Saturday, 19 November 2011

Pine Cone Hygrometer

In order to get more out of our nature walks, I am going to add some relevant hands-on learning to our 'nature study' session each week.  Nature journalling just does not work for us at this point in time, so we will leave it for now and try another way that might do the trick -- hands-on experiments.  I will try to incorporate relevant experiments that involve items found on our nature walks; if I can't manage that, then at least we will do some botany experiments from Janice VanCleave's Biology for Every Kid.

Our first nature experiment made use of the many pine cones we collected from our recent nature walk.

The steps are:
1) Observe and record what the pine cones look like when dry.

2) Submerge them in water for 30 minutes.  Observe and record how the pine cones look after 30 minutes.

We found this to be the most intriguing part of the experiment: the pine cones actually closed up!  We have seen closed pine cones on trees on rainy days, but we did not expect them to close up after they have come off the tree, but they did.  Amazing.  This changed our view about whether pine cones are considered 'living' after they have detached from the parent tree.

3) Dry the pine cones, observe and record how they look when they are complete dry. 

I baked them in the oven for 20 minutes.  We watched and saw the pine cones opened again during the baking process.

Tiger recorded his observations and we discussed what caused the pine cones to open and close.  As explained here, it has to do with how the pine cone naturally responds to changes in humidity to protect its seeds that are encased within.

I am sure we can delve deeper into the wonders of the why and how of different plants ensure maximum seed dispersions for continual survival, but this very simple explanation is enough for now to keep us in awe of nature and help us understand a little more about what we often take for granted on our walks.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.


  1. Oh, wow! We should try this too! We just did our nature study on the Eastern Pine Tree and Pinecone yesterday! LOL We have a (closed) pinecone soaking in water to get the seeds out easier. (Usually only closed cones have seeds still.) We'll have to go grab some more OPEN cones and give this a whirl! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I did this once with my now 20-year old, but I don't think I have done it with the boys. What perfect timing for us. Thank you so much for reminding me!!

  3. Love the nature study (the before and after).
    SO good for the kiddos!
    ~Kara @ The Chuppies


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