The August blog vacation is over, September is here, and with it comes the opening day for Branching Out, Trees as Art. So I’ve been compiling cool tree-related links and activities for you for months now, and have a set of companion activities to my earlier post, Ideabox: Twigs.
Leaves are awesome, when you stop to think about them, and this is, quite frankly, the best time of year to think about them if you are lucky enough to live in New England. Foliage season is as exciting as flowering tree season if you’re me.
We have a number of cool leaf-based artworks going into Branching Out, including work by Joan Backes, Steve Hollinger, and Adrianne Evans, among others, and here are some fun interdisciplinary ways of exploring leaves this fall (and beyond!).
Science: The Chemistry of Leaves
Leaf pigment chromatography is a staple in science classrooms this time of year, but in case you’ve never tried it, here’s a great breakdown of the experimental process from Scientific American, and a fun explanation of the phenomenon from Chemical of the Week.
Adrianne Evans does some very cool works with leaf pigments as well, using the leaves like photographic paper and allowing the sunlight to essentially make a print.
Try this yourself with cyanotypes, always fun on a sunny fall day! Sun print or other sun-sensitive paper is available from a variety of sources including Dick Blick, Teacher Source, Steve Spangler and others.
There are always new trends in health recommendations, but I can’t argue with the idea that walking in the forest can help with stress levels. I traded a forest preserve for a coastline when I switched jobs from Acton to Salem, but this is still a good suggestion for oneself, one’s class, or one’s family: Go “Forest Bathing!”
Need more information on how hanging out with trees improves your health? Check out “Take Two Hours of Pine Forest and Call Me in the Morning.”
Literature & Drama
Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf are early childhood classics when it comes to leaves, but what about combining your ‘forest bathing’ with a reflective writing activity, as in the haiku below?
And how about a few classic poems to go with the (many) cool children’s books that are out there about trees?
Fall, leaves, fall
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;Lengthen night and shorten day;Every leaf speaks bliss to meFluttering from the autumn tree.I shall smile when wreaths of snowBlossom where the rose should grow;I shall sing when night’s decayUshers in a drearier day.
On First Seeing a U.S. Forest Service Aerial Photo of Where I Live
All those poems I wroteAbout living in the skyWere wrong. I live on a leafOf a fern of frost growingUp your bedroom windowIn forty below.I live on a needle of a branchOf a cedar tree, hard-bitten,Striving in six directions,Rooted in rock, a cedarTree made of other trees,Not cedar but fir,Lodgepole, and blue spruce,Metastasizing likeBacteria to the fan-Lip of a draw to drawWater as soon as it slipsFrom the snowdrift’s gripAnd flows downward fromBranch to root — a treeRunning in reverse.Or I live on a thorn on a trellis —Trained, restrained, maybeCut back, to hold upThose flowers I’ve only heard ofTo whatever there is and isn’tAbove.
If you’re not up to acid-washing your leaves like Steve Hollinger (though you can get small leaves pre-treated through Dick Blick), how about some pressing, painting, punching and patterning?
Looking for more? Check out some previous Ideabox posts: