Saturday, November 13, 2010

Looking at Leaves

Have you ever truly looked at a leaf? Analyzed if its edges have teeth or are smooth, categorized it as compound or single, noticed its variations in color? Grouped leaves that you collected by their color, edge shape, or other features?

I did that today.

I attended a Project Learning Tree workshop. We trudged through the park to examine damaged trees and collect leaves. After categorizing our leaves and discussing their features, we made figures or sculptures out of them. There were turkeys, people, moose, and other creative leafy designs.

One of the reasons I chose biology as my college degree was that biology forces you to stop and pay attention. To learn about leaves, trees, ecosystems, habitats, cells, etc you have to notice and observe. You cannot successfully study biology with a textbook alone. You have to go outside and get dirty. You have to manipulate cells and experiment. I navigate life as a biologist--I ask questions, I explore, I stop suddenly and look down at the ground to identify the insect walking in front of me. I choose to be an environmental educator (yes, I count myself as one, even though my current environment is a library) because environmental education happens outside, where you have to be quiet and look closely to see the bird nest in the tree or the pattern the branches of a tree have or the ant carrying a piece of leaf across the forest floor. I choose to be an environmental educator because environmental education is holistic. Is it not just science. It is social studies, current events, language arts, math, visual arts, and skills-based.

I challenge you to pick up a leaf today and really look at it. Then pick up another one, and compare the two. Stop and focus on something natural outside yourself. I am always amazed at what I learn.


  1. Interesting - I chose to study biology because I've always been fascinated by the things that happen inside the human body that we *can't* see. I remember wanting desperately, as an elementary age child, to be able to see the musculoskeletal system in motion. Now I'm more into what's happening on a cellular or molecular level, but all of it is like a magical secret world to me.