It’s amazing how many things live in and on rotting logs. In this activity, kids will become familiar with some of those organisms by observing fallen logs. They’ll gain an understanding of how decomposition takes place and a better appreciation for microhabitats and communities.
Note: These activities are modified from Project Learning Tree®'s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide.
Doing the Activity
Begin by asking the kids why forests aren’t piled high with fallen trees, branches, and leaves. What happens to trees after they die? Tell the kids that they’re going to examine dead logs to find answers to those questions.
Help kids develop a list of additional questions to explore during their investigation, such as:
- How might the tree have died?
- Has the tree been dead a long time or a fairly short time?
- What kinds of animals live on the bark? Under the bark? Inside the log? Under the log?
- Where do these animals get the food they need?
- Do any plants live on thelog? How can they livewithout soil? Kids will look forevidence to help answer these questions.
Looking at the Log
Explain that kids should examine their log, disturbing it and the things living there as little as possible. They should note any plants and animals they find, and if they can’t identify something, they should make a sketch of it.
Encourage kids to look for the following as evidence of animal activities:
- insect holes
- spider webs
- woodpecker holes
- animal dens
- animal tracks
- piles of sawdust
- patterns in the wood under the bark.
They should note which of the plants and animals that they found around their log also live in these areas. Kids might use a digital camera to take pictures of the log and the area around it.
Back inside, have the kids use their notes and sketches to identify the creatures they were unable to identify in the field.