One of the first indicators of autumn in Canada are fallen leaves. They pepper the ground around your home, local school, and community. Kids love to kick and jump into piles of leaves, but within the crisp (sometimes soggy) collections of deciduous leaves at the base of shrubs and trees is an opportunity for outdoor learning. Discovery iteresting things in piles of fallen leaves also provides kids with added incentive to go outside once summer has wound down.
Wondering what to do with fallen leaves besides rake them away before your kids make a delightful mess of them? Let’s find out!
3 Outdoor Learning Experiences to Create from Fallen Leaves with Your Kids this Autumn
Collect and Use Them for Composting
On average, leaves contain twice as many minerals as manure. Plus they smell a lot better. They contain large amounts of fibrous organic matter that will serve your backyard, community, or school garden very well as an organic composting material. Essentially it’s Mother Nature’s go to for compost! Together with your kids/students, head out to the nearest collection of leaves on the ground to gather them for composting in your garden.
Note of caution for your garden: Never compost walnut tree leaves for your garden. They contain a chemical (juglone) that can harm certain vegetable plants.
Provide Ground Cover for Beneficial Bugs
Do your kids know that fallen leaves also provide seasonal shelter for beneficial bugs? In fact, they are integral to keeping pollinating (and pest controlling) insects in your garden through the autumn and even through the winter season. When using leaves for traditional composting (above) be sure to sprinkle them in small patches in areas that are protected from the wind. This provides sustainable ground cover for beneficial bugs and their eggs. Maple and oak leaves are particularly helpful in providing protection and even nutritious sustenance for helpful insects.
Note of caution for your garden’s beneficial bugs: Remove all leaves from fruit trees, as they contain properties than can harm overwintering insects. Non-fruit tree leaves are fine.
Add Them to Their “Discover Plant Parts” Activity Guide!
This is a fun one for younger children. Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation has put together a convenient activity guide called Discover Plant Parts for preschoolers and elementary students. To participate and complete the activity, your kids/students will dig deep into the concepts of plant parts and how they are essential to the growth and survival of crops. The guide walks them through the distinctive purposes and properties of stems, flowers, and roots – and for the intents and purposes of this article – leaves! Gather a half-dozen different leave species from your garden area and use them to engage your kids in discovering plant parts. Download the FREE activity booklet right here.