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My kids have always been fascinated by seeds, whether it’s seed packets for planting in the spring or seeds on the ground in the fall. How many of your kids have come home from a trip in the woods with pockets full of nuts and seeds? See what I mean? Kids are drawn to them. What a great opportunity to teach them about nature and the life cycle!
My son and I like to take advantage of warm fall days and hit the trails looking for seeds and leaves. We always find lots of different types of oak leaves on the ground, which leads to us burrowing through them looking for acorns. On the trails we most frequent, there are several different species of oak trees. Each one has their unique leaves and acorns. This enables us to identify the tree without even seeing it!
We are both fascinated by the different types of acorns and always come home with several in our pockets to examine later. Each species of oak tree produces acorns of different size and color with varying caps. They really make for a perfect nature study subject!
What is an acorn?
Acorns are seeds of oak trees. There are over 600 species of oak trees world wide and each grows from a little tough shelled acorn with a rough cap that attaches it to the tree. Each oak tree species produces a unique acorn. If you are very good, you can determine the species of oak tree just by looking at the acorn.
Who plants acorns?
Lots of people think that acorns are planted by squirrels. Squirrels do bury acorns in the fall as part of their winter storage of food, but very few of those acorns grow into trees. Most acorns are “planted” by the trees themselves. The leaf litter that collects on the ground in the fall is enough protection for the acorns so they can sprout.
We found this acorn in the leaf litter. It had already begun to sprout. Won’t such a vulnerable little thing freeze and die in the fast approaching winter? Did it get too warm and get “tricked” into sprouting early?
Actually, fall sprouting is normal for the white oak acorns. They start to root into the ground as soon as they fall from the tree. Then, in the spring they send up their leaf shoot. The red oak acorns wait until spring to sprout. They need the winter cold to prepare the seed.
Oak Tree Life Cycle Lesson And Memory Game
To learn more about the life cycle of the oak tree and how acorns fit in, visit this post for a lesson and free printable game!
Acorns As Food
Like other seeds and nuts, acorns are nutrient dense and a good food source for many animals. Although most acorns contain tannins, which are toxic to humans, they can be boiled to remove the toxin and then the acorn can be eaten.
You might see squirrels burying acorns in the ground to store as a winter food supply, but they are not the only animals that like to eat acorns. Foxes, raccoons, opossums, mice, rabbits, deer, and wild boar also like to munch on acorns.
Acorns Lessons, Activities, And Resources
Next time you and the kids are collecting acorns, take a field guide and try and identify which oak tree they came from. This is a great way to start a tree study or to spark inspiration to study acorns further.
Feeling crafty? Check out The Homeschool Scientist’s Nature Crafts Pinterest board. I just started it and will be adding more to it. If you like nature crafts, you’ll want to follow!
Here’s a cute acorn lesson plan for pre-schoolers from www.first-school.ws.
Print out these acorn coloring pages and writing worksheets.
Do you have a favorite acorn activity to share?