One of the most memorable parts of the story, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, is when Billy Bones is presented with a black spot. One side is black, the other side bears a message. A pirate – particularly a Captain – who receives this in their hand will be deposed or possibly even killed outright.
For landlubbing classes or groups of children, looking for black spots can be a nice link. Sycamore trees often get a fungal infection on their leaves, known as Tar Spot Fungus (Rhytisma acerinum). This is easy to spot and a good topic of conversation. It is also ideal for a few simple impromptu maths activities.
For example, each child needs to find a leaf with the black spot. See if children can line up in order of the number of spots found on their leaf. If there are any missing numbers, is it possible to fill these with additional leaves?
Pairs or snap can also be played. This is more challenging in that the spots are more randomly set out in a leaf than on a traditional playing card!
The beauty of using sycamore or maple leaves for this purpose is the abundant quantities of available leaves, for free, to those up for finding them and collecting them in a sustainable manner. They are widespread throughout the UK. I bet you can think of lots of other ways of using black spots on leaves now! I want find a black marker pen to make interesting dot-to-dot shapes…