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Tree Time

Tree TimeIt’s finally spring, and if you’re looking for an outdoor activity that both you and your kids will enjoy, head outdoors. Whether it’s your own backyard or in a local park, go out and enjoy the spring weather. And while you’re at it, make it a learning experience for both you and the kids with the Arbor Day Foundation’s new pocket guide to tree identification.

“What Tree is That?” is a 164 page guidebook that’s small enough to fit into your pocket or bag. Written and illustrated by the Arbor Day Foundation, the guide provides a step by step approach to identify 250 common North American trees, with beautiful illustrations that kids can easily compare with the tree in question. Trees are identified by answering a series of questions, much in the same way as a choose-your-own-adventure book. Beginning with the leaves or needles, the yes or no answers to the questions walk you through the identification process. There are also various “clues” and explanations sprinkled throughout the book that help to enrich the process and teach kids about the various parts of trees. For example, did you know that the proper term for those little brown winged fruits that drop to the ground from many maple trees in the springtime are actually named samaras? We always called them spinners or helicopters, and would throw them up in the air just to watch them come fluttering back down.

If you want to check the book out first, the Web site has a free interactive “What Tree is That?” section for the Eastern, Central and Western United States. Click on your region, then answer a few easy yes or no questions to identify the trees in your neighborhood or right outside your door. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in a fun activity that everyone can take part in.

There’s also a glossary of tree terms and an animated tutorial that teaches identifying characteristics, such as leaves, seeds, and fruits – handy for the budding arborist in your family.

Arbor Day falls on April 24th this year and is an excellent excuse to go outside and enjoy nature. Why not get the kids together and plant a tree or two, whether it’s in your own backyard or part of a community tree planting project? It’s great for not only the environment but for our own health as well.

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