C is for Conifer

by threegirlpileup

We love They Might Be Giants.  Their “Here Come the ABCs” and “Here Comes Science” have been in regular rotation every since we discovered them last year.  A favorite of Anna’s has always been “C if for Conifer,” and I often hear her singing as she walks through the house: “Cones for seeds, most with needles for leaves, C is for conifer, my kind of tree.”  This has lead to a number of questions about conifers.  For example, the song says that there are more than 500 kinds, but how many kinds are there in North America? (Not as easy a question as you might think).  And then, of course, Anna started noticing how many conifers there are in our yard and in other places we visit regularly.

“I want to do a project on conifers!” Anna finally said to me.  As she is not so inclined to be this direct about wanting to learn things, I’ve tried to jump right on it.  Last weekend, I equipped her field bag with a notebook; pens and pencils; Petersen’s First Guide to Trees; wax paper bags for collecting samples; paper and crayons for bark rubbings; and a camera.  We spent some time out in the yard, taking samples and identifying some of the trees in our yard.

It was a good chance to help Anna learn how to use a field guide for identification.  For example, the leaves of the first tree we looked at resembled the picture of Arizona cypress, but when we checked the range of that tree, we found that it doesn’t grow in the eastern United States.  Although I love the First Guides for their simplicity (not to mention their light weight for little explorers), we decided that next time we needed to bring the full-sized guide.  There just weren’t enough varieties in the smaller guide.

Anna has big plans–pressing her specimens in the flower press, and making a book about different kinds of conifers.

In the meantime, here’s an Arbor Day video podcast that includes “C is for Conifers.”