It’s fall and no matter how many times I’ve done this, it’s still exciting to take kids on a leaf safari. On a glorious October day, me and my co-teacher Zach took about 11 Kindergarten and first-graders on a leaf safari. They were REALLY excited about this, especially when they saw that they got to use their own bag with their name on it. The purpose of this adventure was to explore different colors and shapes of leaves and then make art with them.
To start, we read a book called “Fall Leaves Fall” by Zoe Hall. This book has lots of great ideas for leaf fun. We read this book and then got our bags. Outside, the kids quickly filled up their bags with leaves. We found yellow leaves, red leaves and purple leaves. I tried to sneak in some leaf classification by asking, “Does that leaf have pointy end or round ends? Does it have fingers or no fingers?” Jean picked up a maple leaf and I asked her if she knew the tree that the leaf came from, thinking that she may have talked about the state tree in school. I wish I could remember what she thought it was because it was pretty funny. This kindergartner was not impressed to learn that it was a maple leaf.
We stopped at a Purple Ash and enjoyed the bright purple leaves on the ground. Then, one child spotted an evergreen and wanted to go check for pine cones. This was unexpected and delightful as this child was clearly observing his surroundings. Quickly, they all picked up pine cones.
Another child found an apple on the ground and we stopped to ponder how that got there. The tree standing by the apple wasn’t an apple tree so we left puzzled (I found the apple tree the next day). Then, John solved everything by picking up the apple and throwing it hard. So much for that conversation.
We found some huge basswood leaves that fascinated the kids. Of course, they all wanted one. By now, each child had more than enough leaves in their bags and one child had no leaves at all. His bag contained rocks, sticks and dirt. I guess leaves didn’t fascinate him. Some kids picked small flowers like chicory and Black-Eyed Susan. During fall, I’m less concerned about kids picking plants because soon they’ll be dead, but overall, I discourage kids from picking things.
We marched back into the classroom armed with our leaves and ready to make some art. Again, the simplest thing like leaf rubbing was totally new for these kids. Most had never done it before. They took great care in their work and created colorful rubbings. Then, they made animals out of leaves and added googly eyes. Their creativity was amazing. The kids with pine cones used ink pads to make pine cone prints. I really do need to put their art work on line. The child that collected the rocks and sticks made a pumpkin mask. Apparently, he wanted to continue the pumpkin activity from the previous day. This was fine too.
The hardest part about after school teaching is that the kids get picked up at different times. Therefore, some kids didn’t get to finish their project’s today. The next day, their leaves with dried out, so they needed to pick more. This would have been fine, but it was raining. Flexibility is key. There’s always room for improvement. The next time I go on a leaf safari I might suggest that kids pick 20 leaves, rather than stuff their bags with as many as possible. Then we could have added some math into the project. As it was, we combined literacy (read aloud), science (leaf identification and classification) and just plain good outside fun on a gorgeous autumn day.