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Posts Tagged ‘fall’

As we enter into August, some of our most helpful garden visitors – ruby-throated hummingbirds – will be migrating south. These quick little birds can be hard to spot, but you’ll be more likely to encounter one before their journey south if you put out a feeder full of sugar water to fuel their trip. Hummingbirds need to eat every few minutes since they expend an incredible amount of energy beating their wings up to 80 times per second!

This week at the museum, we learned all about hummingbirds and constructed our own feeders to hang in a garden, or out a window, fire escape, or front stoop. All you need are floral tubes like these, some colorful plastic craft materials (we reused old red and orange grocery bags), string, and sugar water!


The colors of the bags are important – hummingbirds have a strong preference for red and orange flowers like bee balm, bleeding heart, cardinal flower, or nasturtium.

We showed our garden helpers how to fold squares of plastic into fours, snip the center corner, and then design their own pretty petal shapes (very similar to snowflake crafting). The next step is to simply shimmy the flower petals up the neck of the floral tubes, fill with 1 part sugar/4 parts water and hang outside! It is recommended to heat your sugar water so the sugar dissolves nicely, and you’ll want to change it every 4 days so it doesn’t ferment.

After your hummingbird feeder’s hanging in a nice sheltered place, sit back and look out for a bright winged blur! Did you know hummingbirds spend so much time in the air catching bugs and slurping nectar that their weak little feet are nearly useless? They can perch, but they typically can’t walk!

Check out this tiny hummingbird nest from our collection. You can find more tips on making your garden a hummingbird nesting ground here. You can even help track their migration by reporting your sightings!

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Thanks to a recommendation from the Early Childhood department here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum, here’s a lovely fall book for your youngest learners, to add to your fall unit.

Autumn Walk is the story of a puppy who goes on a seasonal stroll, through a world that smells like cinnamon and feels “corduroy cold.” The sentences are simple but very descriptive, a great chance to introduce fall words to your students. Autumn Walk‘s illustrations are full of red, yellow, and orange to match the season and, as you can see, this board book is shaped like a leaf. Read this book with your 2-4 year-olds and then take your own walk outside.

And there’s more! Autumn Walk has a seasonal companion Winter Walk, for use a little later this year.

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Study of seasons is an important part of learning about growth and change. Why not take a fall tree walk to observe the colors change before it gets too cold to walk around outside?

To prepare, read a seasonal book like The Little Yellow Leaf. Then, take a walk around the block or to a local park. Have students observe the trees and pick three leaves off the ground (loose plant parts are fair game for picking up).

Back in the classroom, there are lots of things these leaves could be used for. You could do sorting activities with them. The leaves could be used to talk about symmetry. You could have students draw the leaves from observation or design their own imaginary leaf. Students could practice writing words, sentences, or paragraphs about them.

Another option, of course, is to learn the names of the trees each leaf came from. A great book for this purpose is New York City Trees by Edward Sibley Barnard. The book covers 125 local species of trees with full color photographs, suggestions on great tree walks, and information about historic trees (the book even covers NJ, Long Island, and Westchester County). The book is also durable enough for outdoor or child use.

Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves (Eastern US) by May Theilgaard Watts is an option for older kids or for teacher reference. This very handy book is a dichotomous key to trees. Dichotomous keys work like a “choose your own adventure book.” The key asks questions with two possible answers (e.g., is the leaf tip pointed or blunt?) and then tells you where to turn. Once all possible questions have been asked, you will know by the leaf which tree it came from. This kind of intricate observation is too complicated for very young kids, but would be great with very curious older elementary students or for teacher reference when planning observation.

Have fun outside! Enjoy the crisp fall while you can.

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It has been officially fall for about two weeks, but now you can feel it in the air (I even saw a brown leaf yesterday). The days are getting shorter and colder and it’s only a matter of time until the birds have flown south and the trees are completely bare (except of course for the evergreens).

If you are looking for a seasonal read aloud, check out The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. It’s the story of a little yellow leaf who just isn’t ready to fall off the tree, until the yellow leaf meets the clinging red leaf, and they decide to take the leap into winter together. The book is beautifully illustrated and talks not only about leaves but also about other seasonal change. Teachers studying trees could also use the detailed drawings to identify which leaves are pictured. In addition, the book leads perfectly into a discussion of difficult situations and how they are made better with the support of a friend. Overall, it is a lovely book that leads to discussion of seasonal change and character building.

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