Fish Creek Provincial Park

A-Z Tree Activities


View your tree from different angles - up, down, around and looking upside down. Describe what you see in a quick sketch or short poem.

Bark Rubbing

Hold a piece of paper snug against the tree's bark. Rub with a crayon held sideways. Rub either side to side or up and down for best results.  (Don't rub in all directions on the same rubbing.)


How many different colours can you find on your tree? Is the top of the leaf the same colour as underneath? Is the bark all the same shade or are there light and dark spots?


Dead branches and trunks lying on the ground provide food and shelter for plants and small animals. Look on the deadfall and under it. How many different plants do you see?  How many animals, including insects, can you find? Remember to put the deadfall back the way it was after so the plants and animals are not permanently disturbed.


Look carefully at the pattern of branches on an evergreen tree. Notice that the branches are arranged around the trunk in layered circles (called whorls). One layer is added each year. Determine the age of your evergreen by counting the whorls.


Choose a leafy tree and look for the scars left where leaves from other years have fallen off. Do the scars look like animal faces, people or maybe even monsters?


Galls are swellings caused by insects looking for food and shelter while they are developing from egg to adult. The shape, size and location on the tree depends on the type of insect that created the gall. Look for galls on your tree. Is there a hole in the gall? A small hole means the insect completed its development and came out as an adult. A larger, irregularly shaped hole may mean a bird found a snack.


How many holes are in your tree trunk? What size are they? Are they tiny holes made by insects?  Are there larger holes created by birds, such as chickadees or woodpeckers? What animal might use the larger holes when the birds have moved out?


Check your tree for insect invaders. Searching for food or shelter, insects may be found in the bark cracks, on leaves or under them. You may not see the insects so also look for signs that they have been on your tree. These signs include tunnels, holes or chewed leaves.


Jays are common birds in Alberta forests. They use twigs to build their nests in a tree and feed on insects and berries. Blue jays can be found year-round in the park. During late fall and in winter, gray jays live in the Shannon Terrace Day Use Area. Look for their bulky nets in the crotch of branches.  Listen for their noisy squawks.


The shade from trees keeps the forest temperatures cooler than those of grasslands. The cooler temperatures result in less water evaporation. Many plants grow in the forest because they need plenty of moisture and cool temperatures to survive. One such plant is kinnikinnick or bearberry. Look for these plants growing in a mat of dark, shiny green oval leaves. You may see tiny pink flowers or bright red berries (a favourite food of grouse), depending on the time on year.

Life Cycle

Find an example in the area of each stage of a tree's life - young, mature, dead upright, fallen log. Take a close look at each.

Mystery Tree

Make up clues about your tree. See if someone else can guess which tree is yours by listening to the clues.


Trees provide both the location and the building materials for many animals' nests. Are there any nests in your tree? The nest size may tell you the size of the bird that built it.  Small birds make small nests. Did the bird use twigs or branches to build the nest? A large, ball shaped nest up against the tree trunk is not a bird's nest. It was made by a squirrel.


When animals (including people) breathe we use oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants (including trees) use carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the day. Place your hand on your chest, take in a deep breath then let it out. Did you feel your chest moving? That is your lungs inside your chest working at breathing. What part of the tree do you think uses the carbon dioxide we breathe out?


Make a list of five to ten words about your tree. Arrange the words in a way that sounds best. Print them on a piece of paper in the shape of your tree.

Question - Balsam poplar or aspen poplar?

These two types of deciduous (leafy) trees can be difficult to tell apart. Feel the leaf stem of your leafy tree. If the stem is rounded, your tree is a balsam poplar. If the stem is flattened, it is an aspen poplar.


Look for a recently fallen tree and take a close look at the roots. Try to find:


Rub your hand along the trunk of a slender, leafy tree and then look at your hand. The white powder you see on your hand is produced by the tree to act as a sunscreen. It will protect the thin, young bark from sunburn. 


Estimate the height of the tree using the following method. Measure 1 metre up the trunk from the ground and have a partner place a hand at that spot. Pick a very short twig from the ground.  Hold it upright in your hand with your arm extended straight out. Walk backwards away from the tree. Stop when, using one eye only, the bottom of the twig appears to line up with the trunk base and the twig top lines up with the spot marked by your partner's hand. Now move your twig so the bottom lines up with the marked spot. Note where the twig top appears on the trunk and move the twig bottom to that spot. Keep moving up the trunk, counting, until the twig top appears to line up with the treetop. How many twig lengths fit into the tree? That is how many metres tall the tree is, approximately.


Feel the soil under the tree.  Notice its temperature, texture and moisture. Can you explain how the tree affects these soil features? What might the soil be like if the tree were not there?


Trees are very important to other plants, animals and people. As a group, make a list of how many ways plants and animals need trees. Now list ways people use trees or parts of trees.


Insects living on and in trees are a favourite food of woodpeckers. Lines of very small holes (usually appearing black) are created by the yellow-bellied sapsucker. This bird drills the holes then comes back later to lick up the sap and eat any insects trapped in it. Both hairy and downy woodpeckers knock small pieces of the outer bark off as they search for insects living right below the bark. Deep, rectangular holes, often found near the base of dying trees, are made by the pileated woodpecker feeding on insects that are deeper into the tree trunk. Look carefully at the tree trunks around you. Look for any signs that woodpeckers have been feeding on the tree trunks.


The xylem (sapwood) carries sap to the leaves where sugar is made.  Sap contains water, dissolved minerals and nitrogen.  Each year, a tree makes sapwood in the spring (light coloured) and in the summer (much darker coloured). Find a tree stump.  Count either the light bands or the dark rings to figure out how old the tree was when it died.


Draw how your tree would look in each season. Include other plants and animals that might be found in or around the tree.


Zero activities left to do. Hope you had fun discovering more about trees.

Updated: Jul 4, 2017