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memorial trees

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Last weekend, we went to New York City to visit grandma. While we were there we decided to make a trip to the site of the World Trade Center. I thought that this weekend, on the 10th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, I'd show you a little of what I saw there.


I hadn't been down here since I went to the restaurant at the top of one of the Twin Towers back in the late 1980s. I didn't know anything about the plans for the new memorial. Not only are they building several new skyscrapers here, including One World Trade Center which is shown above and is about 2/3 complete, but they're constructing a beautiful plaza full of trees. You can see a picture of what it will look like on the canvas covering the fence in the picture above. And here's an animation from the 9/11 Memorial website (click on "9/11 Memorial" or "2008 Animation"):

Giant waterfall features have been built in the spaces where the two original towers stood and the entire space around them will be filled with trees. The website says that there will be over 400 trees on the 8 acre plaza and they will symbolize "hope and renewal." Check out some images of how it will look when the trees are grown and in bloom on their gallery page. Like Central Park, this will be a huge green area surrounded entirely by tall buildings. I feel like the trees bring the city back to a human scale and are a perfect way to establish a space where the human beings who died at the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001 and at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania can be remembered.

The memorial won't open to the public until September 12th, so we visited an exhibit a few blocks away called Tribute WTC: Person to Person History. Here we read about the neighborhood before the attacks and saw images and heard stories of what happened that day 10 years ago. I have to say that we hurried through this section, because it was our sons' (who are 10) first time looking at some of these images ever and a little really went a long way. We spent most of our time in the lower gallery where there was information about the memorial and artwork that kids and people had made to remember. Hanging over the stairs leading down to the downstairs gallery are 10,000 folded paper cranes made by Japanese families and friends of the Fuji Bank employees killed in the attack.


My kids are familiar with the paper cranes. The story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, is one kids often hear about in school and cranes are often made and sometimes sold to raise awareness and money for various causes. In our school last year, students and families made paper cranes to remember the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Downstairs, there were many pictures of the planned memorial site.


This one had many interactive flaps that helped kids think about the memorial and what it is meant to symbolize. One flap asked, "What kind of trees are being planted on the Plaza and why?"


The answer: "The 400 Swamp White Oak trees were chosen because each tree's leaves change in the fall to colors ranging from amber to golden brown, and even pink. The trees are never identical, neither to each other nor from year to year." The 9/11 memorial website explains that the trees were selected from areas around New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The Swamp White Oaks with their unique colors reveal the individuality of each individual tree and each individual life memorialized here.

Another striking artifact in the gallery was this tree collage.


The image could be an explosion, it could be cracks, but the artist explains that it is meant to be the form of a tree. The tree is made from light filtering through empty space left between a collage of papers. These are papers that the artist found littering the ground two days after the collapse of the Twin Towers.


For some more words from the artist, check out this article about artifacts in the Tribute WTC exhibit.

The Tribute WTC website also has many education and teacher resources  and a thoughtful Q&A page about how to discuss 9/11 with students. You can also follow the progress of construction on the new One World Trade Center building at The New World Trade Center: Rebuilding the Future, a website by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

field trip: a tree scavenger hunt

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Last week, the Arnold Arboretum had a family fun day with lots of awesome activities including a scavenger hunt! Wanna look for trees with us? First, we get a "Tree Adventure" booklet with 9 clues.


Each clue describes a tree and gives us some general directions of where to find it. Once we find the tree, we hunt around it to find the stamp box. We stamp our book, turn the page, and follow the next clue. Ready?

Clue #1: Just across the road you will find our logo tree hanging out by the sunflowers.


This is a 90-foot tall dawn redwood and is represented on the Arboretum's logo.


Clue #2: Find the tallest tree in the Arboretum -- a silver maple that's nearly 130 feet tall!


It's also 130 years old! And look at that amazing trunk....


Clue #3: Be on the lookout for a large shrub with puffs like cotton candy.


Did I ever mention that trees are weird? Well, this one certainly is. It looks like it's got giant tree lint stuck in it or something. These are actually flowers and bracts. When a tree like this has a whole bunch of them, it looks like puffs of smoke, which is why this tree is called the smoketree.


Clue #4: This tree is covered with pods shaped like lanterns.

hunt8.jpg  hunt9.jpg

This one was hard. We walked by it several times before we decided that these things might look like lanterns. It's called the goldenrain tree for the golden-yellow flowers that fall from it in summer. Hmmm, let's hope the next one is easier.

Clue #5: Look for a tree with its "knees" in the water!

That's got to be it there right by the pond! The kids are already there. But they can't find the box! That's because it's really this tree, the bald cypress, on the other side of the pond. Doh!


Clue #6: Find the tree with pink flowers and fern-like leaves.


Hooray, an easy one! The lovely silk tree.

Clue #7: Look for a sassafras tree with a trunk label.


Do you know what a sassafras tree looks like? I didn't, but we found it. Did you know that it has three different shaped leaves?


It's got oval leaves, leaves with three lobes and some that have just two lobes and kind of look like a mitten. Neat!

Clue # 8: Find the only grape vine in the vine collection with red leaves.


We found this one because others were already hanging out by it doing their stamps. Otherwise we might have had to look around a while. I love the vine garden though. And so does my daughter, who fell in love with the wisteria the last time we came here.

Clue #9: Look for three large, purple-leaf trees.


The middle one of the three was our final stop on the scavenger hunt. It was a huge beech tree with leaves that hung so low we had to crouch to get underneath it to the stamp box.

Wasn't that fun? The kids all got little prizes for completing their books. For you, I have some free tree clip art to enjoy, which you can download at crafty jenny:


Thanks for hunting for trees with me!

a day up in the trees

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We've kept pretty busy here on vacation in Germany. Each year, we manage to find some new things to do. And as the kids get older, we also find that there are more things they CAN do. Last week, we spent an afternoon at an amazing adventure climbing park outside the city of Marburg.


That's one of my sons up in a tree, clicking into the safety rope to glide down at the end of a course 6 meters above the ground. Here's my other son getting ready to do the same thing at the very top of a course 10 meters high.


And here's my youngest on the kiddie course with her dad. (It's only about 1 meter off the ground but she still gets to wear all the gear - so cute!)


I did not go on any of the courses because I am crazy scared of heights. I mean, seriously, those trees are wicked tall!


The trees were amazing. You can tell that the Germans love their trees and they take care of them. Take a close look at the structures and supports of the climbing platforms and obstacles. There's not a nail anywhere. Everything is held in place with bands and straps. All to keep from harming the trees.


The woods all around look just like this one where the Kletterwald was located. The trees are tall and skinny, bare trunks with a few tufts of foliage at the very top. It looks like someone has put tiny Christmas trees on the top of some telephone poles! After driving past a few woods, I first thought that the Germans stripped a lot of the lower limbs off of the trees. But when I realized that EVERY forest had trees that looked like this, I decided that they must just grow like that. I guess the lower branches die and fall off when they aren't getting the light anymore.

All of the trees in the Kletterwald seemed to have the same kind of leaves.


Broad, flat leaves with toothed edges and many veins coming out of a central vein. Are they elms? Birches? I need a German tree guide!

field trip: the arnold arboretum

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School's almost out, which means we have just enough time to squeeze in one last field trip! Today we're off to the Arnold Arboretum, which is only about 10 minutes away from us. We'll be back in time for lunch!

The arboretum has some fun family activities including their Tree-of-the-Month program which we'll be focusing on today. Each month, they pick a tree species, put together a little handout about it, and hide a letterbox by one of those trees somewhere in the arboretum. The handout provides directions which lead you past other interesting sites and then to the letterbox tree. If you don't know what letterboxing is, don't worry; neither did I! It's sort of like geocaching. Someone hides a box in a public place like a park and lists its location in a directory. Inside the box, there is a rubber stamp and a notepad. If you have your own stamp, you stamp it in the notepad and add your name to the list of folks who have found the box. Then you can stamp the letterbox stamp in your own notepad to keep track of where you've been. The letterboxing makes the hunt for the tree of the month very exciting for kids. My own daughter couldn't wait to go looking for "the box tree"!

This month's tree is the Japanese stewartia.


The directions on the handout told us that to find the letterbox tree, we first had to walk down Linden Path.


Initially we found oak trees along the path, but then we came to the lindens. I know nothing about lindens so I only knew we'd found them by looking at the tags on the trees.


Every tree in the arboretum is labeled with a cool tag like this. It tells the species of the tree, how old the tree is (did you know there are over 700 trees in the arboretum that are 100 years old or more?!), and information about where it came from. This tag told me that this tree was a Bigleaf linden. It was, however, very little.


A few steps farther on the path led us to a Littleleaf linden that was very big.



The Linden Path ended at the Shrub and Vine Garden where my daughter fell in love with the wisteria archways.


She kept calling them lilacs and they did look like lilacs with their clustered, purpley flowers.


But the cool tag told me they were wisteria. And a close-up look revealed that these flowers are quite different from the lilac flowers I've seen in the neighborhood. Instead of blooming on branches that grow up, these are in bundles that hang down. And instead of flowers that are open, these are funny little folded up tube-like flowers. So wisteria is not a lilac, but don't try to tell my daughter that.

After our trip through the Shrub and Vine Garden, we were back on the main path and were directed to a Japanese stewartia across from a bench.


We recognized it from the mottled looking bark that the handout told us to look out for. But we still checked for the tag. (Note: it's very helpful to have a small person to help you find the tree tags!)


Bingo! The directions told us to continue past this stewartia to the dogwood tree behind it. Well, that could only be this one:


Look at those amazing flowers! It's like it's covered in snow or something. Fabulous. But we must continue on to the letterbox tree, my daughter reminds me. Okay, the directions say 15 more steps and we'll find another stewartia with the box.


Is it this one? It's a stewartia. (We can totally recognize it now!) But no box. Wait, there's another one....


and there's a piece of wood covering a crack in the trunk....


Just move this and...


the box!!

We opened it up. We did the stamp. We high-fived. We were bitten by mosquitoes.


Then we packed everything back into its waterproof baggies and put the box back in the tree for the next person to find (maybe you - bring bug spray).

My daughter and I can't wait for July so we can search for the next letterbox tree! In the meantime, we might go back to see the Explorers Garden. My fourth grade boys just finished a unit in school on explorers. I wonder what they would think of plant explorers like E.H. Wilson. We could look up the original countries where he collected the plants on a map and talk about how they were brought back to Boston. The handout for the Explorers Garden says that after one of the plants was collected in 1911, the team was hit by a landslide and Wilson was seriously injured causing them to return early. Both he and the hemlock seedling survived. Exciting stuff!

field trip!

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It's the most wonderful time of the (school) year... field trip time!

My daughter and I have visited the Chihuly exhibit at the MFA Boston three times already, but I still can't wait to go back and see it again. It is amazing what he and his fellow artists can do with glass! Many of the forms Chihuly creates are evocative of organic forms in nature such as trees and flowers. So, I thought today, we'd take a field trip to the MFA to see some of these incredible artworks.

The first of Chihuly's works that you see is in the new atrium. It's an awe-inspiring 42 foot high Lime Green Icicle Tower, which looks like the most beautiful cactus you've ever seen. Except it's made of glass!


The variations in the colors of the over 2,000 individual glass pieces are what make it seem so real. How many colors do you see?


Check out this video of how they installed the piece at the museum!

The exhibit itself begins with a collection of flower-like shapes that Chihuly calls Persians. The name, says Chihuly, "conjured up Near Eastern, Byzantine...smells, was...exotic."


What else do these shapes remind you of?

Farther on in the exhibit, there is an empty room where the ceiling is covered with a kaleidoscopic collection of Persians.


All different hues of light stream down into the room from above. I love the unique perspective on the artwork here. It reminds me of looking at trees. You have to take a moment to look up and see the beauty that is high above your head. You might even want to lay down and play a little "I Spy" with your friends.


In the middle of the exhibit, you arrive in a fantastical undersea world full of weeds and flowers and trees and creatures, all in the most vibrant colors you can imagine.


This installation is enormous! The group of figures fill a space that is 58 feet long and the tallest pieces are 11 feet high! Chihuly calls these installations Mille Fiori, which means "thousand flowers" in Italian and is also the term for a type of glasswork used to make colorful vases and jewelry. Some of the forms that Chihuly includes in his Mille Fiori installations are called Reeds, Herons, Towers, Pods, and Seal Pups. Can you find them?

The final piece in the exhibit is called Neodymium Reeds and is a simple and subtle combination of lavender glass rods and birch tree logs.


Those are real tree trunks! I find it so intriguing that the trees here are horizontal and the rods are vertical. Have the trees fallen? Are these reeds growing out of decaying trunks? Or are they a new order of trees, overtaking the old? They're so perfect and bright, while the birch bark is so flaky, uneven and dull. What do you think about the combination of real items from nature and these surreal glass forms?

Chihuly enjoys this juxtaposition, often placing his works in the outdoors. He installed Amber Cattails in the narrow gardens that separate the MFA's new atrium from its original building.


They look like they're just growing right alongside the trees and shrubs. And yet, they're so strange. Do you think they look like they belong in nature or not?


In recent years, Chihuly has put on dozens of installations at Botanical Gardens throughout America and abroad. Let's take a peek at one installation he did at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. I love this little home made video. It gives you a genuine feeling of what it's like to walk through an outdoor installation like this. Keep an eye open for the glass works - sometimes it's hard to tell what's nature and what is glass!

I love thinking about the fact that it will rain or snow on these things. Just like real trees, real flowers, and real reeds, they are delicate and magical things that must survive the weather every day. How strong do you think these glass pieces are? How strong do you think the trees and the flowers are?

Chihuly's works really impress me in that they seem to have the capacity to excite children as much as adults. It's no surprise that a children's museum has actually dedicated permanent exhibit space, complete with hands-on activities, to one of Chihuly's works.

Fireworks of Glass at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis
picture by Intiaz Rahim

Back in Boston, as we make our way to the lunchroom at the MFA, we are in for one last little - no, a big - surprise. An enormous tree mural!


This is the product of the museum's community arts initiative, in which young students from several Boston-area Boys and Girls clubs worked together with artist Raul Gonzalez. They looked at images of family portraits from the museum's collection and set about making their own.


The kids added treasured items to their displays and put them all together into a wonderful family tree connecting many families and many traditions. What would your family tree look like? What kind of a family tree do you think Chihuly would make?

Perhaps when we get back to school, we'll draw some trees, some fantastical and some familial. For some more inspiration, check out this blog about drawing trees: How to draw a tree. It is full of amazing images, capturing the colors and shapes and wonder of trees. I can't stop reading it!

museum trees

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During school vacation last week, the kids and I went to the Boston Museum of Science (like everyone else in the Boston area). The kids had a great time learning about nanotechnology and models and Mars rovers. I looked for trees.

Downstairs, right behind the crazy mechanical ball contraption, there is an exhibit about scientific classification. I get to tour this area regularly because the boys need a full half hour to fully appreciate the awesomeness that is the mechanical ball machine. I remembered that there were some tree artifacts in the exhibit, so I started my tree hunt in there.


I was interested in this tree because I already suspected that my tree was an ash tree. (It wasn't until yesterday that I was confident enough to say that my tree is definitely an ash.) This tree lived in Concord and was 165 years old when they had to remove it in 2000. The tree was most likely planted by a farmer back in 1835 because ash trees are particularly good for providing shade and wood.   Because of pollution and soil compaction caused by the expansion of nearby roads, it had begun to weaken and die. It was determined to be a danger to the cars below and was removed. I really liked how they told the tree's story. It makes me think of my ash tree and its life the city. I wonder how it is affected by its environment - a tiny three or four foot square cut out in the sidewalk. I wonder how many times it's had to be pruned and cut back for safety reasons. I wonder how long it will live before it has to be removed (like the trees on the street next to me).

Also in this area was a little theater with the story of an old oak tree. This tree's story was cleverly presented as an "urban mystery." How long has the tree been here? My little girl didn't want to go in to listen to the movie, so I only got a shot of the sign outside, but I'm sure I'll get a chance to hear it another day.


My own tree is just one big mystery to me. What are the leaves going to look like? When will they sprout? What will the seeds look like? How long has it been here? I wonder if I can figure anything out about my tree's age by looking around my tree.

There was another tree trunk in the kids' discovery center. It was in a corner along with two really great looking books, Oak Tree and Nature in the Neighborhood by Gordon Morrison.


They looked like excellent resources for studying trees and nature in the classroom. Although these are non-fiction books, they sort of tell the scientific story of an oak tree or the many habitats within a neighborhood. There's larger text and simpler descriptions alongside lovely, realistic illustrations as well as smaller text with definitions and more details. Check out for more sample pages.


While we were on the way to the science museum, the kids told me that there was an enormous tree trunk in the museum that was like a thousand years old. I doubted that the tree was that old, but once we found it, we saw that it's actually twice as old as that!


It was planted in like 60 BCE. Now that's a tree that has a story to tell!

The last tree I spotted at the museum was this tree of spoons up by the lighthouse (a room where kids make funny poses in front of a light sensitive wall and then a flash goes off, leaving a sort of shadow picture of their bodies on the wall behind them).


Why is this here? What is it about? Is it art? Is it science? Is it a tree? What is its story? A mystery to solve on our next visit....

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the field trip category.

fall colors is the previous category.

flowers is the next category.

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