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This inventive math activity uses outdoor play to develop the spatial skills of young students as they compare and contrast the shapes of natural objects. The integrated and inclusive approach includes science and language arts outcomes to develop an awareness of the relationship between nature and human design. An open-ended process also provides an opportunity for meaningful student interaction with nature that encourages environmentally conscious behaviour.
This outdoor activity supports math outcomes related to spatial sense and patterning. The emphasis on close observation of living and non-living things reinforces science learning while students build vocabulary through peer to peer dialogue and descriptive communication. The nature experience also provides an excellent tool for teaching about seasonal changes. For example, a winter investigation of track shapes left in the snow could include information about winter adaptations of wildlife.
Homeowners often rake up fallen leaves as part of their lawn maintenance and the leaf litter is bagged or burned. While exploring leaf shapes students could learn about the benefits of leaf litter as shelter for overwintering organisms. A class could then initiate a community action project where residents drop off leaves at a local green space so students can create large “leaf pile” habitats for insects and small mammals.
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