written by: Kara Bietz
• edited by: Tania Cowling
• updated: 11/11/2014
Have your preschoolers collect leafs to introduce your class to the nature in their own backyard. Plan creative activities for collecting the leaves as well as innovative ways to use the leaves in your classroom science and art centers.
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Science for preschoolers doesn't include beakers, Bunsen burners and complex chemistry equations! Introducing preschoolers to science often includes taking a closer look at your own backyard. Nature hunts, collecting natural materials and studying the outdoor world with magnifying lenses are all appropriate preschool science activities.
Preschool leaf collecting is a science activity that can be done all year long. Since trees shed their leaves in fall and winter, leaves collected in these seasons will often look very different from those collected in the spring and summer months. Giving children the chance to explore these differences by comparing and contrasting their collected leaves will give them an up close look at important early science concepts.
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There are several fun and engaging ways to collect leaves with your preschool class to be used in later leaf projects:
Backyard Nature Hunt: Give each child a paper lunch sack and allow them to decorate it however they would like using crayons and markers. Be sure the bags are labeled with each child's name. Explain that they will be using the bags later for a backyard nature hunt. When each child has decorated a bag, line up the class and head outdoors! Use flashlights, tongs, tweezers and magnifying lenses to observe the nature in and around the schoolyard. Ask children to collect fallen leaves, pine needles and pine cones in the bags they decorated earlier. Be sure to save the bags of treasures to be used for later activities.
Leaf Identification Scavenger Hunt: When children are not present, go outdoors and collect leaves in the schoolyard. Use the leaves as stencils by tracing their shape onto small pieces of paper and creating a few leaf identification books. Label each leaf with the name of the tree it came from if possible. When children arrive for the day, break them into teams of three to four children each and give each team a leaf identification book. It is best if each team is paired with an adult leader. Give each team a bucket and ask them to collect as many leaves as they can that match the leaves in their identification books. Save the leaves for later activities.
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Use the leaves collected in the backyard nature hunt or leaf identification scavenger hunt in these activities:
Leaf Collages: Use clear Contact paper to make leaf window collages. Allow children to place leaves on the sticky side of the clear Contact paper and press it to the windows. Fall leaves with many colors work well with this activity. Place the collages in sunny windows and allow the light to shine through the colors. This art project will really brighten up your classroom in the late fall!
Leaf Matching: Spread out all the leaves your class has collected on a large table. Allow the children to work in small groups to find leaves that are a similar shape. Allow children to trace the leaves using colored pencils to help them identify leaves that are the same. For a slightly easier matching game, ask children to find leaves that are the same color, or sort the leaves by size.
Leaf Rubbings: Place leaves under a piece of white paper and show children how to gently rub the paper with the side of a crayon to create prints. Pair this activity with the leaf matching activity and have children create leaf rubbing artwork using all the same kind of leaves. Label each piece of artwork with the name of the tree the leaves came from and hang it in your classroom science center.
Leaf Prints: As a final activity before getting rid of the collected leaves in your classroom, place all the leaves on a large table with colored stamping pads and construction paper. Allow children to create colorful works of art by pressing the leaves into the stamp pad and then onto the construction paper. Display the artwork as a reminder of your backyard nature hunt and leaf identification scavenger hunt.
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Do you have any further activities you do with leaves in your classroom?