Fall 2020 - Ideas for the Home and Classroom
It seems ironic, sitting down to write a fall-themed post from a snow-covered setting. But that is the reality, leaders. Normally, I’d be frustrated that the snow knocked the leaves from the trees resulting in a shortened fall; however, this year, I’m not. Our 2020 fall has exceeded expectations, making the snow more tolerable. In addition, forest fires surround us, and the snow is aiding in slowing the burn. For these reasons, I find myself beyond grateful for the snow.
To enrich your seasonal learning activities, I’m rounding up resources we use annually and ones we’ve created. You’ll find resources to support the following topics:
If you’re thinking that I missed Thanksgiving, I’ll tell you I did not. I’m featuring Thanksgiving in its very own post as it’s my favorite.
If you’re looking for a way to invite fall into your classroom and prefer a seasonal approach instead of a holiday-centered approach, then take a look at Leaves for Learning. In this post, we suggest ways to incorporate leaves into cross-curricular learning for Preschool to Sixth grade in an easy-to-read table format and “Leaf Use Menu.” See this idea in use at Leaves for Learning 2 where we show you how we used it as a name formation center with our Kindergarteners.
I think an important autumn-related question to answer is “Why do leaves change color in the fall?” and Mystery Doug does an amazing job answering it in this engaging video.
After learning the science behind the changing colors on the trees, head into this leaf chromatography experiment from Little Bins for Little Hands. From it, your learner will learn about photosynthesis and chromatography by breaking down the colors of chlorophyll in the leaves. Little Bins for Little Hands even suggests doing this experiment in the summer and again in the fall to compare the results.
While you’re out collecting leaves, why not collect multiple varieties and identify them with the help of Leaf-ID.com.
Finally, explain how as the seasons change, the day lengths also change with the help of this changing day lengths manipulative. Use as an aid to discuss the effects of changing day lengths on the weather.
We use the library heavily, but we always run into a seasonal problem: seasonal books are hard to get your hands on! Every teacher, parent, reader wants seasonally relevant books to read. Well, we do too! The only way to make sure we have them when needed is to buy them. One of the fall books we bought is We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger. We even created an eight-page Wolfe Pack to go with it. Head to our Going on a Leaf Hunt post to read more ideas for use and download your Wolfe Pack (at the bottom) and we’ll walk you through before, during and after activities for this fun autumn book.
One of our favorite Halloween books (and again, one we actually own) is Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli (links to a YouTube read aloud by KV Teach). Follow a pumpkin who longs to be scary through his life cycle. Once finished, pair it with one of many pumpkin life cycle activities on the internet. Two of our favorites include this life cycle emergent reader from Mrs. Thompson’s Treasures and this color, cut and glue activity from Twisty Noodle. I started making one too but have yet to finish it. Maybe this year folks. If so, I’ll update it here.
One of the best parts of Halloween is telling stories. Act on that. Our Monster Writing Lab opens the doors for young learners of all shapes and sizes to hone their writing ability. On this post you’ll also find an assortment of Halloween activities for Preschool to First Grade learners.
If you’re looking for a treat to hand out, Tootsie Pop Ghosts (links to a how-to guide from the Kitchen is My Playground) is one of our favorites.
Finally, the sound of Halloween to me is the recitation of the following poem by my nephew when he was three. I have it captured on video and it makes me laugh every time. He was so cute! At the end of the poem he looks at me and asks, “What’s next?” And that’s probably my favorite part of the whole thing, followed closely by the animation of the recitation. Here’s the poem:
To scare the kids on Halloween,
I'll tell you what I'll do.
I'll stand behind a pumpkin,
Then I'll say, "BOO!"
We paired pumpkin painting with this poem. Using a real pumpkin as a model, he painted his interpretation on white paper using his paint set. Then, during recitation he used his pumpkin painting as a prop.
When it comes to decorating, I try to keep it simple. Little bits of autumn flare here and there are enough to make me happy. This year decorating included hanging a sign definitively declaring “Fall is My Favorite,” placing Autumn blocks and a fall decoration my sister made me on my piano, drawing ghosts on white trash bags to stash leaves in, positioning a pumpkin in the corner of our living room, displaying fall-themed towels and centering a jack-o-lantern on the table in the midst of Halloween and fall themed placemats.
My favorite craft to make with kids this time of year is scarecrows. And, as a bonus, the whole time you’re crafting you can sing, “If I Only Had a Brain,” from the Wizard of Oz. For young ones, we think paper plate scarecrows like this one from The Keeper of the Cheerios provide great opportunities to develop fine motor skills, follow directions, hone scissor skills and practice identifying shapes and colors.
Why is fall the season for baking anyway? Because of colder weather? The association of spices with autumn? I don’t know. But, I can tell you that while I bake year around, there are certain recipes I must bake before fall passes me by or it just didn’t feel like fall to me. Two of those recipes I’ll share here.
The first is Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. I’m a huge fan of all things pumpkin and this is probably one of my favorite ways to enjoy it. Here’s the recipe:
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
1 cup sugar
½ c. butter, softened
2 cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 a brick)
Cinnamon sugar* (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line or grease a muffin pan.
- In a large bowl, cream together sugar, softened butter, and eggs until light and fluffy.
- Blend in pumpkin.
- Mix in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and seasonings.
- Fold in chopped walnuts (if desired).
- Distribute batter among muffin cups.
- Cut cream cheese brick* into twelve fairly equal pieces cutting only from the top. In the end, each piece should roughly resemble a three-studded Lego.
- Insert one cream cheese “mini-brick” into the center of each pumpkin muffin.
- If desired, sprinkle tops with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until firmly set in the middle.
* Make your own cinnamon sugar by mixing ¼ sugar with 2 tsp. cinnamon. Add more or less of each to reach desired taste.
**If you desire a sweeter cream cheese, simply soften and mix with 2Tbsp-1/4 cup powdered sugar, depending on your desired level of sweetness. Then, use a pastry bag (or Ziploc with the corner cut off) to add the cream cheese mixture to the muffins.
***To increase the aesthetic appeal of these muffins, swirl the cream cheese with a butter knife or toothpick after 3-5 minutes of baking.
While Apple Betty is a new addition to my fall baking line-up, apples have always played an integral role. (Read about my introduction to Apple Betty here.) This Apple Betty recipe is by Barbara Milam via All Recipes and it’s my go-to recipe for any apple baked dessert nowadays. I even use it to make apple pie. I mean, it pretty much already is, all you do is add crust and increase the cooking time. But honestly, when I’m making it for only the Wolfe Stew household, we make it according to Barbara’s instructions.
I hope you are having a wonderful fall! And, I hope this mid-fall post reinvigorates any dwindling autumn spirits out there. In my opinion, the best part of fall is just around the bend. I’m looking forward to catching up with you again in my Thanksgiving post. Until then, may comfort reach you through autumn breezes and joy sustain you in colorful leaves.
At Your Service,