Teaching Kids to Know Their Trees

This fun fall art project helps kids learn their leaves -- and creates a decorative map of your yard, too.

A Key To Your Trees

Tree map on wall Photograph by Tim MacKay

Here's a clever way to teach basic concepts of natural science and mapping right in your own backyard. Using simple supplies, kids can figure out what trees are around their home, then document their findings, charting the grounds and creating a lovely keepsake. It's a perfect project for introducing dendrology -- the study of trees -- to a budding naturalist.

    Be a Scientist:

    1. Collect leaves from the trees in your yard.
    2. Place the leaves back side up (to expose the veins) and cover them with a large sheet of tracing paper.
    3. Color over each leaf with crayons and colored pencils to create a rubbing you like.
    4. Use a guidebook to identify the leaves (see "Key Tip," below).
    5. Label each leaf, then cut out the shapes.

      Make the Map:

      From a sheet of patterned scrapbook paper, cut out the shape of your house as seen from above (tip: Zoom in on Google Maps), then glue it to a sheet of poster board. Add washi or craft tape for walkways and other landmarks, and written labels. Glue the rubbings on the map to show the trees' locations.

        Key Tip:

        To help you ID your leaves, pick up a guide to the trees in your area at the library. The book will ask you about the leaf shape (lobed, toothed, and so on), the bark, and whether it has any nuts or seeds. This is called "keying a tree."

        The Skills it Builds: botany, observation, and mapping

        Originally published in the October 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.