We recently shared a blog post entitled: Top Outdoor Winter Activities to do With Kids where we suggested nature hikes, as one of the many activities to partake in. Hiking is a big part of our lives, especially since we are surrounded by so many incredible forests and local trails. Sometimes our hikes revolve around just getting outdoors and getting exercise, but other times, we make a point of trying to turn our hikes into learning opportunities.
This week we decided to make a point of collecting different types of conifers (a conifer, or evergreen - is a tree or shrub with needles that keeps its foliage year round) and turned it into a conifer identification study. All you need is a brown paper bag, or something to collect the small branches in, as well as a magnifying glass. We aimed to collect 8-10 different looking types of foliage on our hike, and inspected each one with the magnifying glass to determine their differences and similarities. We studied the needles' size, shape, length, colour and how they connected themselves to their branches. We felt the needles to determine if they were soft, prickly, long, short, flat or round.
We decided to bring them home and explore them further. From our research we discovered that there are many classifications of conifers, and some of the most common to our area in Ontario, Canada are:
Playing detective, we tried to guess which of our conifers were which.
I downloaded an amazing app a few years ago to help me identify different flowers that were growing in my garden, different mushrooms we find on our hikes, as well as different insects called Picture This, (I highly recommend downloading this app). So once we had tried to guess the classification of each evergreen we took pictures with the app and discovered if we were right. We were then able to uncover exactly which type of conifer species we had found and wrote it down in our nature journal to keep track. You can repeat this exercise any time to create your own nature hunt or exploration, and it doesn't have to be with just conifers. Seek out things like leaves, flowers, mushrooms, bark, berries, cones, and so much more. Become a nature detective!
With our discovery now complete, we decided to turn our evergreen finds into art. We used some of the branches to create needle people. We used other branches to make paint imprints as another way to compare the different conifer species. We also painted with the branches, turning needles into paint brushes. And with the remaining needles we even created an ice sun catcher.
To help you with your Conifer Identification journey, we have created a quick and free Conifer Identification Printable to make your conifer hunt hike even easier. And stay tuned for more ways to make your hikes more interesting, coming soon!