How many different types of bark can you find?
The arborist activities are designed to be repeated 3 or 4 times across the year, reflecting the different seasons and the progression of the children in your setting.
Early Learning Goal links
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Tree, trunk, bark, branch, inside, outside, lumpy, bumpy, knobbly, rough, ridged, bent, straight, smooth, soft, silky, velvety, silky, shiny, glossy, long, short, wide, narrow, thick, thin, dark, light, big, small
What to do
Tell the children that they are going to be arborists. You could show them the arborist poster.
Tell the children that they are going to be observant like arbortists and notice what the outside of the different trees are like. They are also going to be collaborative as they will need to help each other to complete this task.
Demonstrate how to hold the paper on the bark of a tree. Use the side of the crayon to colour over the paper so that the pattern of the bark is revealed. Children may need to work in pairs so one children can hold the paper and the other child can do the rubbing.
You could challenge the children to find bark to match the photographs in the bark rubbing provocation or you could have some bark or pictures ready for matching.
Questions to ask to support and extend learning
- What does the bark on your tree feel like?
- Can you see a pattern on your paper?
- What does your pattern look like?
- Can you find another tree?
- Are the trunks the same?
- Which is bigger/wider/bumpier…?
- Are the rubbings the same?
- What is different?
- What happens if you press harder with your crayon?
- What happens if you use another colour?
Other things to try
You could return to the bark rubbing each season to see if the bark has changed and whether the children have developed their bark rubbing skills.
Remember to refer to the children as arborists and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been collaborative like an arborist because you helped your friend make a rubbing by holding their paper…”
You could try rubbing leaves. If you rub the underside of the leaf you will be able to see the veins in your picture.
The science of bark
We have put together some useful information about the science of bark to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
What is bark?
Bark is the outer layer of a tree. This protects the tree from disease and pests and insulates the tree from cold and heat. It keeps out moisture when it conditions are wet and prevents moisture loss when it is dry around the tree. Bark is a dead layer which is continually renewed.
The inner layer of the bark is the phloem. This is the layer that passes food to the rest of the tree. It lives for a short time before dying and becoming part of the outer bark.
Why do trees have different types of bark?
Smooth bark such as that on a beech, is goodfor keeping out pests, making it hard for insects and parasitic plants or herbivores to climb up. To grow a smooth bark, trees need to grow slowly.
Bark grows over parts of the inner tree that have become exposed, such as when a branch is removed, so the slower the bark grows, the longer it takes for the exposed wood to be protected.
Trees that grow quickly such as an oak, can repair themselves quickly but the rapid growth causes the bark to wrinkle and crack. This creates an excellent habitat for insects. To protect themselves these trees create chemicals called tannins to make the bark bitter and less tasty to pests.
Some trees such as birch have a thin bark that they shed regularly to get rid of parasites such as moss and lichen.