Sugar Maple Tree Observations

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    Kristin Joivell

    The time lapse camera has busily been taking photographs of the sugar maple tree (Acer saccharum) each day since September!  I am amazed that the batteries are lasting so long–I thought they would need replaced quite often, but according to the screen readout, there is still over 90 percent battery life remaining at this time.  So the batteries should last all school year since it’s been over 3 months already.  I check on the camera about twice a month to check the battery life and to make sure the photographs are still being taken.  So far, so good!

    When I mounted the camera, I actually placed it in the sugar maple tree on the trunk about 12 feet above the ground to prevent vandalism.  This means that I have to climb on a ladder each time I check up on the camera, but it’s worth it for the protection of the camera.  My students know where the camera is since they often assist me when I am doing the bimonthly check ups, but it is way out of their reach to prevent button pushing.  Interestingly enough, since I often do the camera checks during recess, the other two kindergarten classes like to watch as we conduct our checks.  They are excited to see the “scientists” checking in on their experiment.

    In addition to the daily time lapse photographs, my kindergarten students are writing observations about and drawing sketches of the sugar maple tree in science journals once per season.  All student sketches and writing is done independently, so I write the words spelled correctly at the bottom of their papers to “translate” what they are writing for readers.  As you can see from their journal entries, they really focused on the leaf color changes occurring in fall.

    October 17 Student Journal 1   October 17 Student Journal 2  October 17 Student Journal 3

    I am also taking a photograph of the entire tree on the same date that my kindergarten students make their observations.  As you can see, the student sketches and written observations reflected the actual way the tree looked on October 17.

    October 17 Sugar Maple Tree

    I wanted to get the winter observations completed before the holiday break, so I collected the student journal entries on December 14 for winter (even though it was before “true” winter began).

    December 14 Student Journal 1  December 14 Student Journal 2  December 14 Student Journal 3

    Again, as you can see, the student sketches and written observations reflected the actual way the tree looked on December 14.  Additionally, it is exciting to see the students’ development in writing skills showing in their work.  Just as in October, all written observations are done independently, so students are sounding out words and writing observations on their own after visiting the sugar maple tree for winter.  Again, I wrote the correct spelling of the words at the bottom of their papers, but you can probably read some of the student entries for winter without reading the words that I wrote.

    December 14 Sugar Maple Tree

    Depending on how the weather occurs this spring, I hope to do the next official tree visit in March and wrap up with the final visit in early May before Family Science Night on May 10.  All students in my kindergarten class will be invited to present their observations of the sugar maple tree at Family Science Night in addition to viewing the time lapse video that I will create from the daily photographs.  Hopefully, many of the students in my kindergarten class will attend the event with their families so that they can share their data collected with others.

    Susan Smith

    We have no trees so there is no good place to put the camera. It would be stolen because apparently anything used on the island for science is considered community property. I do plan on using it in the classroom when we do our Space Seed project this spring.


    Cinda Murray


    Is there a chance I could get a few of your time lapse photos from the Fall? Say maybe three – four that you can see distinct color changes. I’m trying to incorporate jImage software into my project and would to see if it will work for next fall.


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