At-home and at school learning resources from Learning for a Sustainable Future
Week 5: Step Outside: Nature Paints
This week's theme focuses on the fall foliage that's taking place during this time of the year! As the days continue to grow shorter and sunlight becomes more and more scarce, the trees begin preparing for winter by pulling their nutrients back in for storage. As less and less sunlight is getting captured, we start to see greens fade and yellows, oranges, and reds emerge! The activities below will help you get outside and dive deeper into all the fascinating changes going on in the environment around us this fall season! As always during these times, be sure to practice outdoor learning in accordance with your local COVID guidelines and requirements.

Be sure to take a look at our Early October Step Outside Nature Guide to find out more about what the Monarch Butterflies, Golden-Crowned Kinglets, and Northern Canada Geese are up to during this time of the year!

Before you get outside and explore the beautiful fall season, we would love to hear your feedback! Let us know how Learning Inside Out has helped your learning & teaching from home or school and what you'd like to see more in the coming weeks! Click the button at the bottom of the page to fill out a brief form.
Grades K-2
Counting on Fall combines language, illustration, concepts of number sense, and information about animals and their habitats. This delightful picture book uses nature to engage students in learning about number concepts, including more or less, counting and simple addition. On each page is a colourful paper collage of a nature scene and a math problem to solve.  

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Grades 2-4
In this fall activity, students adopt a tree and observe it throughout the autumn months. The goal is to deepen students' awareness of individual trees and encourage a greater understanding and appreciation of their local environment. The students will observe their tree for changes by measuring, monitoring and noting the differences. They will choose a leaf a day from their tree to illustrate leaf colour and record the dates. They will create a colour timeline to show how the colours have changed and conduct an experiment to discover which colours are hiding in the leaves.

  • Go for a walk and look for signs of Fall. Create leaf rubbings and investigate why the leaves of deciduous trees change colour in the fall
  • Listen to Leaf Man, then take students on a nature walk to collect leaves in the schoolyard or neighbourhood. Remind students to look for leaf people or other leaf pictures they might see as they collect their leaves. Have students create their own leaf man
  • Older students can arrange the leaves into animal shapes then photograph their art collage. Need some inspiration? Check out Look What I did with a Leaf! Share your photos with us at #LearningInsideOut
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This innovative activity pairs nature and math to reinforce area and perimeter concepts. Students locate leaf specimens and then use rulers, string and graph paper to calculate the area and perimeter of each sample. This activity helps students deepen their understanding of such measurements by calculating the area and perimeter of different leaves.

  • Check out the schoolyard and look for a variety of leaves. Have students organize their leaf tracings from smallest to largest in area and observe and discuss the results
  • Using perimeter measurements, reorder the leaf tracings from the shortest to longest and observe the results. How has the order changed?
  • Have students participate in a Fall Leaf Scavenger Hunt. Using the leaves students have collected, have them divide the leaves into groups and create a leaf bar graph with sidewalk chalk or other tools
  • Leaf Hunt has students learn to identify and label different types of leaves
  • Autumn is an amazing time to move out of the classroom and create some Poetry in the Schoolyard by having students explore a local habitat with their senses
  • Find out why leaves change colour and other activities to enhance the learning outdoors
  • Squirrels in your schoolyard, check out our Patterns of adaptation: Observing Squirrels at Home resource to discover many of the adaptive factors in squirrels' choices of nest sites
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Grades 4-12
Get outside to play Migration Headache, a highly entertaining game that simulates the fall migration of many of our shorebird and waterfowl species. Students become migrating birds, travelling between their nesting habitats and wintering grounds. Along the way, participants experience first-hand many of the threats that affect migratory waterfowl and shorebird populations. In addition to bringing meaning to the term migration, this activity provides real examples of limiting factors and demonstrates the significance of habitat destruction in concrete terms.

  • Complete the Fly Away Home activity where students learn about the number of challenges birds face, such as habitat loss, as they make their annual trips
  • Older students can play Precarious Paths and learn how to map the migration paths of mystery shorebirds
  • Imagine that students are migratory shorebirds and have them design an illustration that conveys the length and difficulty of their trip. Remind students to add in the landmarks, habitats, and stopover sites they pass over along their way with Bird's Eye View 
  • Learn more about migration with Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Saving Migratory Animals
  • Download actual bird migration and temperature data to analyze the habitats that the birds are using to determine which lands we need to conserve to protect the species
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Grades 9-12
Students examine decomposition processes in a package of leaves placed in a stream or pond. This lesson extends the exploration of energy flow in ecosystems. Students learn to identify species of invertebrate decomposers, and they observe the conversion of matter and energy from dead to living organisms. They discuss what happens to the leaf tissue after the invertebrates and bacteria do their work. Where does the energy go? Where does the matter go? To relate these ideas to earlier concepts, students build a new food web, including decomposers. They learn about trophic levels and identify them in their food web. 

  • Have students conduct an experiment using leaf packs to learn more about what happens to a leaf once it is in a pond or stream and what types of invertebrates are attracted to the leaf pack (pg. 49-57)
  • What are the functions of those yellow and orange pigments we see in the fall?
  • Try The Hidden Colors of Autumn experiment to discover why leaves change colours in the fall and relate this to the function of a leaf and the rate of photosynthesis
  • Learn to prepare some Leaf Slides to explore the unique features, details and functions of leaves. Repeat this activity in other ecosystems or habitats to compare/contrast leaves
  • Complete this science activity, Find the Hidden Colours of Leaves to uncover hidden colours by separating plant pigments with a process called paper chromatography
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About Learning Inside Out

Above you will find a selection of activities, broken down by various grade levels. These guides will be released weekly and archived on our Learning Inside Out page, so you can always access the full catalogue.

All activities have been modified from resources on our R4R database, simplified and adapted for both outdoor learning in the school yard or at-home as needed. The activity descriptions above should contain all the information and links that you need!

If you'd like to view the full original resource on R4R, including curriculum connections for every province/territory, click the activity title.

We want this guide to work for you, so your feedback is invaluable to us.
Use the feedback button at the bottom of this Guide, or email us at We would also love to see photos of students engaging in the activities, please e-mail us any pictures or videos you have!
Let us know how this helped your learning and teaching from home or at school indoors and (hopefully) outdoors and what you'd like to see more of by filling out our brief feedback form!
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Please share widely with any parents and teachers in your life!
Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF) is a Canadian charity with over 25 years of experience working within the education system. Our Resources for Rethinking (R4R) database is an award-winning collection of resources that are peer-reviewed by certified teachers and connected to curriculum in all provinces and territories. R4R is recommended on many Ministry of Education websites.
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