Outdoor Learning Experiences for Kids in the Fall

Summer is a perfect time of the year for outdoor learning. But just because the temperature has dropped and leaves have changed their tone doesn’t mean that your kids’ learning experiences need to be relegated to a classroom setting. In fact, autumn is a wondrous time of the year for outdoor education and activities in Canada. Let’s take a look at some fun yet enlightening experiences that you can plan for your children this fall.

Five Fun and Educational Outdoor Learning Concepts for Autumn

1. Experience the Harvest of a Local Community Garden

Autumn is truly an exciting time for community/urban gardens. Kids get to experience the literal fruits of labor as harvest time arrives. The fruits and vegetables planted and maintained through the spring and summer are ready for harvesting. This event allows kids to learn all about the process, including how to pick/preserve produce and store seeds while developing an understanding of how to prepare the soil for next year’s planting. But it doesn’t stop there. Children can also learn about how a sustainable urban garden serves the community. These initiatives (detailed further here) include taking the produce to a farmers market to generate proceeds that go back into the program and/or delivering the harvest to a local food bank to help battle food insecurity.

2. Experience the Harvest of a Local Farm

Take the harvest learning experience a step further by taking your kids to a local farm or orchard. For example, if you reside within the Okanagan BC area you can take advantage of programs such as the Natural Factors farm visits. An autumn farm visit will provide your children with an understanding of the fall harvest on a grander scale. There, they can not only learn about the harvesting process of produce unique to their region, they can learn how it is packed, preserved, and distributed to areas outside of the direct area. In addition, some locations will have farm animals on site, which is not only a treat for kids (for obvious reasons) it allows them to learn how they factor (dairy, composting, etc.) into sustainable food production.

3. Play and Learn at a Pumpkin Patch

For kids, autumn is the season of pumpkin patches. This nutritious cultivar of the squash plant is on display at every produce store and farmers market on the block through October and November. Provide your children with the opportunity to learn more about this popular autumn produce. Take them to a local pumpkin patch where they can be informed about how pumpkins are planted, maintained, and harvested. In addition to the educational reward, they get to pick one to take home. Many pumpkin farms also offer petting zoos, hayrides, and horseback riding at this time of the year. If you live in the Lower Mainland of BC, both Southland Farm and Maplewood Farm are great options.

4. Get Lost and Learn in a Local Corn Maze

Corn mazes are bountiful in Canada at this time of the year. While the fun factor is extremely high, many do not realize the educational opportunities of these a-maize-ing (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves on the double-pun opportunity) destinations. Once again kids can learn all about the harvest of one of the most popular vegetables on the continent, but there is more to it. Local corn mazes, such as BC’s famed Chilliwack Corn Maze (and pumpkin farm) use their activity zone to educate the public on autism and other causes, while managing an agricultural education centre. Wherever you are in Canada there is likely a corn maze near you to entertain and engage your kids this autumn.

5. Walk and Learn Along a Nature Trail

Sometimes all it takes is a trail map to get outdoors with your kids and take in the sights and sounds while receiving an impromptu educational experience. Be it local marshlands or a dry inland trail the fall season evidences the cycle of life in these zones. Many protected areas have signposts detailing local flora and wildlife that you and your kids can keep an eye out for. Have some fun with the concept, and create a checklist to note each item that you come across, and take a photo of each to create a log that you can reference when back at home, where you can go online and learn more. Be sure to bring along some healthy snacks (locally-farmed produce!) because your kids won’t want to leave until the autumn sun descends.

Do you have any ideas for outdoor learning experiences for kids this season? Follow our Foundation’s FacebookTwitter, and/or Google+ and share your feedback with us.

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