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Five Autumn activities to try with kids in the woods

 

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Becky Wilkinson, our Staffordshire Teaching Trees Education and Teacher Training Officer, delivers sessions for school groups and training for teachers in using woodlands for outdoor learning. She is a qualified teacher and forest school leader with experience of senior leadership, teacher training and as a teaching and learning advisor.

Find out more about Teaching Trees in England and Wales here or contact Becky.Wilkinson@teachingtrees.org.uk

I love working in the forest throughout the year and seeing how it changes every week providing new adventures and discoveries for our children to experience. Autumn is possibly my favourite of the seasons, crisp leaves to stomp through, conkers to unwrap and the perfect weather for hot chocolate and smores around the fire. Try these five activities for some autumn forest fun with your class!

See, Hear, Smell

Equipment – wood cookies or markers, pens

A great variation of hide and seek for developing oracy and listening skills as well as applications for lessons on habitats or minibeasts. Give each child a way of making a marker for themselves, this might be a tree cookie or stick to decorate or other small token. Can they decorate the marker to resemble them? The rest of the group closes their eyes while one person hides their marker somewhere in the setting. They return to the circle and the rest of the group have to guess where they are based on the description of what they can see, hear and smell from their marker’s position.

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Mud Kitchen

Equipment – a tuff tray plus whatever you have to hand, pans, spoons, sieves, bowls. The only thing I don’t recommend is cups if you’re working with pre-schoolers!

A mud kitchen is always fun but might seem something to pack away in the autumn to avoid chapped hands and wet clothes as the children gravitate towards the mud.

Packing away the mud kitchen is a shame however when autumn presents so many new elements that can be added to it. When the temperature goes below 10C I stop putting the water out and instead present bowls of natural loose parts as an invitation to play. Conkers, blackberries, rosehips windfall apples all make great autumn additions to your mud kitchen giving new sensory experiences and opportunities for language development.

Want to challenge older pre-schoolers? I’ll always remember the child who spent an entire morning cutting windfall apples with a blunt picnic knife on the tuff tray. Obviously an activity that needs appropriate risk assessment and supervision but a wonderful learning opportunity with a broad variety of mathematical language being used as he played.

A Little Bit of Winter

Equipment – wooden crate or pallet, book “A Little Bit of Winter” by Paul Stewart

The story is from the popular “Rabbit and Hedgehog” series and is a perfect way to link a story to a forest setting and develop language for describing the outdoors. Enjoy the story with your class then ask your groups to build homes for hedgehogs to hibernate in in your forest. A great opportunity to link learning inside and outside the classroom with the children researching why hedgehogs need homes for winter and what characteristics they should have. Can they design and build a home using natural materials? Can they develop the story or write their own?

 

Natural Art

Equipment – none

Look at the work or artists such as Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration on some amazing natural art, a particularly good activity for autumn when you will have leaves of all shades available without having to pick anything.

Hunter Gatherers

Equipment – bowls

Autumn is the one time when I suspend our usual “no pick” policy and encourage the children to explore the harvest that grows in our forests. Many school grounds, footpaths or forests will have blackberries growing at the start of autumn. If you have adequate resources to clean the berries and they haven’t grown where they can be contaminated by vehicles or animals you might want to cook with them or you can just pick them and have fun. Blackberries are great for making natural pictures or as a discussion point for a philosophy discussion on foraging and the lives of hunter gatherers.

 

If you try any of these activities we’d love to see pictures and hear about your adventures. Contact Becky at becky.wilkinson@teachingtrees.org.uk