Life Story of a Tree

Life Story of a Tree
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(New for school year 2014-15)

I hope this will foster Fall or Winter nature walks in comfortable conditions. The intent is to help students envision the role of trees in various stages, especially in the "rotting log" phase. The plot starts with the living majestic specimen that succumbs to a lightening strike, then stands for awhile without foliage, and finally crashes down (by sound suggestion) in a winter storm. Along the way animals that depend on the tree for shelter and food (squirrel, crow and deer) are glimpsed.

Some teaching could be offered about what injures trees internally (pests, droughts) and the external hazards of various kinds (wind, fire, construction damage etc.).

In the second half, the remaining stump (log is off to the side) continues to feed, shelter and attract more life forms than it did in its prime stage. Sow bugs, spiders, fungi and a salamander appear. Various grubs and borers could precede the fungi and sowbugs could follow the fungi but I assumed there was some overlap!

Your guidance can lead students to learn about other agents like ants and termites, and the snakes, birds, skunks, possums, raccoons, etc. that may forage the insects. At the end, the final contribution the tree makes is the renewing of the forest itself, to return the nutrients for the support of new wildflowers and tree generations.

The last animal before the acorn is a tiny jumping spider. These are especially appealing for closer study. Look into youtube where there is excellent magnification footage, along with comments from the public, to help children get over thinking of the whole spider kingdom as terrifying.

Other resources on the web offer under key words like rotting log offer guidance to field explorations for conducting a walk in the woods where possible. If not, the general tree cycle subject can yield many in-class reading, reporting, and artwork subtopics.

I was partly inspired by an ice storm last winter, but also looking back, there was a book I read my child years ago that you can still get used from Amazon. The title is "The Dead Tree" by author Alvin Tresselt, with lovely artwork by Charles Robinson (1972)

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