Happy Day 2 of the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge. The weather has got in on the act today by being particularly wild itself and whipping up the trees into a frenzy. Luckily, by the time we were ready to head on out things had calmed down a bit. The sun even poked its head out briefly. Our #30DaysWild challenge activity today was inspired after Roo asked me the other day in the car why trees don’t fall over. She’s big on ‘why’ questions right now and the ensuing discussion delved deep into the depths (pardon the pun) of subsequent ‘whys’ tangling me up into such tight knots of needlessly complex and probably erroneous explanation that I decided to resort to the wimps option of ‘because’, vowing instead to show her the answer to her question first hand another day.
So today I kept my promise. We nipped out into the garden and tracked down a stray baby oak tree that I’d found the other day pretending to be raspberry cane in the vegetable garden. We took a good look at the plant and I got Roo to try and pull it out the ground. She couldn’t of course. Armed with a trowel she then set to work trying to dig it out. After a while she gave up and I had a go. Ten minutes later we were both still digging. Its position made it tricky to get any further down and eventually a few stray trowel digs from Roo and the tap root broke. There was simply no way that sapling was coming out with roots fully in tact. Next I got Roo to pull up some other weeds nearby. Her baby sister enjoyed joining in with this too although she did nearly uproot a runner bean by mistake in the process. Roo surprised herself by being able to yank the weeds straight out the ground. Clutching our prizes we headed back to the house to examine the roots more closely.
Roo looked at the little white hairs on the roots and we talked about how the straws drink up water and food through them and taking them all the way up through the plant’s stem. It’s a difficult concept for a preschooler but even a 3 1/2 year old can relate to straws. Roo-of-the-Never-Ending-Why then wanted to know why if the plant is drinking water its leaves are dry. We didn’t go into detail but I did get her to break some of the leaves and wipe them on paper so she could see how on the inside, the leaves aren’t quite as dry as they first seem. This of course turned into an impromptu drawing with leaf sap game!
Next we compared the length of the different roots. Roo loved this, seeing how far they reached up her legs and along her arms. She noticed how the oak tree root was very long and thick compared to the small weeds’ roots and we talked about how much harder this had made it to pull up the sapling compared to the weeds and how a huge, tall oak tree like the one in our garden would have roots much longer and bigger even than these and about how these support the tree and keep it upright.
Finally she chose her two favourite plants including the oak tree sapling and we put them in water. The oak tree fitted beautifully in an empty wine bottle! This was a great way to look more closely at the roots as the glass magnified them and the water spread them out into a more natural shape. Roo spent a bit of time drawing the roots before bed to add to her nature book. Judging by her picture, she liked the hairier roots of the weeds best! We are keeping the oak tree in water for a few days to see if it grows any more roots. I’m not hopeful of its chances but if it survives then we may even plant it in a pot and grow it on a bit.
Whilst not as fun perhaps as the Peter Rabbit walk yesterday Roo enjoyed our little science lesson and garden grubbing today and I’m hoping it might have put a temporary block on the ‘why’ chain for that particular line of questioning. You can never beat learning things first hand and even if at that age kids can’t be expected to remember things for long, practicing fine tuning observation skills and switching on to the finer details of the living world around us makes it all worthwhile. As for me – well I got my veggie patch weeded for free (minus a bean or two). As so often happens, Roo’s questions have also got my own mind ticking again and I’ve enjoyed ten minutes or so brushing up on my very rusty A-level plant biology knowledge – it’s amazing how much you forget over time and how much you can remember given a little nudge by nature.