Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preschool Lab: Changing Leaves

Last week we had our second Preschool Lab program and we talked about changing leaves. This was a fun program that can be done on a shoestring budget as long as you have a park or yard or somewhere to pick up some leaves.

Here's what I did:

Opening Song: My Hands Say Hello. This is our standard opener for all preschool programs.

Welcome: I told everyone that today we're talking about changing leaves and I asked if anyone had seen some colorful leaves on the trees. Some had, some hadn't and for those who hadn't I suggested that maybe they would spot some on their way home today.

Felt: Fall is Not Easy (adapted from the book by Marty Kelley). We started with a silly story about changing leaves.

Book/Activity: We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Miki Sakamoto. This story goes along the lines of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". After each obstacle, the children find a tree with different colored leaves. I passed out felt leaves in different colors and as we reached each tree, I asked the kids to bring up the appropriate color leaf for our leaf collection on the board.

Book: Leaves Fall Down: Learning About Autumn Leaves by Lisa Marie Bullard, illustrated by Nadine Takvorian. This book gives a very simple explanation to why leaves change color and why trees lose their leaves. I didn't read the entire book; we stopped right after the leaves fall off the trees and the branches are bare. I also didn't read any of the speech parts in the pictures, only the simple text of the story.

Demonstration: Changing leaves. I had picked some leaves from an oak tree by my apartment 5 days prior to the program and left them out. Then I picked some on the day before the program so we could compare. I let everyone come up and touch the leaves and we talked about how they felt. The fresh leaves were soft and tender. The older leaves were dry and crunchy. I got the idea from Busy Mommy Media, although I think doing the activity the way she describes might have worked better. This wasn't a program that would last 5 days, though, so I adjusted it. ;)


Felt Board: I put out the felt materials we had used in storytime and let the kids play with them. They could retell the stories we heard or make up their own. They also had fun manipulating the felt pieces (great for fine motor control) and sorting the leaves by color.

Leaf Sorting: I put out leaves in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and asked kids and parents to sort them. Everyone sorted by color, but I didn't see anyone sorting by other qualities. Some kids did notice that some leaves are more than one color or are one color on one side and a different color on the other side.

Leaf Rubbings: I put out paper and crayons and a selection of leaves and kids could create leaf rubbings. To make a leaf rubbing, put a leaf under your paper and then color lightly with the crayon on the paper where the leaf is. You'll see the shape of the leaf coming through! I figured this one would be popular and take the longest, so I put up two tables for this one.

Leaf Observation: I put out magnifying glasses and a selection of leaves and encouraged kids to look at and talk about the leaves. This one seemed to work best when I was there asking kids questions and helping to identify leave parts. If I did it again, I might include some clipboards and paper and encourage parents to write down their child's observations.

As before, I let everyone spend as much or as little time as they wanted at the stations and I had a selection of books for them to take home, as well as a handout with some activities they can do at home. Leaves is a great one to continue the learning at home because everyone has access to them somewhere! Again, I had a small but enthusiastic group. The entire program lasted about 45 minutes.

Next month we'll be talking about animals in winter, inspired by Christina Jones at the Monroe County (IN) Public Library!