Outdoor Classroom

The cool crisp air of September is a signal that fall is just around the corner.  The leaves of most trees begin their vibrant color change and fall to the ground.   Of course, if you have a yard full of deciduous trees and a yard full of leaves that need raking, the first reaction of most adults is one of dread—for the time, labor and work involved in cleaning them up.   Take a second look at them, though, and you’ll discover that there are plenty of ways to play away an autumn day in this perfect outdoor classroom.

  • Make a leafy labyrinth for you and your youngsters.  When leaves cover the lawn, rake a twisting pathway through them.  Copy a classic maze for extra credit.
    Challenge the entire family to a rousing game of “Find the Lollipop!”  It’s easy to play: simply hide a wrapped lollipop under a huge leaf pile.  The first one to find it keeps it.  For variation, bury several lollipops in the pile.
  • Preserve a leaf.  Bring a mixture of 2 parts water and 1 part glycerin (available in most pharmacies) to a boil in a saucepan.  Pour the solution into a heat-proof container.  Drop in a few brightly-colored leaves and gently submerge them with a wooden spoon.  Keep the container in a cool, dark place until there is a slight change in the leaves’ tints.  Then remove them and have your youngster blot them dry with a paper towel.  Instead of turning brown and crumbly, the leaves will retain their brilliant hues.
  • Play “Name The Leaf.”   Venture out into the neighborhood or visit local parks with the challenge that each member of the family should collect five unusual leaves.  Back home, try to identify the trees they came from using guidebooks or on-line resources.
  • Rake them into a huge pile and jump in!