Summary ꙳ Objectives
▹ Can you feel this little chill in the air? Do you hear the difference in the sound that the wind makes when it runs through the leaves? The sound is crispier now, while it was more 'feathery' throughout the summer.
Where we live the trees are dressing up in red, purple, orange, dark green, gold yellow, and a myriad of hue variations far and between. It's a feast for the eye!
Fall is a wonderful time to be outside as much we can! Take an evening, be out on weekends... Take a Nature break whenever you can and breath in the beauty of the season. We always have our outdoor day bag ready to go. What's in our bag? Local fauna and flora field guides, a magnifying glass, our binoculars of course. Since we 'snap' for recording nature data, then we also have our camera. And because there's always a minute or 2 to spare and sketch quickly a bud, a colored leaf, a tree, a landscape, then we also carry around our nature journal or a few sheets of paper, and pencils...
Autumn is here, and we're ready to enjoy it with you to the fullest. Happy Fall to all! ツ
Type » Lesson
Level » Eco-Artsy + Naturalist
When? » Fall
Where? » Indoors & Outdoors
Time » 2hrs+
Themes & Skills
Celebration ⋆ Focus ⋆ Phenology ⋆ Natural processes/cycles ⋆ Systems thinking ⋆ Nature benefits ⋆ Temperate Regions
Internet for accessing documentaries and wildlife webcams ⋆ Paper, pencils, crayons, or watercolors ⋆ Nature quest list(s) ⋆ Craft supplies that you anticipate needing for the Fall decoration activity...
"When everything looks like a magical oil painting, you know you are in Autumn!" —Mehmet Murat Ildan
This Nature lesson is an 'ode' to Autumn. Its purpose is to connect us to the natural beauty of this time in the year. It reminds us of the importance of the season, both ecologically and culturally.
This lesson's activities are a mix of discussions, nature quests, walks, and arts & craft. Enjoy!
✦ Discuss » Fall Ecology & Celebrations Throughout Human History
After the quietness of the end of the Summer, life is speeding up again. The air is chilling down a bit, the humidity is fading. The season starts with subtle changes, and then here in the Northeast of the United States, there is our favorite time of the year with the sudden explosion of vibrant reds, oranges, purples, and yellows. A common autumn phenomenon in the central and eastern United States and in Europe is the Indian summer, a period of unseasonably warm weather that sometimes occurs in late October or November.
It's a time of transition for many species. Animals gather food in autumn in preparation for the coming winter, and those with fur often grow thicker coats. Many birds migrate toward the Equator to escape the falling temperatures.
Discuss animal and plant activities in the Fall. For instance:
- Research how your local fauna from birds to mammals prepare for the winter.
- Follow through live webcams the bears of Katmai who gorge themselves with salmon, fattening rapidly to make it through the winter.
- Think about how the differences between deciduous trees and evergreens express themselves during the season.
- Choose a deciduous tree in your neighborhood that you can visit and observe every day. Record in your journal the changes throughout the season: at what pace do its leaves change colors and fall. If it's an oak, check its acorns. Are there a bunch of branch tips napped at the bottom of the tree? Check the cut on these branches, and if they are clean cuts snapped at an angle, it's probably a squirrel. Spy on them and tell us what you think they're doing when they snap those branches. Look closer and observe the buds that have appeared in your tree to get ready to burst next Spring. Observe the birds and mammals who live in this tree or nearby.
Learn about the changes in your region's phenology. Phenology is the seasonal timing of life cycle events in plants and animals such as color change, seed dropping, migration, and hibernation. Change in phenology has been linked to shifts in the timing of allergy seasons, public visitation to National Parks, and cultural festivals. Change in phenology is also recognized as a bio-indicator of climate change impacts and has been linked to increased wildfire activity and pest outbreaks, shifts in species distributions, the spread of invasive species, and changes in carbon cycling in forests. Phenological information can and is already being used to identify species vulnerable to climate change, generate computer models of carbon sequestration, manage invasive species, forecast seasonal allergens, and track disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, in human population centers. In the Northeast of the United States, we are already observing earlier blooming and bird migrations in Spring, and delayed migrations in the Fall...
▹ Observed Changes in Phenology Across Northeast of the United States
Seasons follow the cycle of astronomical events marked by solstices and equinoxes. In the Northern hemisphere, the September solstice is our Fall solstice (a.k.a. autumnal solstice). Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox falls around September 22 or 23, as the Sun crosses the celestial equator going south. In the Southern Hemisphere, the equinox occurs on March 20 or 21, when the Sun moves north across the celestial equator.
The concept of autumn in European languages is connected with the harvesting of crops; in many cultures, autumn, like the other seasons, has been marked by rites and festivals revolving around the season’s importance in food production.
For instance, in the Celtic tradition, the Fall equinox was seen as a sacred transition from one state to another. On the day of the equinox, the 'Mother' goddess was the center of festivities where she was thanked for the gift of the harvests that she offered throughout the summer.
Discuss with the group about what Fall represents, and how each celebrates it. Share your best memories...
This is a creative journal activity: Get outside with your journal, colored pencils and/or watercolors.
Find a quiet area and paint a wheel of the colors that you see or associate with the season. Paint the sky, the Fall bloomers, and anything that is in your vicinity. Look down (at your feet on the forest floor) and capture the colors of the mushrooms that pierce through the litter. Paint the many different colors of the leaves of different trees. Capture the reflection of the sun on a pond through the canopy of a forest. What are the warmest and coolest hues of your palette?
✦ Walk & Search » Nature Quest
Animals are busy preparing for the Winter, like the chipmunk storing the most nuts possible and fighting the thief that found its food-filled lair. Plants are slowing down. Because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor. Look at the trees, and find their fattening buds. The buds are energy-packed to bloom gloriously next Spring. is truly a wonderful time to get outside. Have a Nature walk and observe all that activity.
Make a list of 6 or more Fall items for your group or yourself to find out there in your city, parks, or local forests.
The list is more fun when its items cover all the sensory realm (sound, taste, shape, color...). Print it, grab your journal and pencils, even your camera, and get outside. Forage for those items in pairs or alone.
Each time that you find one of the items, rather than collecting it (that should be avoided), take the time to sketch it. Take a snap if it's too hard and practice sketching from your pictures.
Show your sketches and pics to one another. Share which is your favorite and how you found the item (the bird, the nut, the leaf...)
❊ ❊ ❊
Here are a few items that we like to include in our Fall list (in no specific order):
- 3 different bud shapes
- a flock of birds flying South
- a small wildflower in bloom
- a Y-shaped twig
- a leaf with 3 colors on it
- a late pollinator visiting a flower
- a molting bird
- a young pinecone
- a squirrel carrying a nut to its den
- the nest of a bird or the burrow of a chipmunk
- 3 different shapes of leaves
- an evergreen
- a grass with a hollow stem
- a winged seed
- the sun glowing through leaves
The internet is full of 'Fall nature quests or scavenger hunts' ideas. Explore what's out there and create your own list –The exploration activity alone is fun!
Circling back to the first activity and celebrating the season. Gather together (alone is fine too), and create a basket of fall paper flowers and leafy branches, an acorn and cone mobile, or enjoy fern pressing or a nature mandala. Enjoy exploring what the season has to offer, and expand your creativity.
Think about gifting your craft to someone in your circle, or offer it as a present to someone outside this circle. There is never a better time 'to give' than "now"–when we are enjoying the moment.
The Globe Earth - The Solstices and Equinoxes Explained
The Bears of Katmai (Explore Live Webcam)
Observed Changes in Phenology Across the United States - Northeast
Fall Equinox (History)
Why Leaves Change Color Carl E. Palm, Jr. (ESF)