Autumn is a great time to observe some of the most fascinating rituals of nature. Leaves will start to fall, squirrels will bury their nuts, and birds might begin migrating. Plants and wildlife will be getting ready for winter. This is a great opportunity to teach students about autumn. There is much to learn about nature this time of year, so we’d recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to turn this into a science lesson for kids!
Observing wildlife in neighbourhoods is a great way to teach students about autumn
The great thing about teaching students about wildlife during the fall is that there is so much they can actually see going on in their neighbourhoods. Assuming your students live in a residential area with some green space (grass, parks, backyards), it’s probably not hard to find examples of plant and animal life adapting to the change of seasons. We’ve compiled a list of plants and animals that can often be found in neighbourhoods. Take children sightseeing!
Fungi – Cooler temperatures and more moisture mean that fungi will start to grow. For instance, most wild mushrooms, will only grow in the fall. Take your students to a park. Chances are, you won’t have to look too far to find fungi. Look at the trees. You can often find bracket fungus on their trunks. Canadiannaturephotographer.com also has a great guide on identifying fungus in Canada. See if you can make a game out of who can spot and identify fungi!
Raccoons & Skunks – Just about every neighbourhood has raccoons and skunks! Fall is a great time to learn about how their families behave. According to Wikipedia, during autumn, the mother raccoon is busy showing her children their dens and feeding grounds. Racoon families often split up. Females stay close to the mother while males can move up to 20 kilometers away. This is thought to be an instinctual behaviour designed to prevent inbreeding, according to the Wikipedia article we mentioned above. Skunks also exhibit similar behaviours, as family members tend to separate during the fall to find their own dens. Sometimes skunks fight over places to hibernate using their teeth and claws.
Squirrels – These are perhaps one of the most fascinating animals to watch during this time of year because they will be busy stashing nuts in trees or in the ground. This food will be retrieved later in times of scarcity, such as during winter. One of the most commonly seen squirrels, the grey squirrel, doesn’t hibernate during the winter because it can’t retain a high level of body fat. That’s why squirrels store nuts before the winter — they need a steady supply of food.
Annuals and perennials – Teach kids the difference between annual and perennial plants. Annuals die off within a year. On the other hand, perennials tend to live for years because they have specialized structures such as bulbs or thick bark that allow them to withstand the cold. See if you can help kids point out the different types of annual and perennial plants! For example, trees are perennial while many gorgeous (but not all) flowering plants such as African daisies are annual.
Take children for a field trip!
Unfortunately, not all kids have access to plant and wildlife we described above. For these children, it can be best to take them to a place like the Richmond Nature Park. The park is a wooded area that allows kids to explore nature in a safe and fun environment. Plus the park offers guided tours and activities that allow children to explore the plant and animal life we discussed above!