Tag Archive | seasons

Fall is Here! Or is it?

Image

After spending my childhood in San Diego and a few other mild climates, I spent three years in the Midwest and discovered and truly experienced the four seasons. It was during this time living in the tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin that I fell in love with the beauty of autumn.  (Winter: not so much.) 

Image

I came back to Southern California, first to Los Angeles where my husband attended graduate school and finally back to San Diego in 1981. I remember how dismayed I was by the annual presence of the Santa Ana winds and the accompanied fire threats. While living in the Midwest, during the same period, the air would be chilling and the leaves turning beautiful colors. It made sense that all the stores were filled with clothing featuring layers and wool. Trips to the pumpkin patch involved REAL pumpkin patches on farms out in the country. Celebrating fall in Southern California seemed so artificial and out of touch to me. 

Image

The traditional approach to teaching in the 1980’s and early 90’s when I returned to the classroom involved using “themes” so our topics would be “apples” and “fall leaves” in September and October. It didn’t make sense to me, so I didn’t do it. I do remember taking a class on a field trip to San Clemente Canyon off 52 where giant, native sycamores grow and drop their dry, yellow and brown leaves starting in November. It was a genuine fall experience that filled our senses with sound, texture and smell.

Image

Since those days, I have learned to appreciate that Southern California does experience a change of season that goes beyond the threat of wildfires. Although much more subtle than what I experienced in the Midwest, the climate does cool and changes can be observed.

Image

One simple observation may be a new phenomenon not available when I was growing up. Just like the jacaranda trees (whose purple flowers herald spring) liquid amber trees have been planted everywhere and we can all witness the change of seasons throughout the year. We at Hanna are so lucky to have a small grove available right on our block! If you take a close peek, you will see some leaves where the edges are turning a reddish brown and others have turned a beautiful yellow. Each day as I walk by, I pick up the yellow leaves that have dropped on the ground. Even the leaves on our very own grape vine found along the fence separating the lower and Garden Classroom are changing colors due to the shortened hours of each day.

Image

These leaves, along with some small pumpkins, and a pomegranate that I received as a gift served as the inspiration for our “fall pallet” that was mixed by the children.  Besides being a tangible concept of autumn, the beautiful jewel tones of the paints is another way for the children to connect with nature and appreciate all the earth has to offer.

Image

Yes, we can all take the drive to our local mountains to pick some apples or gather acorns (which I do!) but I like looking for the small signs in the trees or even in our own backyards, where the tomato plants are starting to wither (this is one great advantage of living in San Diego) and a new crop of “winter vegetables” can be planted.

Meanwhile, I have to go outside and water, Santa Ana winds are coming. Sigh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Winter Wonderland

IMG_7014

It may not always be appropriate to add “snow” to an emergent style curriculum such as we use at Hanna, since snow really isn’t a part of our landscape, but considering that nature inspires so much of what we do in the Garden Classroom, I did think it would be appropriate to spend our last couple of days before starting our winter break celebrating the winter’s solstice. With some help of several girls from Room 3, we experienced some seasonal changes in the much beloved “deer” play tray. (While it really features lots of forest animals, it is the little deer family that gets the most attention.)

IMG_7009

The little colored, plastic leaves were raked out and some faux snow was sprinkle on to the forested habitat. The children were invited to paint and glitter some pine cones as a way to enrich and personalize the forest.

IMG_6977

I also turned the sensory table into an Arctic play land for little plastic polar bears and other animals that reside in the North Pole. Two of my mentors, Deb Curtis and Margie Carter taught me that something “sparkly…or wondrous and magical” (Designs for Living and Learning, 2003) should always be included, so sparkly silver and blue pom-poms  and glittered,  silver spirals (I cut them off floral picks)  were added along with some blue and white florists stones.
IMG_6984

To top it all off, I included a large plastic, party tray that had the appearance of a sheet of ice. This created a whole new level of interaction! The polar bears, seals and whales had parties “underneath the ice.”

IMG_6977

While looking at these photos, I can’t help but smile. I know that playing with this material is nothing like playing in real snow Yet, the children’s interactions with the fluffy, white stuff caused a flurry of falling flakes and piling drifts. While this play could certainly be described as educational, (For example, math skills are being strengthened as the children sort, count and create patterns and sets while playing with the plastic animals and social-emotional development is occurring through conflict resolution and negotiating taking turns.) what I find so delightful is that these children are experiencing the same kind of joy that a child might experience on opening the front door and discovering a real winter wonderland while living in say…New England. Their faces shine with a look of wonder and their laughter rings with joy. Children everywhere recognize this weather phenomenon and understand the magic of snow!