Which trees make the best guides?

By Jon Attwood

The Basic Idea

In an area with a row or quite a few trees get your group to walk slowly under the trees in a line while holding a CD or mirror flat at the end of their nose so they can look straight up in to the canopy and feel like they are walking through it.

This activity is most interesting when leaves are on the trees but can also be good to explore the structure of bare trees in the winter.

Find a good space with lots of trees - a row of trees along an edge of a field can work well. In advance of the activity walk the route yourself with a mirror. Make sure the ground is fairly level and free of trip hazards and that it goes under lots of trees with ideally both low (although not in your face) and high branches as this gives the best effect.

Talk with the group about how to walk safely with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front and slowly so you all stay together. Also it is great if the group can stay quiet as you may see birds in the tree tops and will be able to focus more on what you are seeing.

Tell the group to put the CD or mirror on the tip of their nose - not under it as it will fog up - then angle it so they can just see their hair and then level off so this is just out of view and now they are looking directly up. Tell the group to stay looking in the mirror as much as they can as the feeling of being in the tops of the trees will grow. Slowly lead the group on their tree top walk.

On finishing come together in a circle to share experiences and explore what the group saw and how it felt. Discuss the different shapes of leaves and colours that the group saw.

How to take it even further or make it more challenging

You can ask the group if they can be quiet to look for birds in the trees if there are any about.

If the leaves are on the trees get the group to look for holes in the leaves. Following the activity you can then discuss what has made the holes and which insects might live and feed on different trees. You can then also discuss what might feed on these insects and explore food chains on trees.