During winter, teachers have a variety of activities to use, increasing in order of difficulty.

Ask students to observe an oak tree in the field. What are the colour of any remaining leaves? Are there any acorns present? The teacher randomly selects a sample of 10 twigs, and ask students to calculate the mean number of remaining leaves/acorns per twig. Then students could compare this across different European schools using the Map. This could generate discussion of potential reasons for similarities and differences.

In the classroom, teachers ask students to draw and label key features of a winter twig. Follow the link for an example of the Diagram here. Students could write more details under the key features, researching the different parts. If available, students could use a hand lens or dissection microscope to closely observe and dissect buds (longitudinal section), where they can observe the scales and embryonic leaves.

Ask students to dissect the twig to observe pith (longitudinal and transverse planes- a cross section of horizontal and vertical) looking at how the nutrients are stored and transported. Although oak does not have a particularly interesting pith, students could compare this to other species of twigs.

If available, students could use calipers to compare the mean length, diameter or volume of terminal and lateral buds. Ask students to research the function of different bud types, and suggest reasons for the observed differences in size. Repeat the activity leading up to budburst to get some interesting data.

Compare the mean annual growth rate of twig for the last 2 or 3 years by measuring the length of each year’s growth for 10 twigs then calculating the mean. Suggest reasons for differences between years. Position of the year’s growth can usually be determined from position of girdle scar (see diagram) or the colour/texture of bark but we need to check if this is the case for oak.

Design an experiment to calculate acorn abundance (will need grid quadrats and field tape measures to do quadrant sampling). Acorn abundance is dependent on tree age (which can be easily calculated). However, there are variables to consider such as the proportion of acorns that may have been carried away by rodents by January. This could be explored in the experiment evaluation.

Design an experiment to measure germination rate of acorns – January should be a good time to do this as germination is as early as October (UK). Compare the rates of germination for different locations/countries and suggest reasons for the observed differences. Older students could measure soil factors e.g. moisture, litter depth and rate of insect damage.

 Other ideas for year-round observation

Students select a live twig on a particular tree to label, allowing them to return and observe the same twig each season

Students remove a bud from a tree every 2 months; buds are carefully dried and, once the collection is complete, arranged chronologically and displayed on a board

Photo: By Roger Cornfoot, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13847338

Country

United Kingdom

Language

English

Proposing teachers

Levels

Upper primaryEarly secondary

Type of activity

Observation, mathematics, art, science, experiment design

Key competences

Critical thinkingCreativity

List of species

Oak

Software needed

AppGeomapOther: Other

Activity Files

Activity Urls

Had been tested?

Yes

Email and contact

janet.georgeson@plymouth.ac.uk

Time required

Varied activities for lessons over the season

winter, teachers have a variety of activities to use, increasing in order of difficulty. Ask students to observe an oak tree in the field. What are the colour of any remaining leaves? Are there any acorns present? The teacher randomly selects a sample of 10 twigs, and ask students to calculate the mean number of remaining leaves/acorns per twig. Then students could compare this across different European schools using the Map. This could generate discussion of potential reasons for similarities and differences. In the classroom, teachers ask students to draw and label key features of a winter twig. Follow the link for an example of the Diagram here. Students could write more details under the key features, researching the different parts. If available, students could use a hand lens or dissection microscope to closely observe and dissect buds (longitudinal section), where they can observe the scales and embryonic leaves. Ask students to dissect the twig to observe pith (longitudinal and transverse planes- a cross section of horizontal and vertical) looking at how the nutrients are stored and transported. Although oak does not have a particularly interesting pith, students could compare this to other species of twigs. If available, students could use calipers to compare the mean length, diameter or volume of terminal and lateral buds. Ask students to research the function of different bud types, and suggest reasons for the observed differences in size. Repeat the activity leading up to budburst to get some interesting data. Compare the mean annual growth rate of twig for the last 2 or 3 years by measuring the length of each year’s growth for 10 twigs then calculating the mean. Suggest reasons for differences between years. Position of the year’s growth can usually be determined from position of girdle scar (see diagram) or the colour/texture of bark but we need to check if this is the case for oak. Design an experiment to calculate acorn abundance (will need grid quadrats and field tape measures to do quadrant sampling). Acorn abundance is dependent on tree age (which can be easily calculated). However, there are variables to consider such as the proportion of acorns that may have been carried away by rodents by January. This could be explored in the experiment evaluation. Design an experiment to measure germination rate of acorns – January should be a good time to do this as germination is as early as October (UK). Compare the rates of germination for different locations/countries and suggest reasons for the observed differences. Older students could measure soil factors e.g. moisture, litter depth and rate of insect damage.  Other ideas for year-round observation Students select a live twig on a particular tree to label, allowing them to return and observe the same twig each season Students remove a bud from a tree every 2 months; buds are carefully dried and, once the collection is complete, arranged chronologically and displayed on a board Photo: By Roger Cornfoot, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13847338 &country=United Kingdom &teachers= &students=Upper primary, Early secondary, &language=English &key_competences=Critical thinking, Creativity, &type_of_activity=Observation, mathematics, art, science, experiment design &key_competences=Critical thinking, Creativity, &software=App, Geomap, Other: Other, &species=Oak, &impact= &title=Oak activities for Winter &files1=https://www.phenologit.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Oak-activities-for-Winter.docx &files2= &files3= &urls1=http://www-saps.plantsci.cam.ac.uk/trees/images/twig.gif &urls2= &urls3= &tested=Yes &email=janet.georgeson@plymouth.ac.uk ">Download as PDF

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