Each spring, maple trees (Acer rubrum) put on a show with their brightly colored red blooms. Observing red maple tree blooms and seeds is a great way to get your child excited about learning about the life cycle of a maple tree.
These activities would all be perfect additions to a nature journal or science notebook.
Is there a Specific Type of Maple Tree that Works Best
You can observe all types of maple trees. It really depends on the type that you have growing in your area.
For these activities I am going to show you red maple trees (Acer rubrum). A Crimson King (Acer platanoides) Norway maple's yellow blooms are also fun to look at due to their yellow blooms.
Different maple trees will have different color blooms. Flowering times will also vary by variety.
Comparing and contrasting two different varieties of maples is a great way to extend these activities.
Explore your area to see what types of maples trees you have. Simply going on a hunt to find different varieties of maple trees in your area is a beneficial science based activity.
What Age Group would Benefit from these Activities
These activities are perfect for kids of all ages.
Young children, toddlers through elementary, will enjoy hunting for and looking at the blooms during all of the different stages.
Older children, up to middle school can practice more specific skills.
Creating a scientific drawing, taking measurements, and researching are perfect for upper elementary and middle school.
Modify each activity to fit the level and needs of your child or children. Great for multi-age instruction in a homeschooling or traditional classroom setting.
When Do Red Maple Trees Bloom
Maple trees bloom in the spring before they leaf out. If you miss the flowers, you can still observe the seed formation and dispersing stages.
Winged seeds, samaras, commonly called spinners, will form on the trees as spring progresses.
In the Northeast this means you can begin to find spinners on the maple trees before the maple trees leaf out.
You can still observe the winged seeds after the trees leaf out. Children can find them on the ends of the branches or on the ground.
Red Maples Produce Seeds that Kids Can Observe
Trees will drop the winged seeds called samaras once they are mature. You will begin to notice thousands of samaras littering the area around maple trees.
Fun fact: trees create thousands of seeds because not every seed will germinate. If dropped in the perfect location, germination can begin and the samara will develop into a sapling.
This entire process takes several months to complete. During the fall and winter, you can find samaras on the ground. If you look, you can even find saplings that have begun to grow later on in the season.
Kids can observe these seeds at any of the stages of development. While still attached to the tree, but in the baby stage, the spinners are very small.
Once they fall, kids can go on a nature scavenger hunt to see how many they can find. These activities can take place in one day or spread out over several.
It would be fun to track the formation and development of the samaras. Once the winged seeds fall to the ground, they may germinate.
Red maple trees provide a wealth of learning opportunities for kids.
More info for how you can track the changes of blooming maple trees for a long term activity, is described in detail later on in the article.
Engaging Single Day Activities
- Scavenger Hunt: Male verses Female Maple Tree Blooms
- Create Drawings or Paintings of the Blooms
- Make a Scientific Sketch of Spinners (Samaras)
- Write a Story from the Point of View of a Bee Visiting the Blooms
- Measure Blooms or with a Ruler
- Measure Spinners (Samaras) with a Ruler
- Count the Number of Blooms on a Branch Find the Average
- Research and Learn about Red Maple Trees or the Parts of a Tree
All of these can be done independent of one another. Or select a few to create a mini red maple tree unit for your kids.
Add in a few books on trees and your kids will begin to see the connection between what is happening in nature and what they read about in books.
Searching for Male and Female Red Maple Tree Blooms
One of the fascinating facts about maple trees is that they have both male and female blooms.
You may easily spot male red maple tree blooms in your yard, but as the season progresses, you can spot females ones too.
Female flowers can appear larger and more red on a tree as the develop.
As the winged seeds form, it is easy to spot trees that have female flowers because those flowers produce the seeds.
One tree can have both types of flowers or only one type. Once the seeds form, the male flowers fall off the tree.
Then the tree begins to show signs of leaves budding and opening.
To search for the different flowers, bring along binoculars, a camera, or a camera phone. The blooms can be high up on the tree and you might need help seeing them closeup.
If you live in a area with an abundance of maple trees, the flowers light up the tree. The spring display of red maple tree blooms is similar to fall foliage, just on a smaller scale.
The red blooms mixed evergreens creates a beautiful scene.
Create Drawings or Paintings of the Red Maple Tree Blooms
Kids of all ages enjoy art, specifically drawing and painting. Integrating art into this activity is a sure way to get kids excited.
Let them get creative. Even if their interpretation is not perfect, they are still practicing important skills.
With young children you can practice identifying and mixing colors. While older children can practice fine motor skills and creating a detailed image.
If you want to add science concepts, research the parts of a flower and talk about them as you draw. Discussing different parts of a tree is fun for all ages and integrates science.
Children can Write a Story about the Red Maple Tree Blooms
Integrating literacy into science lessons is an easy way to practice reading and writing. For toddlers and early elementary aged kids you can verbally tell stories out loud together.
If children are starting to write sentences, they can write two or three to go along with their drawing.
Older students who are ready, can write a story. They can write from the point of view of the tree or the flower.
Maybe pollinators are visiting the blooms as you observe them. Children can write from the point of view of the bee or other pollinator.
Mixing Creative Writing with Scientific Facts
Their stories can integrate science concepts by explaining why flowers are an important part of a trees life cycle.
If writing from a bees perspective, explaining why red maple tree blooms are an important food source in the early spring can be included in their writing.
Even middle school aged students enjoy incorporating creative writing into a science themed lesson.
From my experience, you many need to provide some examples because they might not be familiar with integrating creative writing with science.
Mixing facts with creativity is a great way for kids to make a connection with what they are learning about.
Integrating Math Through Measurement
An easy way to bring math skills and concepts to life is to have children use a ruler to measure objects.
Red maple tree blooms are large enough, but still small enough to provide a challenge for older kids.
Even after the blooms have faded, maple tree samaras can be measured. In this activity, kids measured the wing length, seed case, and length of the stem. Then kids can calculate the average measurement for each category.
In science, you typically measure using the metric system. Metric is base ten, which makes converting between units easier than using inches.
However, if you are practicing fractions, using inches is an easy way to see fractions in real life. Depending on the age of the child and their skill level, both can be used.
I know from personal experience, due to living in the United States, inches is the common form of measurement. Even though, inches might be the norm in the US, learning metric is a very important life skill.
Check out these Additional Math and Measurement Posts:
What Can You Measure on Red Maple Tree Blooms
Kids can use a ruler to measure the overall length of the flower. Individual parts such as the length of the anther or filament.
Remember, these parts are very small, so I would recommend doing this part with older kids.
Younger children can count how many flowers are present on one branch. They can also compare the general size of the flower to something else.
Organize the parts from smallest to largest. Don't be afraid to pull the flowers apart while observing and measuring them.
How to Turn Observing Red Maple Tree Blooms into a Long Term Activity
Tracking change over time is a very important skill for kids to practice in science. Not only is it important, but it is enjoyable.
Trees provide the perfect conditions for kids to observe change over time.
In the following activity, I will show you how kids can keep a log to track the life-cycle of a red maple tree starting with its blooms.
Keeping a Nature Journal To Track the Life-cycle of a Red Maple Tree
When collecting data and observing a red maple tree over many days or months, children can learn about the life-cycle of a tree.
Long term data collection is a fun way to practice scientific observations and writing. Have your child keep a nature journal or log starting in the early spring. Collect data all the way into the autumn months.
The Benefits of Observing Change Over Time with Trees
Observing a tree over multiple days, weeks, and months lets kids see for themselves how organisms change over time.
Some of these changes happen quickly, while other changes occur slowly. Trees provide both types of changes.
The growth from a small tree to a mature towering shade tree takes years.
However, the formation of a small sapling from one fallen seed can be observed in a few weeks or days.
What Long Term Activities Can Teach Your Kids
By doing this long term activity, kids will learn about how a plant, a tree, forms flowers, seeds, then a new plant.
Red maple trees are an excellent tree to observe because of the amount of winged seeds they create a drop.
In the Northeast, a yard can easily become coated with these seeds. When conditions are favorable, say in a flower bed, the seeds will germinate.
If you go for a hunt, in the summer, you can find germinated red maple tree samaras. This would be a perfect way to show the life-cycle of a tree in action!
Depending on where you live you may be easily able to find maple tree saplings.
In one season, children can begin to understand how a tree, large plant, goes from flowering to developing into a new tree.
Create Scientific Drawings with Labels
Each time you go out and observe the tree or blooms, have your child make a sketch. Older children can add labels to their drawings.
Even young children can add labels for tree, branch, flower, and seed.
Keep it simple, if you want this to be an informal activity. Or do some research and add in those specific scientific labels.
Along with the sketch add a few words. Key terms including tree, branch, flower, red, brown, and yellow can be written down with younger kids.
Older students can focus on stigma, filament, stamen, anther, along with other specific parts of a flower.
How to Add Writing into Your Nature Journal
Logs or nature journals can include a few sentences describing what kids are observing. Remind children to include details that they have to look closely to see.
Encourage them to add scientific vocabulary terms that you may be learning about together.
Including a few sentences or a quick list is a great way to get your kids practicing literacy in science.
Even young learners can verbally explain what they are seeing and you can write it down for them.
If you have multiple kids doing this at one time, they can share what they wrote down or observed.
Have fun with it. The joy of learning through nature is that the possibilities for learning opportunities are endless.
Even the most reluctant child, may become interested once you integrate a natural phenomena.
Don't be surprised if they become interested in other blooming trees! Sparking their interests is an easy way to get them interested in learning science.
Online Resources about Red Maple Trees (Acer Rubrum) and Their Blooms
Local libraries and online resources can provide you with information. Below is a list of online resources about red maple trees (Acer rubrum).
I also included resources for the parts of a tree and their function if you are looking for a way to extend the lesson.
These articles, may need to be read by you first and simplified depending on the age of your child. These resources are written for adults, not young children.
- University of Maine Red Maple Blooms Fact Sheet
- Maple Leaves Forever based out of Canada article
- The Friends of the Wildflower Garden article
- Kids Britannica Maple Trees short article
Resources about the Parts of a Tree
Observe the Tree Buds as they Open
An additional educational activity has kids observe the opening of the leaf buds on trees. For project ideas make sure to check out these free lesson plans from Project Learning Tree.
Trees offer so many learning opportunities for kids of all ages. Sometimes observing what is already all around you makes for the best lessons.