Autumn is an Inspiring Time of Year
Tips for Teachers
Many folks I know become very sad in the fall, as they know that as the leaves turn color and fall to the ground, the cold, cruel winter will soon follow. And living in the Chicago area, we know what a cold, cruel winter is like! I don’t feel that way about fall, however, I love autumn. I love the warm colors, I love the cool, crisp weather, I love the feel of leaves underfoot, I love the variety of delicious apples purchased at the Farmers’ Markets, I don’t love Halloween but I love pumpkins and gourds and the feeling of the abundance of the harvest.
Fall is a rich time for inspiring and delightful curriculum with young children! So teachers, stay away from the tried and true, same old same old units that you’ve been doing for years, and look at fall in a new way. What haven’t you focused on before? How about the shape of the clouds in the sky? How about the contrast between the blues and grays in the sky and the warm oranges, browns, and reds of the falling leaves? How about the different textures and shapes and feel of gourds, or exploring some of the fall foods other than apples, such as spaghetti squash and all the wonderful kinds of potatoes available currently?
Look at what your children are talking about, what they are looking at...bring the outdoor environment inside, keep the science table full of the wonders of nature at this time of year (and all throughout the year, actually!).
So go ahead and make applesauce and do apple prints, but make spaghetti squash, too, and how about zucchini bread while you’re at it? This is a great time of year for simple cooking projects! Be sure to break down any projects into clearly delineated and organized tasks, and be sure to have a variety of interesting things to do in the classroom, so that you don’t end up with 14 children all clustered around the cooking table because there’s nothing else all that interesting going on that day!
Maybe some children went on an interesting trip over the summer that you can bring into the classroom this fall..maybe someone had a family reunion in Tennessee, and you can do mapping and explore modes of travel to Tennessee...trains, planes, and automobiles!
Bring in your own favorite stories to share with the children. What do you love most about fall? Children love to learn about you and your family, so share appropriate family stories with them and share your favorite fall traditions, and invite families to share theirs. Don’t let Halloween and pumpkins and witches overtake your curriculum over the next couple of months. There’s so much more out there!
Feel free to share your favorite projects and curriculum ideas, I will be glad to post them to interested parties! Enjoy the season as it approaches, and have a great new school year!
Tips for Parents
Autumn is such a fine time for inexpensive family outings. Take the kids to the local Forest Preserve and bring some paper or plastic bags to collect natural items such as acorns, leaves, etc. Make collages or have your child bring some of his treasures to school to share.
Create a story about your experience at the Forest Preserve. Was it a warm or cool day? Cloudy or sunny? What did you see, any animals? Did you ride bikes, take a walk? What did you talk about, and what were your favorite things there? Your child can illustrate and you can, too. Then laminate the pages and bind them into a book for your child to keep. Family stories based on such everyday experiences can become real treasures.
I remember doing leaf pressing on wax paper and putting up the artwork in the windows to decorate when my children were little. We loved collecting leaves! But don’t keep them too long before preserving them, as they get so crumbly and messy!
How about trying some new kinds of fruits and vegetables? A new kind of apple, it’s amazing how many varieties there are nowadays. You could make a list or chart of the different kinds of apples and what they tasted like (sweet, crunchy, tart, etc) and what colors they are and keep track of which are the family favorites. My favorite, by far, is the honey crisp apple. They sell them at the grocery store, but the honey crisps one buys at the Farmers’ Market are absolutely heavenly! There is a High Holiday tradition in the Jewish religion in which we dip apple slices in honey as a symbol of celebrating the new year, and hoping for a sweet and happy year. You can try this in your home, as a celebration of the new school year, which you also want to be sweet and happy!
What are your favorite memories of fall from when you were growing up, Moms and Dads? Be sure to share these with your children. They love hearing your stories from when you were children. Writing some of these stories down and having your child illustrate them can be a wonderful family bonding experience and a way of honoring important family history. Do that on a rainy fall weekend afternoon.
How about observing the birds and squirrels and other local animals and talking about how they are preparing for winter...where will they go when the weather gets cold? Take out some library books about animals in winter time, watch the flocks of birds migrating overhead, make up stories about where they are going and what their trips might be like!
And on a cool, crisp day, come home and have some baked apples and hot chocolate and just enjoy each other! Have a good autumn, everyone!