Leaves for Play and Learning

Beyond the typical leaf rubbing, leaves create the catalyst for exploring science, art and literacy in early childhood education.

Blandford’s recent visit to Godfrey Lee Public Schools served as a tool to collaborate and increase the teachers and students use of their nearby natural area – their living laboratory.

Related: Urban Outdoor Learning and Hands-on Science Just Outside the Door: Students Explore New Learning Center.

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With the help of the East Lee High School students and Physical education teacher, Julie Swanson, and funding awarded by the Women Who Care of Kent County,  the Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center has made some amazing improvements to their outdoor learning space. 

To discover more about the natural world around us, students were encouraged to be observant. Everyone has five special tools with them wherever they go that they use to explore and understand the world around them—their five senses!

We began with our walk, under the power lines and along the Plaster Creek.  When entering the natural area one student excitedly exclaimed, “Oh WOW! We’re going into the woods!”

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On the hike the students were encouraged to search for evidence that the season is changing, using their five senses.  The color change and falling leaves were quickly identified by the students. They were challenged to collect their favorite leaf. “How can we choose just one, they’re are too many to choose from?!”

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Together we explored the leaves using their sense organs: eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, nose for smelling, hands for touching and cautioned about the tongues for tasting. It’s important to educate that the sense of taste is one that we need to be cautious of when we learn outside.

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“I notice my leaf has a hole in it?” As teachers we modeled wondering what could have caused the hole in the leaf?  One student chimed in, “I think the leaf was eaten by something.”  Already at a young age, these kindergartners are using their sense organs to find out more about the role leaves play in helping organisms survive in the natural world.

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After a few minutes of siting and exploring the leaves, the students needed to get their whole bodies involved.

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Even though this outdoor exploration was a short twenty minutes, it sure created some natural motivation for their upcoming science unit. The children left wanting more time to play and discover.  That’s a great way to end the school day! Can you guess what the children wanted to do when they got home?  They were challenged to find their own neighborhood leaves and bring some back to school tomorrow.  Wouldn’t every  teacher love to receive a bouquet of leaves from their students?

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Key Resources

  • For more activities, see Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood guide from Project Learning Tree.  The guide will help educators lead exciting explorations and discoveries about our environment and includes over 130 educational experiences which integrate investigations of nature with art, literature, math, music, and movement.
  • Also, Growing Up WILD: Exploring Nature with Young Learners Activity Guide offers a wide range of activities and experiences for children ages 3-7, Growing Up WILD provides an early foundation for developing positive impressions about the natural world and lifelong social and academic skills. Written especially for early childhood educators, this guide features 27 field-tested, hands-on, nature-based activities in a full-color 11” x 17” activity guide. Includes crafts, art projects, music, conservation activities, reading and math connections and much more. Involves social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive domains to help foster learning and development in all areas. Correlated to the National Association for the Education of Young Children

(In case you would like to receive these resource for you and you school community, Blandford Nature Center has trained Project Learning Tree and Growing Up Wild facilitators on staff. Email Janet@BlandfordNatureCenter.org for more details.)

What activities or books would you recommend?

Please share in the comments below.

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One thought on “Leaves for Play and Learning

  1. Pingback: Former BEEP Now Teacher | Blandford Nature Center

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