Tree Detective

  • Time Length
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    < 1 hour

  • Mess Level
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    A Little Messy

  • Cost

    Materials or Fees

  • Difficulty
    Shape Created with Sketch.


Question and Wonder:

  • How does a tree change throughout the year?
  • Do all trees change in the same way?
  • When and why do trees change?
  • What parts do you think will change the most? Why?

In your journal, draw your tree, including the shape of its trunk, branches, and canopy (treetop) or take pictures using your camera or smartphone. Describe your tree, including how it looks, smells and feels. remember to record the dates and times of your observations and picture taking. (If you do not write very well yet, that’s okay. You can draw your changes or ask a friend or family member to write down what you observe). Repeat these steps each time you visit the tree.

One other way to record the changes is to build a model of your tree using the materials listed or other things you think would work.

Note to parents of very small children:  You can still do this activity. Instead of making the journal, simply talk about what they are observing. Let them feel the bark, the leaves, smell the tree, examine the seedpods – all great ways to see the changes and to stimulate those little scientists!

Imagine and Design:

  • What changes are you noticing?
  • Are there particular parts that are changing or the whole tree? What parts? How are they changing?
  • When do you see these changes happening? Why do you think they happen when they do?
  • What is the best way to record your findings? The pictures? drawings? model?
  • What does the bark feel like under your fingers? Does it have a smell?
  • What about the leaves?
  • How many senses can you use to explore your tree?

Review your journal, pictures, drawings or models. Talk about your findings.

Test and Discuss:

  • What parts of the tree changed the most? the least? Form your observations could you determine why they changed?
  • If you went at different times of the day, how did that affect the changes you recorded? Did it?
  • Is it easier to notice changes from week to week, month to month, or season to season? Why?
  • Can you see seasonal changes in your tree? When do leaves start to fall? When do leaf buds form on branches? (Hint: look at the branch tips.) Do you see fruits or seedpods? If so, when?
  • What other plants change as time passes?

Did You Know?

Many different types of trees grow in Kentucky. Visit to identify yours!
A special science called Phenology studies and tracks seasonal changes in plants and animals around the world. That’s what you’re doing as a tree detective! Become a citizen scientist by sharing your tree observations at

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