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7 Educational nature activities you should try with your kids this fall

Caroline Duda is a Senior Marketing Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized experiences to accelerate academic achievement.

Though fall marks the gradual return of cool temperatures and, in time, the dreaded winter, it is also the perfect season to enjoy all that nature has to offer.

From colorful leaves to calico corn and pumpkin displays, there is an abundance of beauty available across the nation.

Much of this fall beauty is also the perfect vehicle for exploration that is both educational and entertaining. This autumn, consider completing one or more of the following nature activities with your student.

1. Apple picking

The month of October ushers in apple season. Locate and travel to a you-pick apple orchard for a pleasant excursion and an education in the life cycle of an apple. Elementary-age children will especially enjoy the opportunity to learn where and how their food grows. And as a bonus, many apple orchards also contain pumpkin patches.

2. Autumn sensory bin

Like a sensory table, a sensory bin fosters imagination, motor skills and many other attributes in young students. However, they are far easier to contain and clean. Build a sensory bin with your child by gathering items from nature: Acorns, dry corn kernels, leaves, pine cones and twigs are all wonderful items to include.

3. Caterpillar habitat

Certain species of insects overwinter as caterpillars. Consider creating a caterpillar habitat with your student. Doing so enables her to track the insect through multiple stages, as well as to hone her observation skills. When the butterfly or moth emerges in the spring, release it outdoors. Take care not to handle caterpillars with your bare hands, as some can irritate skin.

4. Fall garden

Autumn is an ideal time to begin a garden for the winter months. Household staples like carrots, herbs, radishes and tomatoes grow well indoors. Allow your child to select the crops you will plant, as well as to research the items they require to thrive (e.g. direct sunlight and soil with fertilizer). Then, reap your rewards all winter long.

5. Leaf rubbings

Leaves make wonderful decorations and wonderful playthings, but they make even better art. Collect fallen leaves with your student, preferably ones of different shapes and sizes. Complete a crayon rubbing with them to create a one-of-a-kind artistic work and to expose the intricacies of their physical design. What better way to explore the architecture of the natural world?

6. Scavenger hunt

Introduce your child to unfamiliar elements of the outdoors with a scavenger hunt. Select a dozen or so objects for her to find, and include a vivid description of each (e.g. color, size, vague location). Your student will exercise her critical thinking and problem-solving skills while also encountering new facets of the world all around her.

7. Sprouted pumpkin seeds

If you carve a pumpkin this year, do not discard its seeds. Instead, sprout them. This is an excellent hands-on science experiment, and all it requires is damp cotton batting. As the seeds begin to sprout, document their progress and hypothesize how they can grow without dirt. Individuals of all ages can enjoy this activity.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

Photo credit: firemanYU/iStock/360/Getty Images
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