Autumn is an exciting time of the year for replenishing your natural supplies. Whether you are walking in the forest or along the road, the ground becomes a treasure chest for all those who look closely.
Conker picking used to be one of my favourite things to do every Autumn. As children, we would wrap up, grab a bag and splash through puddles on the way to finding the best Horse Chestnut tree in the local area. Of course, the best tree was in someone’s garden and every year they kindly turned a blind eye whilst groups of children clambered over the wall to collect the shiniest brown conkers from their lawn. It is therefore, something I look forward to doing with my class each year. Luckily we have a Horse Chestnut tree just outside of our school grounds and plenty of conkers fall on the footpath preventing the need for skirting over fences (although the neighbours did invite us into their garden one year).
There are so many other amazing treasures to be found depending on your local environment. From pine cones to acorns, sycamore seeds to wonderfully coloured leaves, you will return with brimming buckets and excited children.
So the walk was wonderful but what now? Here are 4 ways that you can enjoy exploring your collections.
Observing and asking questions
This can of course happen whilst you are out on your walk, as children spot unfamiliar or interesting objects. If you have lots of time, you can take magnifying glasses with you and encourage children to wander slowly, noticing tiny details in nature. Listen carefully to the questions your children ask and discuss possible answers or predictions. Note down some of the questions to research together later with books or a quick Google search. If you are short on time, keep the collected objects and spend time at the beginning of the next session observing your finds and asking questions as a group.
Sorting and comparing
How many different ways can you sort the objects? By length, colour, shape, type of object, tree it fell from etc. Challenge the children to come up with as many different ways to sort the objects and see if you can guess their rule. You can also compare the different types of seeds that you found and explore how and why seeds are different to each other.
Counting and estimating
Want to explore larger numbers? Challenge the children to estimate and count how many conkers/acorns you collected. Last year we had a very competitive ‘Guess how many conkers we collected’ competition in Grade 1. Each week we gave the children a new clue, for example; showing what 100 conkers looked like, and children were invited to make a revised estimate. In the end one child estimated exactly the right number- 576!
Arts and Crafts
Arrange them, roll them, stamp them, print them; there are so many different wonderful art and craft activities that you can do with natural materials! Learn about why leaves change colour and create Autumn coloured pictures or print leaves onto air dry clay and make decorations for your shelter. It’s time to get creative, get messy, and have fun!
So there you have it, a few ways to enjoy what nature has to offer this Autumn. I wonder what you will do with your collections?