Thursday, October 18, 2012

Preschool Leaf Exploration

The other day I had a lovely class with a bunch of preschoolers at Peabody Mill Environmental Center. They stop by once a month to learn about science and nature and this month I was asked to teach them about leaves. This is what we did:

Outdoor Activity
We discussed how trees change throughout the seasons. Right now the leaves are very colorful and are falling to the ground since it is Autumn. We went on a leaf hunt and collected interesting leaves. We noticed how leaves can come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. A nice book that tied in with our walk was "Leaf Jumpers," by Carole Gerber. I quickly skimmed the book showing them the different leaf shapes and pointing out the ones that matched the leaves we had collected. We were able to collect red maple, birch, burr oak and regular oak leaves (as well as a couple I could not identify).

Indoor Time:
We discussed the seasons and talked about how trees look different in each season. I read the book "Leaves!" by David Ezra Stein and pointed out the trees depicted in each season. This is a cute book about a little bear who doesn't understand why the leaves are falling off of the tree, but is VERY happy (and reassured) when he sees new leaves in the spring. We were able to tell what season it was in the pictures by looking at the details in the illustrations.

Leaf Critters:
Once we came back inside with our leaves, we glued them to paper. We then added eyeball stickers to them and used a marker to add details such as arms, legs, wings, and/or antennae to make Leaf Critters. A good book that ties in with this craft would be "Leaf Man," by Lois Elhert.

Making Trees of Our Own:
The children also created autumn trees using simple art supplies. This was similar to the project I did the other day with the Kinders at Clark, but I used smaller paper (9" x 12") and traced their hands and had them color the "trunk" and "branches" with crayons. Then they were able to use wine corks to stamp paint "leaves"onto their pictures. They came out very cute and this gave us an opportunity to try some new stuff (stamping/printmaking, tracing, coloring) while learning the parts of the tree and noticing all of those beautiful fall colors.

Additional Activities:
Leaf collecting is fun for little ones--it is nice to see how many different kinds they can find! You can keep the leaves as they are or glue them to pieces of paper to make a leaf book.

Leaf rubbing may be overdone in some people's eyes, but it is fun! One thing I've done (that I saw on Pinterest) is to take a big long piece of paper (from a roll--maybe the piece is about 6' long) and tape it down to the floor or on a long table with various leaves scattered underneath. Show the children how to use the side of a crayon to make a leaf rubbing and the leaves magically appear on the paper. I used newsprint on a roll with great results.

Additional Fall Books: "Why Do Leaves Change Color," by Betsy Maestro is a great book for older children (and for parents to read so that we can answer all of those questions about Autumn!). It is one of the Let's Read And Find Out series of science books. "Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf," by Lois Ehlert is also a good one, as is "When The Leaf Blew In," by Steve Metzger (this one is great for cause and effect and a bit of silliness!).

Sing a Song of Autumn: many sites have great songs to get children up and moving. One site I like is  Perpetual Preschool. What a wonderful way to end the day with a song!

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