If you’re looking for a free, educational outing for your elementary school age kids, think about taking them to a place where you can both walk and enjoy trees at the same time. If your city has walkways along a river with plenty of trees, that would be a perfect place to go. Otherwise, find a park with trees or someplace where you can amble along trails and enjoy the trees. These are wonderful place for parents and children to spend time together.
Look for animals in and around the trees. You might see geese, ducks, smaller birds, squirrels, chipmunks or other animals. Can your kids spot a bird’s nest in a tree branch or a hole in a trunk where a squirrel might live? Trees provide lots of places for animals to live and play. In one photo in this blog, you can see a goose sitting on her eggs in the fork of a cottonwood tree. In the other photo you can see the father goose standing guard on a nearby branch to make sure the mother goose and her eggs are okay. Goose parents work together so their eggs will have a good chance of hatching into baby geese called goslings.
Ask your kids to imagine what it would be like to be an animal living in a tree. How could the tree help the animals who live there? What would be hard about living in a tree? What would be fun?
As you and your kids wander along, tell the trees thank you for all they do to help animals and people. They also provide shade from the hot sun, and they absorb carbon dioxide to keep air clean and safe for us to breathe. They give off oxygen that we must have in order to breathe. All of that happens in a process called photosynthesis. That’s when leaves take in energy from the sun. That energy helps them to change carbon dioxide and water into chemical compounds like sugar. The sugar helps to feed the tree. A byproduct of that process is oxygen. Trees release the oxygen into the air for us to breathe.
During the photosynthesis process, trees can store carbon dioxide in their fibers, and that also helps to clean the air. In one year, a mature tree can absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If there is too much carbon dioxide in the air, it can become poisonous to us. It can lead to central nervous system damage and can cause breathing problems. The central nervous system includes our brain and our spinal cord, the bones that run down our back and help us move easily. Trees do us a big favor by using up carbon dioxide so there isn’t too much of it in the air.
As you walk among the trees, let them know how much you appreciate what they do to keep us safe and to keep our air clean. Tell them how beautiful they are. This can be a fun time for you and your kids to enjoy each other’s company and to learn more about the benefits of trees.