By guest blogger and educator, Simon Czerwinskyj
Although fall marks the end of summer, it doesn’t have to mean the end of outdoor activities. Children can continue to explore the outdoors and its numerous opportunities to learn and create as the weather turns. Here are some suggestions for fun and educational activities that will engage children and get them in the autumnal spirit.
1. Nature Walk
As children are primarily visual learners, it’s best to start with the concrete when having them commune with the outdoors. Nothing beats the age-old nature walk as a way to connect children with the environment. Take a walk and be on the look out for signs of fall. You can point out and explain the changing color of the leaves (as the green fades, we see the true colors of the leaves!). Make a game of locating particular leaf colors (how many red/orange/brown can you find?). Locate gardens or flower beds that were once fertile in spring and summer and discuss the changing landscape as autumn sets in. Talk about the colors you saw on the walk and associate them with the season.
2. Leaf Collection/Art with Found Nature Materials
We all know how much kids love to pick things up off the ground, and here’s a golden opportunity to indulge this inclination. Along your walk, pick up attractive leaves, bark, or small twigs in a bag. The leavings of fall are perfect for a homegrown art project. Use the leaves for rubbings by placing a thin sheet of paper over the leaves and rubbing the paper with a crayon (peel the paper off of crayons and use colors that correspond to the leaves) to reveal the image of the leaf. Yarn and twine are great tools to make bracelets or necklaces with your findings (simply skewer your leaves gently and push the yarn through). With a roll of large paper, you can create a fall mural of leaf and bark rubbings on one continuous sheet of paper. This also affords the opportunity for your child to draw or paste hand-drawn signs of fall on the mural (rain drops, wind, acorns, rain clouds). Make stencils of these items out of cardboard for younger children to trace to simplify the process.
3. Apple Tasting
Beyond the visuals of autumn, fall has a taste as well: the apple. Buy a variety of apples, such as Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gala etc. and have your children chop them into bite size pieces. Separate the different varieties so each has its own bowl and commence the taste test. Taste each apple and discuss the flavor (sour, sweet, bitter). As an extension, provide different foods with similar tastes to each variety of apple as a means of comparison and to reinforce the taste bud vocabulary. Have the children decide which apple they like best and use that variety to make homemade applesauce. You may also want to list the scientific names for the parts of the apple as an extension (exocarp, endocarp, etc.)
4. Homemade Applesauce
Once a favorite apple has been established, make some homemade applesauce with the winning apple. The children can help peel (optional) and chop cored apples (a simple butter knife or corrugated cheese slicer are effective and safe for children to chop with) into small pieces. By simply adding water, some cinnamon, and a bit of sugar (also optional), the apples can be transformed into sauce in a crockpot. There are plenty of simple recipes available on the web.
5. Identifying Leaf Shapes
For older children, find out what leaf shapes are most common in your area (cordate, orbiculate, elliptical?). Find images of these common shapes and make life size cards or stencils out of them. Then, it’s time for a leaf hunt. With the cards in tow (3-4 shapes should be good), find real leaves and match them to the cards. This is a great springboard to a leaf collection and further classification of the leaves. These leaves can be pressed, labeled, and added to a photo album or mounted on poster board for display.
Simon Czerwinskyj first became interested in Montessori as a student in a 3-6 Montessori classroom. After obtaining a BA in English, he followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a Montessori teacher. Simon has been teaching in 3-6 classrooms for 14 years, and is always finding new ways to engage his students. And his students are always finding new ways to impress him and make him laugh.
Photo Credit: Len Matthews/Flickr