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Hello, Autumn! Four Cool Ways to Celebrate the Season


If anyone ever asks, I’m a summer girl. Sunny skies, sandy beaches, frosty drinks...I could really go on forever about all the ways to love summertime. Having said that, when pumpkin spice bursts out everywhere and the leaves start changing, I cannot help but get a fluttery feeling of excitement. New starts always feel fresh and welcome, especially when time seems to be standing a bit still with the pandemic in play. To help our students get the benefit of a new season through our instruction, below are four ways we can integrate autumn cheer into our classes.

Cultural Customs           

Autumn is full of events: Diwali, Dia de los Muertos, Chuseok...the list goes on and on. Many classrooms recognize Halloween and Thanksgiving, but that can be limiting for students who have other experiences to share. As we get to know our students in these early weeks of school, we can also get to know more about their cultural backgrounds. The best way to incorporate multiple perspectives into our classes is to create natural opportunities in a safe space for students to share more about themselves. For example, if we create a nook in our classrooms to celebrate different cultures, we can invite students to bring artifacts or decorations to school for that space. Another way to open up cultural conversation is to incorporate stories into instruction. Invite all students to bring in copies of stories from their lives that are meaningful to them, and then provide a solid block of time to share the narratives with one another. The stories may not be connected to a specific culture, but we can encourage students to make that connection if applicable. By providing both time and space in class for connections to who we are, the whole class can celebrate the seasonal shift with a culturally proficient lens.

Embedding the Season           

The other day, I spotted a donut shop ad for their limited-edition line of donuts in fall flavors, like maple. It was hard not to jump in my car and buy a dozen donuts right then and there. Instead, I texted the ad to my brother, who got pretty excited. Enthusiasm is contagious. If we inject our seasonal joy into the content of our classes, students will jump into the happy fray. Suppose we write word problems for our math classes that add some seasonal detail; not only will students appreciate the tie-in to the fall, but they will also realize that course content is updated regularly to suit their needs. If we are studying a long-term historical event, we can zero in on the fall months to see what was happening all those years ago during this exact time. In science classes, we could incorporate the colors, ingredients or topography of autumn into lessons for student exploration. However we create links to our course content, students will see our level of excitement about making class relevant to what is happening around us, and they will be more likely to buy into the process.

Sensory Journals           

Whenever I can spare a few minutes, I take a walk in a nearby park, close my eyes, and just breathe in the sights and sounds of nature. Autumn is so evocative, whether we celebrate texture by crunching leaves underfoot, explore taste by sticking a cinnamon stick in our tea, or activate our sense of smell as we inhale the crisp morning air. Encouraging our students to pause and notice their surroundings is a powerful way to both welcome each transition that occurs and strengthen their writing skills. Throughout the year, I like to ask students to focus on specific sensory details or experiences and write about them. For example, in the autumn, we might take a journey behind the school and look for seasonal-specific evidence of texture, such as drying grass. If we cannot head into the great outdoors, another option is to ask students to make a list of autumn traditions or elements and then write descriptive sentences that evoke sensory detail from the imagination. Regardless of how we access the season through writing, focusing on the nitty-gritty details can increase students’ sense of excitement and enthusiasm for all that this time of year has to offer.

Breathing Space           

Before outdoor classrooms were popular in a pandemic era, a student in my class built one right by the school greenhouse for a service project. The space was so popular that the school instituted a sign-up sheet to manage the burgeoning demand. Even if we do not have an outdoor classroom available for use, taking class into nature has become more common since we returned to school buildings post-pandemic, and a change of seasons gives us even more reason to get outside. Our sojourns do not have to be long, nor do they have to be explicitly academic. For example, we could take our classes outside for just ten minutes at the start of the period to do some mindful breathing and a quick community circle check-in. With a refreshed mindset, students will be more prepared to head back into the classroom and engage in learning. If we want to remain outside longer for a specific activity connected to the learning outcome, students almost always appreciate a change of scenery. However, as the weather becomes crisper, even a few minutes can be just as useful!           

One of the big advantages of teaching is that we are ever aware of seasonal changes. From the stirrings of spring to the buoyant joy of summer, we mark the passage of time as we pair each season with new learning. As we embrace the onset of autumn this week, thinking about how to incorporate the world outside into our classrooms is a wonderful way to keep the start-of-school energy and excitement from flagging. Moving through the next few months with all its attendant holidays and celebrations will be an even greater joy as we pull in all that this time of year has to offer.          

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam is a Learning and Achievement Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has worked for nearly 20 years as an English teacher, staff developer and department chair. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, and recently earned her certification in Education Administration and Supervision. She can be followed on Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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