The stunning colours of autumn are all around and it always feels vital to celebrate this and explore all the colours whilst the leaves are in abundance in all their glory (it doesn’t take long for them to be whisked away by the wind).
I’ve used autumn leaves with children in many ways and am constantly inspired by the descriptions and delights children find in them. We spent a long time at Dunkirk this week with the reception classes looking at a collection of leaves – the children wanted to look really closely and were so eager to share the things they noticed.
They were really interested in the names of the different leaves and recognised the leaves from the familiar trees around school and the local area. Some of the children really were gripped by this and spent ages learning the names of different leaves and then sharing their knowledge with others, they were repeating words such as “sycamore”, “rowan” and “lime-tree” over and over in a sing-song way.
They felt all the textures of the leaves, they were intrigued by all the vast colours and spent a long time colour matching the leaves with paint-charts. They put the leaves on the light-box, they made leaf rubbings… Everything had a story attached to it and I loved the qualities they found in the leaves and twigs as they told me their ideas. A leaf could be bed for an ant, or a pathway to a castle or a balloon or a boat…
They looked at images of creations by artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Mark Pouyet and were really keen to make their own patterns, lines, marks, arrangements and images.
It’s really interesting to see what grabs the attention of different children. Some were interested in the textures of the leaves and wanted to tear the leaves into smaller pieces to explore this and then arrange patterns with the small pieces; some children made three-dimensional work with leaves and seed-heads piled together. Some children were fascinated by the leaves falling and floating and wanted to watch them flutter over and over. Some children only wanted to use the stems and twigs; some were intrigued by the way the stems rolled and wanted to use sticks, logs and pine-cones to make towers and castles.
Much of this is all part of trying to slow down and really look in detail at the world around us with children. Children have vast capacity to notice amazing detail and to share this if they have listening ears around them. This all links to development of communication and language and it needs to be a gentle and slow process. If things are to have real meaning for children and to stay in their memory, then they need to happen in the time-frame of the child – and often this takes a lot of time. Children want to really examine things and they frequently see things that an adult doesn’t.
I use this quote a lot, from the wonderful Ursula Kolbe, I think it sums up so well the need for adults to make time to slow down and really look with children:
“… the visual arts are not only about making things with materials: they begin with looking and touching. Sometimes we simply need to slow down and look intently at things with children – movements of creatures, the gleam of colours in a shell or in the grains of sand trickling through fingers, a favourite picture book…” Ursula Kolbe