Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Nature Study - The Leaf

Summer is a great time to take early morning walks or bike rides in the cool of the day.  We like to do both!  There is so much about God that can be noted as you walk along and look at His creation.  Our last few times out we decided to look at trees and leaves as we biked/walked and make note of what we observed, even collecting a few to bring back for our nature journal.  The first thing we noted was the huge variety of shapes God made leaves in.  We discussed the creative mind of God and whether we thought it would be possible for us to think up such variety on our own.  It's staggering to think of the vast variety of things God has created!

The glossy/waxy looking leaves that Magnolia trees have, caught our attention and we pondered why they might be so waxy.  What purpose did God have in mind when He designed them?  We found out that plants growing in dry areas or plants that don't lose their leaves in the fall, have been given a special way to protect themselves from drying out in hot summers and in winters when water is frozen.  God made the tree to protect their leaves from drying out in a couple different ways.  One design He came up with was to make long thin needles - like a pine tree, so there is less surface to dry out.  Another way God built them to do this is to curl the leaf up, like a live oak.  This reduces the water loss by reducing the wind and sun the leaf gets.  He made some leaves to have tiny hairs on them to reduce water loss due to wind.  The last was to coat the leaves with thick protective wax so the water stays trapped in the leaf.  This is what our friend we found on our walk - the Magnolia tree - had been built by God to do!
Once we had collected several leaves that we wanted to learn about, we got out our nature journal and the iPad (I could have been an overachiever and got out the Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region to identify our leaves -but it IS summer...right?)!  We also gathered scissors, wax paper, clear tape and a pencil.  We like to put things into our journal that we find, whenever possible.  We take a leaf we found and google search together for a similar leaf by using a description of the leaf in our search field.  Then we visually look together to see if we can find one that looks like the one we have.  Once we do, we click on it to find out what type of leaf we have.  Then my daughter writes the leaf name in her journal along with the date and some interesting information we found out about that leaf/tree.  Lastly, we cut a piece of wax paper to fit the leaf and then tape the wax paper over the leaf adhering it to the nature journal.  We found when we do this, it will keep the leaf in tact in our book without having to press it first.
If you live in the South, you know all about those prickly little balls that fall from trees in the autumn, off of the ever so abundant sweet gum trees!  We found out that those prickly little fellows, that seek out bare feet to provide torture for those brave enough to tip toe through the woods around NC, do serve a purpose after all!  In the fall these sweet gum balls dry out, turn brown and open up to release their seeds to proliferate.  Their prickles aren't just for scaring off barefooted kids, they are also for hitch hiking on the fur of unsuspecting animals to further proliferate throughout the woods!  We used our wax paper to press the sweet gum ball into our book.  We cut off the side of the gum ball to allow it to lay flat enough to close our book but still see the texture and uniqueness of the gum ball.  It was a neat addition to our journal.

My daughter's favorite find was up last.  She found and investigated a chokecherry (a type of stone berry).  Sarah squeezed it to see if there was anything inside of the stone berry.  She smelled it to see if it had any particular smell.  She noticed the relative size of the pit to the cherry was large.  We were interested to find out that chokecherries were a source of food for the colonists.  American Indians introduced the settlers to the tart fruit!  So we had a little introduction to Cycle 3 too while doing our nature study.

It's such a joy to study God's creation.  The more you study, the more in awe you are of the creative order and design of God's world.  You just never know what you will learn while doing nature studies!


  1. We have done a leaf study/collecting unit study in the past. I love leaves and have preserved and framed many types including one that my girls brought back from Nicaragua!

    1. How awesome. So fun! Thank you for stopping by!