The Surprising Autumn

The seasons are shifting, and it’s turning to late fall here in New England.  Long gone are the hot, humid days of summer.  The cold nights of November have ensured that most trees have lost their leaves, many birds have migrated south to warmer climates, and small animals have hunkered in their burrows, awaiting the snow soon to arrive.

Though many people find this time of year to be devoid of opportunities to witness natural marvels, there are some incredible natural processes that are occurring right now.  Though the trees might seem dead for having lost their leaves, they are currently engaging in a process called “hardening.”  Through hardening, trees are chemically preparing themselves to prevent any freezing occurring inside their cells during the winter.


Though many birds have left New England, other birds that spend their summers even farther north have migrated here to spend the winter.  If an observer is keen, he or she could find Bufflehead ducks, Eider ducks, Blue jays, Chickadees, and even Icelandic gulls. 

Below is a simple activity that will get students outside and observing nature.

Tree Meditation

Supplies needed: Pencil, Paper

Location: In a stand of trees, or on the edge of a lake or ocean.


  • Arrange the students so they all have their own space, 5-10 feet away from each other.
  • This is a quiet activity: no talking!
  • There are two five-minute periods.

The first five minutes are simply observation.  Look, listen, and observe what is around.  At the end of the five minutes, choose one object or activity that is most interesting

During the second five minutes, use the pencil and paper to make as detailed a drawing as possible of the chosen object or activity.  Include as many differences and details as possible.

Bring the class back together and share out the drawings.  Take particular notice of any surprising or interesting observations.