As autumn draws in, nature is busy readying itself for the cold winter months with many plants and animals putting on a fantastic final show. Squirrels and jays are frantically burying their winter stores of nuts and acorns; mini beasts are seeking shelter in leaf litter, whilst butterflies and ladybirds are beginning to search for warm spaces in which to hibernate. Leaves are starting to turn as the hours of sunlight wane; mushrooms abound and seed or fruit bearing plants are busily preparing for next spring. Sycamore helicopters, prickly beechnuts, conkers and acorns are to be found in abundance, as are rosehips, elder berries and blackberries. All are falling, flying or ripe for the picking and all offer a vast array of opportunities to teach your students about nature and the cycle of life, or for any number of creative and cooking activities.
The Woodland Trust’s fabulous Nature Detectives site has a wealth of downloadable activity sheets from which to choose. Whether it’s a fruit and seed scavenger hunt; leaf identification and collage making or blackberry picking and jam making there are countless reasons to get out and about and enjoy this wonderful season with your pupils. Rolls Crescent School in Manchester use their Learning Escape as a base for their enthusiastic gardening club as you can see from the photograph above.
Not only is there so much to learn from nature, being outside confers a vast array of other benefits to health and well-being that are almost too numerous to mention in a short blog post. In a nutshell (pardon the autumnal pun) being outdoors boosts vitamin D levels (essential for healthy bones and immune systems); improves vision and increases attention spans. It also promotes social skills; provides unique opportunities to assess and manage risk and is a huge outlet for stress and frustration. If you are interested in learning more about how teaching children outside can enhance their education, have a look at our Whitepaper “The Outdoor Environment”.
Autumn is, arguably, the most exciting of all the seasons so why not use it as a springboard from which to launch a year of learning outside? Ask parents to provide a set of wet weather gear so that you and your class can get out, whenever practicable, whatever the weather and enjoy the fresh air and nature’s bounty. The children will love it and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.