Unschooling Tree Study
Everyday Unschooling / Unschooling

Everyday Unschooling: Studying Trees

Unschooling Tree Study

We’ve been studying trees around here lately! Well, one tree in particular, but we’ve been noticing so much more about other trees ever since we started too. I wanted to share something the girls have been up to because they really enjoyed it a lot!

But first, how this came about…

Miss 9 is particularly interested in anything to do with nature. She often says she wants to study animals or nature and she’ll get out some books and have a read, making notes in her nature journal. She plays outside a lot, observes things, paints nature, etc and so I know anything along those lines is something that interests her. Anyway, I happened to see someone post a link online about some Australian specific nature observation ideas, and thought this sounded like something Miss 9 would like, and her sisters too. I read it out to her and she was so excited. She was particularly interested in one of the ideas of adopting a tree for a year, and wanted to do it. So we did! (If you’re confused with unschooling and when to share ideas, and when not to, this post might help.)

You can find the post where we discovered the idea here. However, I didn’t read the whole page out to her, just the main idea that you pick a tree and observe it every season to see what changes. I would rather they follow their curiosity and it be about what they find interesting, instead of directing them to certain conclusions or what they should think about. They are capable and curious and we’re not trying to tick learning objectives off a list. Our only purpose is to do what we enjoy and find interesting together. I shared the idea with her because it was genuinely something I thought she would want to know about and enjoy, not because of a goal to learn anything in particular.

Unschooling Tree StudyIt turns out everyone was interested in checking out the tree. Together they chose the Paperbark tree in our backyard. At first they all sat down to draw a picture of the tree.

Unschooling Tree StudyMiss 4’s drawing of the tree.

Unschooling Tree Study

Unschooling Tree StudyThe older girls compared drawings and realised that where they were sitting had made a big difference to how their trees looked, due to their perspective. From Miss 7’s angle, the branches appeared to cross over.

Unschooling Tree StudyNext they drifted over for a close-up look at the tree to see what they could find. There was a couple of these little caterpillars!

Unschooling Tree StudySome cicada shells on the trunk.

Unschooling Tree StudySigns of life hiding among the leaves. Ants, spiders, birds, and more! Every time they found something new they yelled with excitement to each other to come and see! They said things like “I never knew there was so much life in this one tree!”, “this is so exciting!”, and “we have to do this every season and then we’ll do another tree the next year!”. Their excitement was so contagious, soon I was thinking wow I didn’t know trees were actually so exciting, ha! We were all amazed that so much was happening that we have never noticed before in this one tree in the corner of our yard even though we see it every day.

Unschooling Tree StudyThey noticed the tree was starting to bloom in places and that birds were feeding on it.

Unschooling Tree StudyMiss 7 stuck some bark, leaves, and buds into her book. They also asked me to take photos, and took some themselves, that they could print and stick in later.

Unschooling Tree StudyAdding more details about things they’d found.

Unschooling Tree StudyNext they decided they wanted to write down how big the tree was so they could see if it had grown by Spring, but wondered how they could do that because it was too tall to measure. They decided to measure around the trunk to see if it got wider instead.

Unschooling Tree StudyWe took a photo so we could remember the exact place they measured to make sure we did the same next time.

Unschooling Tree StudyUnschooling Tree Study

Unschooling Tree StudyUnschooling Tree Study

Unschooling Tree Study

Unschooling Tree StudyThey also grabbed a couple of books on trees as they wanted to see if there was anything specific about Paperbark trees. We found some info in one book we have. They also read a bit about how the weather effects the way trees grow and their shape in ‘The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs’.

Unschooling Tree StudyLastly, they collected some parts from the tree to put on the nature table inside!

Unschooling Tree StudyAfter we got the photos printed, they stuck them in their nature journals and chose to write a few things as well.

Unschooling Tree StudyUnschooling Tree Study

They plan to check on the tree each season now and see what changes! The big girls especially really enjoyed doing this and are keen to observe other things. I think they’re planning on an animal next but I’m not sure what!

Hope you enjoyed a look at one of the interests in our unschooled home at the moment!


Carly macaulay
August 26, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Hi Sarah,
You and the girls may enjoy reading ‘the hidden life of trees’ by peter wohlleben .. it’s primarily about what trees feel and how they communicate. I’m reading parts to my seven year old at the moment.
Carly 🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿🌿

September 4, 2018 at 12:16 pm

The excitement in the children’s investigations and observations is contagious and I loved how they directed their interests and learning outcomes without realising it. So much fun was had and their journaling is fantastic.

Jenifer K
September 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Can you tell me more (or post a link) about that beautiful mat they’re sitting on in some of the pictures?

November 21, 2018 at 3:56 pm

I have a university forestry background and worked in forestry on 2 continents, yet feel my children have taught me more about the natural world then any professor or supervisor. We take our field guides most places and nothing escapes notice. I feel for the children in schools (and adults they have become), who can’t even name the trees in the park. When you can read the plants and landscape you will never be bored. Every road, every walk, every glance out a window tells a story.

Julie McCarron
May 24, 2019 at 10:11 pm

Your girls may enjoy reading ‘The Happiness Tree’ by Danny English, too.
ISBN 9780993272967

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