Nature Table for November

Nature Table for November

Every month, Hilltown Families features a new nature table whose contents inspire learning along a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. A tradition carried out by teachers, environmental educators, and nature-curious families, nature tables bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities. The idea behind a nature table is to help open up children’s eyes to the unique attributes of each season, and to help them learn how to see these things in nature for themselves. A nature table can include a variety of items, and is often accompanied by a set of books and/or field guides so that children can take part in further learning at their own will.

Since the month has begun, the once-orange forests filling our river valley have become suddenly bare; late October showers scattered delicate leaves across our fields and roads. Everything around us is preparing for a big sleep. We see it in the squirrels’ scurrying, the chipmunks’ furious collecting, and the absence of some of our warm weather feathered friends.

It is at this time of year, though, that we begin to scour the landscape for a variety of signs of the beginning of new life. While the rest of the landscape stalls all growth and hunkers down for the first storm, this year’s seeds enter the spotlight. From tiny flecks to spiny cones, seeds come in all shapes and sizes, and can easily be found en masse amongst their suddenly bare pre-winter surroundings.

Generally, seeds are most important to us during the spring, when we plant our new crops for summer growth. Summertime, too, can be a seed-focused season, as we feast on the freshly grown seeds of many plants, plucking fresh peas from their vines and gnawing sweet corn off of its cobs. Even during winter, when the landscape gives conditions making growth of any kind impossible, we dream of seeds and dog-ear the pages of seed catalogs in preparation for spring’s plantings. Fall, though, isn’t really a time for seed-centric thinking. It’s a time for leaf-peeping, hunting season, and darkening days, but not seeds.

In our classroom, though, seeds are on our minds more than ever this month! In the suddenly bare landscape, seeds are easier to come across than ever. Small mammals’ preparations for the winter months reveal tiny piles of nibbled nuts, leafless dried plants offer up seeds to the wind, and apples left hanging from branches make their way to the ground to rot and deposit seeds. In exploring our surroundings, we find seeds of all kinds – collecting them for their shape, size, color, texture, animal sign, or other fascinating qualities. We can use them to study Fibonacci, we can create our own classroom seed library, we can read about them, and sometimes we can munch on them.

On this month’s nature table, you can find:

  • American chestnut seeds
  • horse chestnut seeds
  • sunflower seed hulls
  • acorns
  • black walnut hulls
  • evergreen cones
  • red beans
  • and a variety of unidentified seeds, too!

Some books to support our studies include:

Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent

A native to Maine, Robin joined Hilltown Families in early 2011. She is a graduate of Antioch University with a masters in education. Her interests within the field of education include policy and all types of nontraditional education. For her undergraduate project at Hampshire College, Robin researched the importance of connecting public schools with their surrounding communities, especially in rural areas. Robin lives and teaches 5th grade in the Hilltowns of Western MA and and serves on the Mary Lyon Foundation Board of Directors.


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