19 September 2023
A season full of colour, texture and change presents a fantastic opportunity to connect children to the land and teach them about the beauty and importance of nature. Here are five easy ways to engage students with the land throughout autumn.
Sensory activity: You will need a selection of root vegetable to complete this activity i.e. carrots, potatoes, radishes, beetroots, swede, turnip etc... Ask your pupils to handle the vegetable and discuss how they feel. Sometimes when we buy root vegetables they still have leaves on the top or even soil on the outside. Usually root vegetables have to be quite hard to live under the ground without getting squashed. Compare this to peas, beans, corn etc... which are usually a bit softer – children may even enjoy squashing them between their fingers.
Move around!: Reach up to the sky to talk about the vegetables that grow above ground and crouch down to talk about the ones the grow huddled in the soil. Show the children an example of an underground vegetable and the plant it comes from. Get children to stretch or jump as you show above ground vegetables and crouch as you show them underground vegetables. How fast can they get? Can they remember if you just show the vegetable or call out the name? Can they name the vegetable as they do the movement?
Test your knowledge: Pop the vegetables in a opaque bag or under a piece of material. Ask your pupils to feel the vegetable and encourage them to describe what they can feel to the rest of the class and everyone has to guess what it could be. Then the pupil who has been doing the describing should say what they think the object is. At this point they should take the object out of the bag for everyone to see. Were their guesses right? Did the pupil describe it well? Go around the group doing the same thing.
Engage your students in hands-on science experiments that relate to autumn. For example, you can explore the process of photosynthesis by observing and measuring the changing colours of leaves as they prepare for winter.
Take it further: Try our ‘Magic of Photosynthesis’ investigation to help children understand the importance of chlorophyll for trees to produce oxygen
Worms are very special creatures because they keep the farmer’s soil healthy, which helps crops grow well. Without worms, insects and other important minibeasts we wouldn’t be able to grow enough food for humans to eat. But what are minibeasts and where do they live?
Wrap up and head outside. Ask your group to look around and point to and identify a number of different habitats, for example: man made surfaces, short cut grass, piles of stones, sunny or shady areas, trees, leaf litter, bark / tyre chipping, flower bed, long grass, bushes / hedges.
Ask your children to guess where they think that they will find the most or most diverse number of species of minibeasts. Split the children into smaller groups or ask children to work on their own. Give the children/groups a collecting container and any other equipment you have decided to use to collect the minibeasts i.e. dustpan and brushes, paint brushes, spoons. Give each group a different habitat to search in. After 5 minutes bring the groups back together. You can place worms into trays with a bit of soil; if it’s a dry day, spray them with a little water.
Questions: Who found the most minibeasts? Does this mean it’s the best habitat or were the children the best hunters? Do they make noises? See if you can identify the minibeasts using the ID sheet (download below) How many different types of minibeasts were collected in total? Do you think your school grounds are healthy? How long is the longest worm found? Can you see any worm casts?
Need help identifying that minibeast? Download our ID picture guide here.
Introduce children to the rich tapestry of autumn through share stories or poems about the changing seasons, myths about trees, and tales of harvest celebrations. This not only broadens their cultural horizons but also deepens their connection to the land as they begin to see how nature has inspired human creativity throughout history.
Some autumnal reads:
Autumn is an ideal time for tree planting. Organise a tree-planting event at your school and involve your pupils in every stage of the process. Explain the importance of trees in our ecosystem and how they help combat climate change. Encourage them to take ownership of the newly planted trees by watering and caring for them regularly. This hands-on activity gives children a tangible connection to the land and a sense of responsibility toward it.
Plan ahead: Schools can apply for free trees from the Woodland Trust. However, if your application is successful, these trees will not be delivered until March 2024
Last tip, keep it simple and sensory. Connecting children to the land in autumn doesn't have to be complicated. It’s about taking a step back to observe and notice what often goes unnoticed and providing an opportunity for you pupils to develop their curiosity for the fascinating and life-giving world around us, helping to develop a deep and lasting bond with the land that will benefit both them and the planet for years to come.