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Back-to-School Activities

Twig Collecting

Identify the parts of twigs when you go Twig Collecting.
Identify the parts of twigs when you go Twig Collecting.

Use this back-to-school activity to make a collection of twigs gathered from trees in winter.

What You'll Need:

  • Plant shears
  • Index cards
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Tree identification book
  • Magnifying glass
  • Hole punch
  • String or ribbon

The twigs of each kind of tree have unique shapes and characteristics. You can collect an assortment of winter tree twigs, note the variety of characteristics, and compare and sort them. If you have a good twig or tree identification book, you can even identify the trees they came from using the pictures in the book.


The best time for collecting twigs is in February or March, long after trees have lost their leaves but before they have begun to bud. Get permission to do the following!

Step 1: Carefully cut twigs from a variety of trees one twig from each tree.

Step 2: Tape the twigs to index cards.

Step 3: Write down the color and texture of the twig (these may change as the twig dries). Also, write down the name of the tree if you know it.

Step 4: Study the different characteristics of the twig parts using the magnifying glass, and compare them. Twig parts include:

  • The terminal bud -- called the "bud" on our diagram -- that will become new growth
  • Bud scales to protect new leaves or flowers
  • Leaf scars that show where stems of old leaves were attached
  • Bud scale scars that show where last year's buds were and how much the twig grew over the year
  • Bundle scars that show where sap flowed to leaves
  • Lenticels, the tiny holes or openings through which bark "breathes"
  • Pith, the twig center

Step 5: Make your own tree booklet: Use a hole punch to make two holes in the left side of each index card and tie the cards together with string or ribbon.

Another way to take advantage of the back-to-school season is to play the Nature Scavenger Hunt on the next page.

For more fun back-to-school activities, check out: