Which Leaf? A Learning With Nature Activity

Which Leaf?  A Learning with Nature Activity

Hi!  I recently did this activity with my children and thought I would share it with you…

When my children and I are out walking during the fall, it’s a compulsion for them to bring home a collection of leaves (okay, so I might bring home a few myself).  We preserve some and admire the variety of colors for a while.

While the colorful maple leaves have all gone by and have been raked up around our neighborhood, there are still plenty of oak leaves hanging around.  They have all browned at this point but my children still admire them and, yes, collected a handful to bring home.  They were fascinated with just how many different types of oak we have around here.

I had spread the collection out so that we could identify them and as I was thinking about returning them to nature another learning opportunity occurred to me.  I have one reluctant writer and an emergent writer/speller but I knew I could motivate them to write by focusing on nature and by trying to stump each other.

I started by reading Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins, a great introduction to the variety of leaves to be found.  It is written for preschool-age children but I love the descriptive language it includes.  There are phrases like “so thin and fine…they look like smoke” and “leaves shaped like paddles”.  It’s a great primer for this activity.

With all the oak leaves spread out I asked my children to secretly choose one leaf (but leave it in its place), look closely at it’s texture, shape, distinguishing marks, etc., and write all the descriptive words and/or phrases they could think of about their leaf.  Each child then read his/her descriptions one by one and the others tried to pick out which leaf it is (during the second round of playing we decided to remove any leaves that could be eliminated after each description).  Since all of the leaves were brown, color would not be a giveaway.

We made a quick video for you…

They enjoyed the activity so much they did it over and over, each time getting better at coming up with creative clues.  It’s a fun way to practice looking closely and describing what you see.

Thanks for stopping by!


P.S. It may help to have a printable of parts of a leaf available for your child to refer to.

Nature by the Numbers – Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015a wonder-filled week!

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015

This past weekend, my three children and I attended a family nature journaling/writing  workshop led by Andrea of the lovely blog, Remains of the Day.  We got reacquainted with blind contour drawing, which we haven’t done in a while.  Here’s a sampling of ours from that day:

blind contour drawing collage

We also learned some new drawing exercises and about creating a sensory map.  We were prompted to be mindful of our surroundings and awaken our senses as we moved to a different location.  As we walked, we created a map on which we recorded the relative location of what we saw, heard, smelled, etc.  It was a challenge and we all had to remind ourselves that it wasn’t about drawing just what we were seeing but to be aware of what our other senses were noticing.  My youngest daughter and I made a map together and recorded observations like the call of a nearby bird, the direction of a cool breeze, and the sound of leaves crunching as we walked on them.

If you are new to this activity, I would suggest trying it from a stationary location like your sit spot, especially for young children.  Like on a sound map, place an “X” on your sensory map to mark your location.

sensory map

We have also been participating in Dawn’s “Fall Outside” and one of the recent daily activities was a color hunt.  In the northeast the landscape has become quite brown and it seems like there is not much color to be found.  But it’s amazing what color variety can be found when you are tuned in to it.  Maybe you’ll notice a vibrant yellow fungus or a bright red berry or the blue of the sky reflecting off a leaf.

To help remind us that there is an abundance of color in nature we added some color swatches to a page in our nature journals and when we are outside, we’ll keep a look-out for those colors.  The object we found and where we saw it will be recorded next to the coordinating color swatch.  This is also a great activity to do with various shades of one color.  Challenge yourself to notice and record the many versions of a color.

color hunt

I hope you and your child will enjoy the prompts offered this month as much as my children and I are enjoying them.

If you’d like a copy to paste in your child’s journal, click the image below to download a printable version.

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015Have a wonder-filled week!


Nature Word of the Month – November 2015: SHINRIN-YOKU

Nature Word of the Month - November 2015: Shinrin-YokuHello and happy November!

Have you heard of this word?  Shinrin-Yoku?  It’s a Japanese word meaning “forest bathing” and the practice has been getting lots of attention recently.

It was developed by the Forest Agency of Japan in 1982 in an effort promote using forested areas as part of a healthy lifestyle.  The practice involves walking through the woods in a relaxed, leisurely manner while mindfully taking in the nature using all of the senses.

While the intended effect, to reduce stress and encourage relaxation, has been demonstrated by personal accounts, researchers are now able to provide scientific evidence of the positive impacts on one’s health.

Even if you don’t have hours to devote to forest bathing, there’s no doubt that nature is good for us.  A walk around our neighborhood has saved many a challenging day for my children and I!

You can download and print a copy of this month’s nature word for your child’s nature journal.  Refer to it as a reminder for you and your child to mindfully engage with nature using all of your senses and use it as a prompt to record your child’s experiences with “forest bathing”.

Have a wonder-filled day!


Nature Word of the Month – October 2015: PSITHURISM

Nature Word of the Month - October 2015: PsithurismOne fall, late in the season when all the leaves had been released from the trees, one oak caught our attention during a walk.  As we passed beneath it we heard this soothing melodious sound.  We looked up and noticed that the tree had stubbornly held on to its brown, dried leaves and sounded like a rainstick as the breeze passed through them.  To this day, whenever we pass that tree my children say, “that’s the music tree!”.

May this month’s nature word remind you and your children to listen to the music of nature…

P.S. Don’t forget to have your child include her experiences with “psithurism” in her nature journal.

P.P.S. You can click the image above to download a copy if you’d like to paste it into your child’s journal.

Nature by the Numbers – October 2015: Nature Journal Prompts for Children

Nature by the Numbers - October 2015Whether it’s spring or fall where you live, there are no doubt some dramatic changes taking place this month.  Use our journal prompts to encourage your child to take special notice of what’s happening in the natural world, to spark a sense of wonder, and to preserve her observations and memories.

Nature by the Numbers - October 2015

Click image to download

Here are some resources that may be helpful in supporting some of the suggested explorations for this month’s journal prompts:

Have a wonder-filled week!


Four Fun Explorations For Fall!

Four Fun Explorations for Fall - Green AcornsMy kids and I usually do some activities together to observe the autumnal equinox but this year I wanted to plan out activities to do throughout the season to fully celebrate fall.  Here is a sampling of some of our investigations…Four Fun Explorations for Fall - Green AcornsMUSHROOMS

Mushrooms can be found year round but are most plentiful in the fall, making it a perfect time to do an investigation.  We are just starting our mushroom explorations.  These are some of the resources that I’ve rounded up:

Four Fun Explorations for Fall - Green AcornsPHASES OF THE MOON

This is something that we visit over and over because as the kids notice more they want to learn more.  I think it’s a fascination that can last a lifetime.  Don’t you?  And with it getting darker earlier, fall is the perfect time to get outside before bed for some moon spotting.

  • We shared some activities and resources for learning all about the moon in this previous post and talked about moon spotting in this post at Playful Learning.
  • You can download our moon journal with an updated cover. The inside of the cover includes the monthly full moon names and phases of the moon vocabulary.  You can print as many observation pages as you need.  Please note the printing directions below:
    • Coverprint the two sheets back to back on the same sheet
    • Observation pages – choose “multiple” with 2 pages per sheet.  Print on both front and back sides of your paper
  • We like this phases of the moon flipbook and game idea.

Four Fun Explorations for Fall - Green AcornsSQUIRRELS

Whether you live in a rural area or an urban one, squirrels are a common critter and easy to observe and are especially active this time of year as they prepare for the winter ahead.  All the resources you need to learn more about squirrels can be found in our previous post:

Four Fun Explorations for Fall - Green AcornsBIRD MIGRATION

You may know by know that my children LOVE birds (they have started a bird-feeding sanctuary in our yard), especially my son who has become quite the knowledgeable young birder, so learning about bird migration is a must.

What are your favorite ways to commemorate the autumnal equinox and celebrate fall?  We would love to hear about it and please do share your favorite resources!

Happy fall!  Have a wonder-filled day…


Nature by the Numbers – September 2015

Nature by the Numbers - September 2015 | Green AcornsHow are we so far in to September already?!  No worries.  There’s still plenty of time left to fit in our nature journal prompts for the month.

Nature journaling has so many benefits: improving observation skills, increasing awareness of the surroundings, and developing a sense of connection and appreciation for nature.  It also helps heighten one’s awareness of the rhythms of nature and the interconnections of life.

Nature by the Numbers - September 2015As we approach the next equinox, use our nature journal prompts to encourage your child to take notice of the changes occurring and what they may mean.  What changes are taking place in trees and other plant life?  Leaves may be changing colors or just unfurling.  Some plants may be dying off while others are emerging.  Are the colors of the landscape shifting?  What does this mean for the animals that rely on those plants?  Perhaps it means the need to rely more on camouflage to avoid predators.  With some practice, it’s amazing what details can be noticed and what connections can be made!

Click the image below to download a copy that can either be pasted into your child’s journal or pinned up to refer to throughout the month.

Nature by the Numbers - September 2015Once your child has recorded all of her observations, review them with her.  Ask “I wonder” questions.  With some encouragement and practice she will begin seeing the connections.

Bonus: Don’t forget to include the word of the month as an extra journal prompt!

Have a wonder-filled weekend!