Trees That Please
Pick out a "special" tree your group can easily visit on a routine basis - for picnics, for story time, to gather leaves, even as a place to hang a swing. Photograph children at the tree doing many different activities as the seasons change. Create a "Class Tree" book that everyone, including parents, can enjoy using a small photo album, one page for each photograph.
Gather leaves, twigs, needles, and pinecones. Separate the items by color or by type, such as all the leaves together and all the pinecones together. Double-bag like items together (carefully sealing) and let children explore the objects. Then tape the bags to a window that children can easily see. Talk about the colors, textures, and objects as children look through the collage-like bags.
Ask parents to send in a stuffed bear from home. Collect the same number of shoeboxes as bears, paint each one brown, and attach cardboard leaves or branches to each box lid. Place a bear into each "tree" home, put the lid on, and then ask children to retrieve their bear. Tell stories about the bears peeking out at the children and then going back into their cozy box habitats.
Sit and Explore
Gather leaves and seeds. Stick these objects onto a large piece of clear contact paper. Cover the objects with another piece of clear contact paper to enclose your woodland collage. Use packing tape to attach the collage to the floor and encourage children to sit or lie on it and explore.
Logs for Learning
Ask a nursery or landscape service to give you several logs about 12 inches in diameter and 6 to 18 inches long. Remove any rough areas and make sure the logs are steady. Then set up the logs for children to hide behind, sit upon, or walk along and jump from with your assistance. Talk about climbing "up" and "over," jumping "down," hiding "behind," sitting "on," and walking "across."
Looking at Leaves
Together, gather leaves, seeds, pinecones, and pine needles. Scatter the objects on blueprint paper. Place the paper in the sun under a piece of glass until the blue turns white. Remove the objects and put the paper into a solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to eight parts water. Remove and pat dry. When dry, cover with clear contact paper. Ask children to help you match the materials to the shapes on the paper.
Tree for Me!
Get a large box (stereo or appliance) and place it on one end. Cut a curved doorway or open the box at both ends. Together, paint the box brown and green and decorate it with paper leaves. When reading or singing about animals in trees, encourage children to crawl through your box-log or hide in your boxtree trunk.
Gather thin, green twigs with a few leaves and help children dip them in water and use them to "paint." Children can also collect and paint with pinecones. Place a piece of paper in a shoebox and help children dip the pinecones in paint and drop them in. Together, close the box and roll or shake it to paint the paper.
This article originally appeared in the April, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.