Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Scottsdale in the Fall

When I first started teaching (not really all that long ago), I felt it was important to teach my students all about the seasons. Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. I mean, these were basic facts, and everyone needs to know them, right?

Summer was easy. It is a kazillion degrees in Scottsdale, Arizona in the summer, it is easy to teach that. Summer = Hot. You swim in the Summer. You pile on the sunscreen in the Summer. Easy. All the kids got Summer.

Winter was also easy - but try talking about snow to a three year old who has never seen it. The first year I taught, I read one of my favorite stories, The Snowy Day. As I am using all my best vocal inflections to convey the wonder of freshly fallen snow, a student blurts out, "Why is everything all white in the story?" It occurred to me that my favorite part of the story, when the little boy drags a stick in the snow, would make absolutely no sense to someone who had never seen how snow covers the ground. "Well, this was not a good story choice!" I berated myself. I filed that Oops under "Live and Learn."

Spring was easy as well. Because even in Scottsdale, we get excited about Spring. After surviving harsh temperatures in the low fifties for weeks on end, we wait breathlessly for that first 80 degree day. That day when we know that the thermal underwear will soon be put away, and that we can leave our warm homes to play without the risk of becoming slightly chilled, (you think I am joking...we who live in the desert are a fragile bunch). Seriously, though, Spring in this neck of the woods is breathtaking. All the desert flowers bloom, and the one tree in the neighborhood that lost its leaves is getting them back again. Spring is an easy concept to pass on.

But Fall....how do you teach Fall? In Scottsdale, Fall is not all that different than Summer. Temperatures above 100 degrees? Check. Swimming everyday? As much as we can. Lots of sunscreen? You bet. Shorts, tank tops and flip flops? That is formal wear in September.

So, how do you teach it? There are no visual clues (there is only that one neighborhood tree with the changing leaves), and all the other sensory aspects of a seasonal change are absent.

My first year, I talked a lot about leaves changing colors and falling from trees. I even went up north (Fall is on full display a mere 90 minutes from home, but I think that Field Trip is a bit ambitious for three year olds) and brought down a whole bunch of fall leaves. I put them in a pool in my classroom and let the kids play and frolic in them. But the whole concept of Fall Leaves that Fell From Trees Because the Season is Changing was completely lost on them.

As I popped a Benedryl to calm my runny nose and scratchy eyes from breathing in Leaf Dust that covered my classroom due to the frolicking that took place, I decided that I wasn't going to teach seasons to my three year olds. We would learn about stuff that happened in the seasons instead, like how pumpkins grew, what things were made from corn and all about apples.

And, it has been a pretty fun time for all!

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