Budding Botanists


On a recent warm and sunny morning, Kindergarteners crossed the street to Carl Schurz Park with Head of Lower School Science Ali Jansen and Kindergarten Head teacher Jennifer Ellis alongside them.

The students lined up against the wall before entering the park, glancing around and taking in their surroundings. Ms. Jansen stood at the front of the line. “Put your detective goggles on!” She instructed, using her hands to hold invisible goggles to her face.

Today, these young scientists were on the lookout for two specific types of trees: Deciduous and Evergreen. Prepared to examine the different parts of trees and how they change through the seasons, the students embarked on their mission!

As they walked along the edge of the park, students used special signals if they spotted one of their trees. Arms stretched straight up above their heads with palms touching signaled an Evergreen tree, while bent arms with palms touching indicated Deciduous, due to their circular shape.

“Trees are everywhere, even in the city! These giant living organisms are an essential part of our natural environment and community,” noted Ms. Jansen.

Once inside Carl Schurz, students circled around their first discovery. “Who can tell me what a stump is?” asked Ms. Jansen.

One student correctly stated, “The bottom of a tree!”

“Yes!” Ms. Jansen stepped aside to reveal the stump of a Deciduous tree. She noted the four layers and how they can reveal the age of a tree and even how it grew.

Next, Ms. Jansen instructed each student to find their own leaf. “Are loose leaves going to be from Evergreen trees?” She asked and was met with a chorus of “No!”

Each student, now holding a brown, green or yellow leaf, traveled up the stone steps to a new discovery: An Evergreen tree.

Ms. Jansen told students to feel the leaves of the Evergreen while reminding them to be gentle and not pull any off of the tree. “What do they feel like?”

“Prickly.”

“Pokey!”

“Not like a Deciduous leaf.”

“Exactly! Evergreen leaves are identifiable because they’re a different shape! They are skinny and long, and Deciduous are definitely softer,” Ms. Jansen explained, noting that Evergreen trees don’t lose their leaves the way Deciduous trees do. She continued to showcase different parts of the tree, including the pinecones that hung from its branches. “What else grows on trees?” she prompted.

Students shared thoughtful answers, such as flowers and fruit. Nodding, Ms. Jansen underscored that trees are resources from the Earth that provide humans and other animals with food and that we need to protect them. They also discussed why, despite being well into the month of November, flowers were still blooming. Ms. Jansen explained, “We’ve had very warm temperatures this month, trees are getting confused! But the Winter months will be too cold for flowers to grow.”

As their walk continued, these friends reviewed the parts of a leaf and curiously examined various parts of nature, talking and giggling along the way. Soon, they reached Chapin’s front door and bounded up the stairs, ready for their next adventure