We took the children on a nature walk so they could make some observations about things they noticed in the natural environment. Although not many leaves had yet changed colours, there were several on the ground that the children found interesting. We collected some of the things they found and brought them back to the classroom. The children collected a lot of the same types of leaves. We put what they had collected out on some butcher paper to see what they would do. For me, this was another lesson in patience and honouring the unexpected. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for the children to sort and I could have easily told them to do so. Instead, I decided to watch and listen. A couple of children immediately brought the magnifying glasses over and began examining the leaves. They noticed that some were soft, and some were “crunchy” (There was the sorting I had anticipated, but that was where it ended.) A few of children decided to rub the crunchy leaves between their hands and enjoyed watching the leaves become “crumbs.” Someone decided to make a picture and realized she needed some glue. Her piece of paper was cut and she brought it over to the Studio to create her masterpiece.
This encouraged a friend to come over and help. The individual work of art now became a collaborative piece as the two girls created together. Other children also wanted their little piece of butcher paper cut so they could create their own collages. The girls’ collage became a story about their nature walk and a demonstration of cooperation. What I thought would be a simple sorting exercise turned into a much richer experience. The children observed, wondered about the crunchy leaves, engaged in a sensory experience, artistically represented their thinking, retold the story of their walk, and collaborated with peers. What seems on the surface to be a simple collage of leaves, is really so much more. It will be interesting to see what the children find on our next walk and the changes they might notice.