We decided today, to combine our traditional Christmas tree decorating, with science Sunday, a weekly link up over at Adventures in Mommydom.
Since our Christmas tree came from the woods (with a permit purchased from the Forestry Department, of course), and not from a Christmas tree lot, it didn't come with a tag telling us what sort of tree it was.
Instead, we turned to a publication by the Montana State University, entitled "Trees and Shrubs in Montana". With it, we worked through a key of needle types, and distribution, and cone sizes, and shapes (luckily, our tree still had a few cones attached). These observations led us to identify our tree as an Engelmann Spruce, or Picea engelmannii.
It took us a bit to get the hang of the key. So, just to double check ourselves, I worked through it first, and then my husband followed. When we saw that we agreed, we brought in the children, and worked through it with them. Of course, all this came between the tree decorating, and the sugar cookies, so we only had a brief window of their attention. But, it was a fun activity, and everyone agreed, that it was nice to know what sort of tree we have. If the kids are interested tomorrow, we might google the Engelmann Spruce, and see what else we can find out about it.
And, if the weather stays clear this week, I'm hoping to be able to fit in a nature walk, to try to identify more of the trees in our neighborhood. Now that we've figured out the key, we might as well put it to use.
It's great to be a homeschooler.