and sunlight.

Student #4:
Today my tree has lost a lot of its flame colored leaves and the wind is a soft gust blowing more  leaves off my tree. Even if there is only a soft breeze the wind is freezing cold and it’s getting stronger and stronger every minute making me freeze like an ice cube. My tree's trunk has gotten darker on one side but on the other side it is a light shade of brown and towards the top of the tree it gets lighter and lighter and at the very top of the tree is a round, dark hole. Soon there is a strong gust of wind scattering leaves everywhere. On the road I hear the cars roaring past on the wet cement, their tires making that squashing sound.  I heard a little chirp; "m guessing that it was some sort of bird in the distance. The grass under my feet is soaked in water droplets and it feels all squishy like soaked moss. Around my tree is soaked wood chips and around my tree on the grass is several bronze colored leaves and a few yellow leaves. Some of the yellow leaves have little speckles of eather green or brown and maybe a tad little red. That is what my tree looks like today.

Student #5: 

Today I am facing south. I see a leaf blower machine and a big pile of leaves. The machine has blown all the leaves that were on Twisty’s side of the park to the other side of the park. Some grass is starting to grow around Twisty. The grass is lime green and looks like tons of little hands coming up from the ground. Twistys bark is smooth in some places but rough and jagged in others.  Twisty has small pieces of moss all over him. The weather today is sunny and warm rays of sun hit me but a chilly breeze whips through the air and goes right through my sweat shirt giving me goose bumps.  

Please comment!

What has been the best of The Tree Project?

What is something you have learned since beginning the project?

What are some examples of good observations the students in room 12 are making? 



  1. Dear Room12,
    I think the writing is abosolutely great, I love the descriptions and telling the reader where you are facing the tree it that’s why it’s so interesting to read. Please post more tree writing on the blog its very interesting and I would love to read more.

  2. Dear Mr.Pahl
    I improve getting better at the tree observation I hope we can observe other thing. Sincerely Dyna

  3. I loved doing the tree project. You get to go outside and feel the wind rushing through your hair, in a different way than on the play ground.

    1. I agree with you Phoebe. I think it’s different to. I liked reading the tree observations they were really descriptive. I liked that they described which way they were facing. I think it’s fun to go and observe our trees.

    2. I totally agree with you Julia. I mean its good to go outside for a change don’t you think? And not just on the play ground.

  4. I love all the delicious words that the 4th graders used!
    From Linnea

    1. Dear Linnea,
      I love it too!
      From Avery

  5. Dear Class,
    I think we did an amazing job on tree observations because we all take it seriously, well most of us… Other than that, MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    From, Avery

  6. Dear Mr. Pahl, Why have we stopped doing the Tree Observation Project? It was really fun. From, Claire


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