Recently I was working in a nursery and set up a leaf hunt to help children explore the plants, leaves and wider outdoor space. After some deliberation I decided to let the children look for laminated leaves.
This probably sounds strange. It is. However, the laminated leaves were quite different to the growing plants in the garden. I wanted children to be able to find, compare and contrast the leaves. If the leaves weren’t laminated, and I had just put in a selection of fresh leaves, it would have been harder for the children to find them. I had visions of the few plants and bushes in the tarmac jungle being stripped of their leaves within minutes of the activities. After a few pangs of eco-guilt I decided it was no worse than using cars or other man-made toys.
Each of the leaves had a partner leaf – or more – which were hidden in the outdoor space. The challenge was for the children to find the leaves and match them up. Some were easy to find and others were very well hidden and not found until the following day!
The matching up of the leaves required a bit of thinking. Even on a tree there is variation with leaves being slightly different sizes and shapes. But as a group and with a bit of discussion this task was achieved.
The next challenge was to choose a few leaves to hide. The children worked in two groups to hide leaves in different parts of the outdoor space. Then the groups swapped over and the hunt was on again!
Children like continuity and pattern. Without being asked, they simply began to line up and match the leaves they had found, once more.
By this time, it had begun to rain. The children were delighted to discover their leaf lines made another pattern of wet and dry prints.
Sorting, matching and classifying materials whether these are natural or man-made is an important skill. It forms part of science with the leaves allowing opportunities for an introduction to biodiversity and the differences observed within and between species.
It also covers information handling skills including collecting, recording, presenting and interpreting results. The ability to match items is a necessary pre-reading skill owing to the visual discrimination required, especially with the natural variations that occur within leaf species.