Explore the trees: Children gather at Lake Wilderness for sensory tree tour

The King County Library Tree Tour ‘22 continued in Maple Valley on Aug. 13.

“What we want you to do is explore the trees,” said Sharon Chastain, a Maple Valley librarian. “Today, you are stewards.”

Chastain is surrounded by a large crowd of children, parents, guardians and families in the Woodland Garden area of the Lake Wilderness Arboretum, where they gather to hear stories of and experience the trees around them.

As part of the King County Library System and SoCo Culture-sponsored Tree Tour ‘22 event series, where locations throughout King County host children and adult tours to help celebrate the native trees, the August event in Maple Valley focused on “Your Trees.”

As Chastain noted to the crowd, every tree and plant in the Lake Wilderness Arboretum is intentionally growing, which makes it ideal for teaching the kids about the trees they may find in their own backyard.

Chastain begins the Tree Tour by reading “Some Questions About Trees” by Toni Yuly and then “Trillions of Trees: A Counting And Planting Book” by Kurt Cyrus, with a small musical break in between to get the kids moving and shaking.

After the story time, Chastain then gave instructions to the crowd about the “Bark Hunt” portion of the Tree Tour, which is meant to be a sensory tour where people could look at, touch and even smell the bark of the trees in the arboretum.

“It’s pretty simple but it’s something that gets their hands on the trees and just learning about exploring an arboretum,” Chastain said in an earlier phone call.

The “Bark Hunt” flyers that many children clutch as they scour the trails for trees to touch show the different trees throughout the Lake Wilderness Arboretum, along with descriptions of their bark, like Giant Redwoods having “hairy and squishy” bark while Sweetgum tree bark is “full of holes.” As the kids and their families explored the trees, they also came across games liked tic-tac-toe and checkers carved into special stumps.

“With this kind of thing, my hope is that we introduce people to things in the arboretum that they otherwise didn’t know about,” Chastain said. “Sometimes people arent aware of it but there’s this beautiful public garden.”

The next, and last, leg of the Tree Tour ‘22 event series is Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Soos Creek Botanical Garden. The children portion of the tour will be at 10:30 a.m. and the adult portion is later in the day at 2 p.m. The theme will be “Big Trees.”

For more information, visit https://1.kcls.org/treetour.

Children were given Bark Hunt flyers to help identify and experience the different bark in the Lake Wilderness Arboretum. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing.
Chastain reads "Trillions Of Trees" to the crowd in the Lake Wilderness Arboretum. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing.
Chastain leads the children in a song between books during the Tree Tour. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing.
A little girl touches the tic-tac-toe game in the Lake Wilderness Arboretum during the Tree Tour. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing.
As part of the Tree Tour, everyone was encouraged to touch, smell and even listen to the bark on the trees of the Arboretum. Photo by Bailey Jo Josie/Sound Publishing.