This activity works best if it follows Dress Up a Twig and is done after the leaves have fallen from the trees. If possible, choose trees that grow in or around the school yard. Cut the twigs no more than a week ahead of time.
1. Tell the students that as part of their tree studies, they are going to be initiated into the "Twigger of America Club," an honorary club for people who are knowledgeable about trees. Show them a Twigger of America card and explain that they must pass a few tests before they can become official members.
2. Explain that a Twigger of America can identify trees even without their leaves. This is quite a challenge, as leaves are usually used in tree identification. Pass out twigs to the students and review the important parts (see Dress Up a Twig). You might want to give students a copy of the The Big Twig.
3. Give the students a few minutes to carefully observe their twigs noting any distinguishing characteristics. Then, inform them that one or more students in the class has the same type of twig that they do. When you say "Go," have the students find the matching twigs among their classmates.
4. Once the students have found their matches, have them work together to write accurate descriptions of their twigs. Be sure to explain that they are not describing one of their twigs specifically, but their type of twig in general. Have them note the following charascteristics: overall color of the twig, color and shape of the buds, the type of branching pattern (alternate or opposite), presence or absence of lenticels (including their color and shape), shape of leaf scar, and any other characteristics such as smell, texture, or thorns. You might make a list of these characteristics on the blackboard or create a worksheet for students to complete.
5. When the students finish their descriptions, have one member of each group bring up two twigs and their group's description. Have all the groups place their twigs in a central location.
6. Collect the twig descriptions. Explain that you will be shuffling them and passing a new description to each of the groups. Each group should read the new description and note important clues. When you say "Go," one person from each group may come up and select one twig that matches the written description they have. Have the group look over the chosen twig and decide whether it is the one described.
7. When all the groups have decided upon a match, each group can report the key characteristics they used to match the written description to their chosen twig. The group that wrote the description can verify the guess and/or give additional clues to help with the correct selection.
8. When all the twig matches have been verified, have each group use a winter twig field guide to determine what type of twig they have.
9. Congratulate the students and award them their Twigger of America cards.
a. Have the groups match their twig to a tree growing in the school yard.
b. Hand out a twig to each student and have him or her draw and label it. Use hand lenses to make detailed drawings of the leaf and bundle scars. Then put several twigs in a pile. Have students swap drawings, then see if they can match twigs and drawings.
c. Hold a twig relay race. Divide the students into two even lines. Stand several feet away from the students. Have two piles of twigs, one to give to the students and another pile that contains at least one match for each twig in the first pile. Be sure to keep these piles separate. Have the first student from each line run up to you. Give each of them a different twig from pile number one. They now need to find its match in pile number two. Once they have chosen a match, they need to verify it with you. If correct, they return the two twigs to their respective piles and run back to their line. They tag the next team member, who repeats the process. The race continues until everyone has had a chance to play. Congratulate the teams. You might wait until now to award them their Twigger of America cards.
* This material has been used with permission from Shelburne Farms, Copyright © 1995.