Lessons learnt from nature’s seasons

2011-03-10 00:00

AS the year dashes ahead and we find ourselves moving into autumn we are suddenly surrounded by so many opportunities to help our children learn more about the world in which we live.

I am referring to the season changing. It is this understanding of natural ebbs and flows that we as adults often miss and that help our children gain a greater understanding of the sciences, as well as develop a host of vital educational skills.

Although autumn heralds cold weather and dreary brown, the actual changing of the season from summer to autumn is the most vivid of them all. As we look around we’ll start to see grass and leaves not only change colour, but eventually fall, leaving the trees bare.

Yet we also see some trees remain a deep green all year round. Huge piles of leaves will cover the parks and gardens. We see the birds gathering and flying north, and the flower petals shrivelling and falling as seeds burst forth. The butterflies are still dancing, but we will soon notice that they have vanished from the now vacant land.

Our pets’ coats get thicker and the days get shorter. These are all simple, seemingly obvious changes; however, they provide us with a multitude of learning activities for our children.

As the season changes we should ask our children to take note of these differences, to aid them in developing their observation skill. Spend time outside collecting leaves and looking at their different colours and shapes, while listening to the dry leaves crunching beneath your feet. Collect some of the leaves to complete craft activities. Dry leaves stuck onto coloured cardboard with a few wrapping-paper butterflies scattered around and laminated make lovely placemats. Read books about animals preparing for their long winter sleep and birds flying to mysterious warmer lands. You can even follow their route on a world map. It’s easy for us to complain when the landscape is so drab and it’s so cold outside. These attitudes, however, only feed into our children’s discontentment with life. Instead we need to, with our children’s aid, train our eye to notice all the new beauties being sculpted before us. You may want to cringe at spiders, yet we can stand in awe as autumn brings out the beautiful orb spider whose web is stronger than steel. As the leaves fall we are suddenly able to see further and will notice that there were many birds’ nests that went unnoticed during spring. Birds often return to the same area each year and you’ll need to recall where these are for next spring.

As you help your children note and track the changes bursting and falling around you, they will be learning to observe nature as well as develop skills such as understanding cause and effect, and how chronological order takes place around us. To emphasis this you can draw four pictures of a tree — an older child can draw his or her own — one with buds, one full of leaves, another with yellow, falling leaves and another bare. Then, as your children place these in order, they will be developing their sequencing and planning skills. Older children can write an autumn journal or poetry, while the little ones collect seedpods to use for counting, making craft sculptures and planting in spring.

Our world is full of natural learning opportunities. Why not choose to embark on an autumn adventure and truly embrace this changing season?

• Joanne Madgwick is a parenting and educational consultant. She will be running workshops on parenting techniques and educational tools during April in Hilton. Please watch this space and her website www.susa-parentcenter.com for details. She can be reached at 071 352 3496 or via her website.

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