Do you know the tree species that live and grow around your home and provide shade and shelter to wildlife that visit you? Well, the fifth graders of Grayson County do!
The leaves are just beginning to bud so BRDC staff brought pressed laminated leaves of various trees of SWVA to the classrooms last week. After a quick lesson in leaf terminology, the students were turned loose with a Dichotomous Key. A dichotomous key is a tool that allows the user to determine the identity of items in the natural world, such as trees, using a series of choices that lead to the correct name of a given item. "Dichotomous" meaning, "divided into two parts", was a methodology taught to the students. It was explained that this series of questions resulted in only one correct answer and thus narrowed down the choices until specific.
With a leaf in hand, two different types of dichotomous keys, and an understanding of leaf types, margins, and arrangement, the students were well underway identifying the species of tree. Most every student correctly identified their leaf and gained an appreciation for how a dichotomous key can be a beneficial tool in identification.