Monday, October 14, 2013

L is for Leaves

I LOVE fall!  It's my favorite season, so when I saw that L for leaves and A for Apples would hit right now for our curriculum in the midst of fall, I was pretty excited.  The thing is that we currently live in a place that doesn't really have the same change in weather (though we have had a stretch of nice, coolish, sweater-wearing days) and looks for fall as where I grew up.  And, even before living here in Nepal, we were in Southern California for over a decade where you can barely even distinguish seasons!  So, I think I tend to even go a bit overboard with my autumn enthusiasm and plans for projects to feed my nostalgia.  
We've already made two large pumpkins worth of puree (can't buy canned pumpkin here) and have been baking a lot of goodies.  
But, we rolled into our school theme with leaves...
We actually have a kindergarten co-op that we are a part of every other Friday, and it was my turn to teach, so we launched into our leaf theme with them.
(I'm not posting pics with the other kids in them since I don't have permission from their parents.)

Since we don't actually have fall foliage around here, I thought it would be fun to make some of our own.  Boy Mama had a post about creating fall leaves.  I used her idea, but since coffee filters are not to be found here, I decided to try them with paper towels.  I didn't really make templates; I was pretty loose with cutting the leaf shapes since I was cutting them for 5 kids to make.  I just sort of freehand cut some shapes out of a stack of paper towels at a time.  I have a bunch of these plastic trays that I found at a local shop, so each kid got one of those and then chose some paper towel leaf shapes.  I mixed a few drops of food coloring into small cups of water, and they used their eye droppers to drop color onto the leaves.  They really had fun with it.

I think the paper towel took notably longer to dry than the coffee filters would have.  We did these first, and they still weren't dry about 2 hours later at the end of our co-op time.  But, once they did dry, I think they turned out really nice!  One funny thing is that you can see the design on the paper towel through them, but you take what you can get here!

Next, we played the Roll, Add, and Color using the sheet from the leaf printable from The Moffatt Girls' Fall Math Pack Freebie.  Instead of just using regular dice, though, I decided it would be fun to use our big photo cubes with fall clip art in the them from a few of the free printable packs we had found.  They were excited to use the dot markers to mark their leaves.  It was actually a bit slow, as it was a bit advanced for several of the kids, so we decided to all mark everyone's answers on our sheets, and it also diffused some potential frustrations of winning/losing.

In spite of not being able to find coffee filters here, I saw this science experiment from several sources to see which color different leaves would change in the fall, or really even to explore why they change colors, and I was determined to make it work somehow!  My friend happened to have a few coffee filters that she graciously sacrificed for the good of science. :)  Yay!   
Ezekiel preempted the tearing a bit!
We also had to use hand sanitizer, as our quest for rubbing/isopropyl alcohol was also shockingly challenging, so there were definitely several factors that weren't really an ideal set-up, but I pressed through!
As I mentioned, we don't really get a lot of leaves changing colors here, so there wasn't a lot of variety in the results, but it was still pretty cool to explain to the kids (in a pretty simplified version) about the other pigments that are "hiding" in the leaves but are able to be seen once the chlorophyll starts to break down with the cooler weather and shorter days.  Most of our strips were pretty faint and just showed a bit of a strip of light green or yellow, but all were really enthusiastic about the process!

Moving on from our co-op time, I put together a sensory bin for Ezekiel.  There are so many great ideas for fall sensory materials out there.  Rice is really plentiful here, but it is also considered the most staple food, so sometimes it is hard to justify using up a batch of it, but a few weeks ago, I bought a big bag from the shop, and when I got it home and opened it, it had bugs in it.  Honestly, I sort of got a little excited because I felt like it was a good excuse to dry it out and use it for sensory play!  So, I made orange pumpkin spice sensory rice.  I don't have pumpkin pie spice, so I just used cinnamon and cloves and a bit of nutmeg.  I got impatient with the stirring, so I just used my hands to mix it all in together and ended up with orange hands!  One note, at least when I did it, is that I couldn't really smell the spice on the rice that strongly, so I kept adding more, and when it dried, it smelled really, really strong (I added a LOT), so maybe the smell gets masked a smidge while wet.

It kind of surprised me, but Ezekiel actually insisted on taking all of the other stuff OUT of his bin and just playing with the rice.

Isaiah's tray originally just had the rice, and we were using our fingers to practice some letter writing, but when he saw other stuff in Ezekiel's bin, he really wanted to have some time playing with things in his, so I went and pulled out some more to put in his bin.

One of my favorite activities that we did this week was something I modified from two ideas I saw for making an alphabet tree.  No Time for Flashcards had a Letter Sorting Tree and a Peel & Pick Alphabet Apple Tree.  I decided to use some of the contact paper I had brought with me to make a peel and stick tree.  I cut out very basic leaf shapes in fall colors and wrote the capital letters of the alphabet on them.

Then, I made use of our sensory bins from the week to try to have each of the boys engage the tree in a way closer to their abilities.  In Isaiah's bin, I hid lowercase letter magnets for the first half of the alphabet letters, and in Ezekiel's bin, I hid capital letter magnets for the second half of the alphabet letters.  When they dug out their letters, they went and found and collected the matching letter from the tree.  In Isaiah's case, it was a good review for lowercase and capital letter matching, and for Ezekiel, it was good practice to just match the capital letters and say their names.

Isaiah tends to develop his own systems for things.  I did not ask the boys to do any particular thing with the letter pairs once they had collected them, but it was really important to Isaiah that he carefully lay out each leaf he collected with the letter magnet on top.

We actually nearly had a fight at one point because they were both so into collecting their leaves, and Ezekiel (as always) gets particularly excited about seeing the letter "E"--"for Ezekiel."  So, he took it even though it was in Isaiah's half of the alphabet (bit of a lack of foresight on my part!).  Thankfully, we worked out a trade for another letter!

I got the idea for these sugar cookies from Pinterest, though I have to admit, I didn't actually follow the link, and I now realize it only leads to a photo.  Isaiah had seen them in one of my boards and asked if we could make them.  He helped me mix up my usual sugar cookie recipe, and then we divided the dough into a few balls and added different colors of food coloring to each one and worked it through the dough.  Then we put them next to each other as we rolled them out and cut them.  I love the way they look!  Even the neighbor girls joined us for the rolling and cutting (and eating). :)

We had intended early on in the unit to make a leaf man or leaf creature after reading Lois Ehlert's book Leaf Man, but it rained a few of the days, so leaves were wet for collecting.  We finally did it toward the end of the unit.  Around our neighborhood, we don't have a huge variety in the shape of leaves, so Isaiah chose to use a foam one from his sensory bin and two of his paper towel ones he made to go with a few leaves he collected.

Our book for special book time this unit was Caps for Sale.  The boys both really enjoyed acting it out with caps and stuffed monkeys and all!

Linking up this week with the Tot School Gathering over at 1+1+1=1.


  1. Well, I think you officially and successfully pulled off fall in Nepal! And you free-handed those leaves?! Your talent knows no limit. If I could beam you a garbage bag full of colorful maple leaves I certainly would.

  2. Great activities! Looks like a ton of fun and learning!