It’s fall in Southern California.
How do I know? The Santa Anas hit earlier this week and leaves cover the ground. Mind you, some of leaf litter once belonged to palm trees, and those are a little too large for the non-fiction book and follow-up activity I have in mind.
A few years ago, I happened upon Look What I Did with a Leaf by Morteza E. Soh. Unlike so much of the literature I share with my classes–I have a preference for stories, I’m afraid–this falls into the realm of non-fiction.
But what it does for a child’s imagination!
I typically read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert first, to let the children see how her illustrations are made. The next day, I drag out this book. They are completely entranced by the animals Soh creates with leaves. The fact that she provides plans with images of the leaves she uses for each animal is a bonus.
I read Ehlert’s book this morning, and leaves gathered in cubbies by this afternoon. I’m very lucky to teach in a small semi-rural district with loads of trees. But even if I didn’t have on-campus access to a variety of leaves, a nature walk through the neighborhood would allow us to gather more.
By the end of the second day, my class is charged up and imagining all sorts of animals they could make with the leaves. Sadly, my schedule doesn’t allow them as much time to play as I would like, but a demonstration and a period of exploration provides a jumping-off point. Many times, that’s enough for them to go home with a handful of leaves to glue down at home.
So to sum up: a beautiful book that inspires children to create art with found materials. What’s not to love?
But hurry. This project is good only as long as leaves cling to trees.