mystery The answer to the clues may be found at the bottom of this column.    Teachers and Parents: Enter to win an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for your home or classroom. It's fun and easy!
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I'm a member of the "dog family."
glass1 Clue 2:  I live throughout North America in deserts, prairies, forests, and even in towns and cities.
glass1 Clue 3:  You might hear me howling at night to communicate with my pack.
glass1 Clue 4:  Don't let me trick you—I am NOT a wolf.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the monthly drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced at the end of September.
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: SEASHELLS Although Inside Outside Nature blog is changing it's focus, this weekly "Who Am I?" will remain the same! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.  

Cones Mean Conifer


I was awe-struck by these two fir trees along the trail.

Despite the smokey air from the fire in Yosemite, I had a wonderful hike in a northern California forest  over the weekend. Pines, firs, junipers, and spruce trees reached for the sky along the trail.

All of these trees are conifers, and “conifer” was the correct answer to last week’s “Who Am I?” Mystery Contest. I wasn’t trying to be tricky or stump anyone, but I was surprised that only 50% of the entries had the correct answer. The most revealing of  the clues was: “My name means cone-bearing.”

A conifer’s cones are made up of many scales and provide  shelter for the tree’s seeds. At the right time, the scales of the cone open and the seeds fall to the ground. The leaves of conifers are typically needles. They’re either long and very narrow (pine, spruce, fir) or short and overlapping like scales (cedar, juniper, giant sequoia). Conifers are often called “evergreens” because their needles don’t drop all the same time, so they always look green.

Inside: Discovering State Trees

One conifer I didn’t see on my hike was a redwood—California’s state tree. Do you know your state’s official tree? Every state has one. And as of 2004, the United States also has an official National Tree—the oak (no species designated).

Have students to identify and learn about your state tree. Then assign a different state to each student and have them create a display called “Tree Hall of Fame” that includes pictures and facts about each state’s tree.

Outside: Conifer Treasure Hunt

conifer_treesWhich conifers grow in and around your school? Take your students on a walk around the school grounds to find out. First, create a map that shows buildings, parking lots, and play areas. Indicate the location  of the trees on the map with circles. Visit each tree site to decide if it’s a conifer. If yes, put an “X” in the circle.

But what if it’s not a conifer? Then it’s a broad-leafed tree. Almost all broad-leafed trees are deciduous, meaning that they drop their leaves all at once. Have students choose one tree to watch throughout the seasons. Ask them to notice when leaves or needles fall to the ground.

More Facts and Fun About Trees

Scientifically, conifers are gymnosperms. Get more specific  information at Real Trees 4 Kids: Conifer Class.



In Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods, author Mary Quattlebaum explores the sounds of the woods and the creatures who make them.






An ancient fir tree is the “main character” in The Tree in the Ancient Forest.






In a Nutshell follows the life cycle of an oak tree, our national tree.