A Closer Look at Leaves


Your Name:  Kristen Fox

Class Grade Level(s): Grade 2

Class Subject: general elementary education

Number of Students in the class: 16

Lesson/Project Name:  A Closer Look at Leaves


A. Pre-Reflection

1. What are your professional teaching goals  going into this? Please list at least 3.

  • I want to gather ideas for teaching my students in our school’s outdoor classroom.
  • I want to learn how to better manage the logistics of bringing a class outdoors to learn.
  • I want to reconnect with nature in a simple and meaningful way so that I can share this appreciation and wonder with my students.

2. What are your goals for students going into this?

a. Process/skill goals

  • I want them to be able to engage in their own learning in an outdoor setting.
  • I want them to be able to sit quietly and notice what comprises the natural world, as well as wonder about how the natural world works.

b. Subject/content goals

  • I want my students to explore what the natural world has to offer.
  • Learning about rocks, minerals, and soil is one area of content to explore.
  • I also want them to learn about plants and animals and what they need to survive.
  • Understanding how wind is generated and how it enables flight is another goal.
  • An additional content goal to cover is understanding how weather works and affects life on Earth.


 1. Materials

-students journals


-cardboard clipboards

-collection bags (gallon size Ziplock bags with strings attached so students could wear —them on their shoulders)

-graphic organizer for poetry

-lined paper for poems

-large rectangular piece of fabric (approximately 3′ x 4 ‘) with grid drawn on it; each -square was about 4″ x 4″


2. The Class/Project

 a. Prep before going outside: (60 minutes)

To prepare for this lesson, I first assembled the collection bags.  I purchased gallon size Ziplock bags and string.  I punched holes on each side just under the “zipper” and attached a string long enough so that students could hang the bags from their shoulders.

Next, I stapled several sheets of paper together to make each student a journal.  I also sharpened one new pencil for each student.  I made a cardboard clipboard for each student by cutting the cardboard and clipping a large metal clip onto each one.

I purchased a large piece of fabric and drew a grid on it with fabric marker.

Pages 65-80 of Broda’s Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning contain all the logistical information I needed to help make this outdoor excursion a success.  Reading this section enabled me to mentally and physically prepare for all possible scenarios. Before we made our journey outdoors, we had a class discussion about guidelines needed to ensure a safe and productive time for all.  I also distributed and let the children decorate the covers of their nature journals.


b. Outside: (30 minutes)

Our first destination outdoors was to sit in the outdoor classroom and enjoy a moment of silence.  I asked the children not to talk, and to be aware of sights, sounds, smells, as well as the feeling of the wind on their faces.

Next, I had the children write about their thoughts, feelings, noticings, and wonderings about our first outdoor adventure.  I allowed 10 minutes for journal writing.

The next task was to estimate the number of leaves they thought there were in our small outdoor classroom area.  I directed them to write their estimates in their journals.  After assigning partners, the students took their collection bags and collected as many different leaves as they could find.

After 15 minutes of collecting, the students sorted their leaves into the fabric grid.  We counted the total and were amazed to find 38 different kinds of leaves.

The final step was to choose one of the leaves and to draw it, using as much detail as possible.

c. Classroom follow-up: (30 minutes)

Once back inside the classroom, students displayed their drawings on their desks, and we had an art walk where they had the chance to view the drawing done by each of their classmates.

Students then took their object and drawing and described their object in their journals with as much detail as possible.  They were told to write about the size, color, texture, and other distinguishing characteristics of their leaf.

The final step was to transform the written description of their leaves into a poem.


C. Reflection:

I was amazed at how simple this plan was, and surprised to see the impact it had on my students.  Most of the preparation time was spent in preparing the collection bags, sharpening pencils, and making their journals.   I also spent a great deal of time thinking about how to introduce this lesson to my students.  I wanted the students to feel excited about going outside to learn, but I did not want them to be so overstimulated that they wouldn’t be able to focus.

Students were engaged during each part of the lesson.  I kept the pace moving so that students didn’t have time to lose interest or focus.  They enjoyed predicting the number of leaves they would find.  They also had fun sorting and counting them.  Drawing one leaf held their interest for a long time.  They also worked hard on describing their leaves, and had fun turning the descriptions into leaf poems.

There were no behavior problems.  When students left at the end of the day, I received many hugs and thank yous.  Several students said that was the best part of the day; others said it was the best day of the whole school year; and one child said it was the best day of her life!

The next time I do this activity, I will allow for more time for each of the steps in the lesson.  I will also explicitly instruct them not to pick flowers from the school garden!  (I had assumed they would know enough not to do this).


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