With the taste of autumn in the air, cooler and shorter days leave no doubt but that summer has passed for another year. There is something refreshing in observing the seasons and being reminded that there is a time for everything. The woods are a magical place to be during this time of year as we see the change in colour of the leaves and their eventual fall from the trees, allowing them to return to the earth, enriching the soil that feeds the trees in order for new leaves to appear next spring.
September marks the start of the school year and for many children their first foray into the woods at Forest School. There is so much to observe and learn about, but a wonderful way to allow the children to familiarise themselves with their woodland site, rather than having to know what every species is, is to just notice all that they see there, and gather those things that catch their eye. Children are in awe of all that they encounter in the woods, encouraging them to stop and observe, to notice and to wonder just heightens the experience and opens them to the wonderful relationship that we can develop with place over time.
A lovely method to encourage this is to make treasure cones which can hold their finds as they venture through the woods. Large sycamore leaves work best for this. Fresh spring leaves are usually soft, so autumn time, as leaves have strengthened on the trees or crisped up as they fall to the ground, is the perfect time of year for this activity.
Choose a large leaf, break off the stem at the base of the leaf and then role the leaf up to resemble a cone. Using the stem as a fastener, pierce the leaf where the two sides overlap, from the outside in, and then pierce the leaf an inch above the initial hole to allow the stem return to the outside, similar to a kilt pin or a brooch. With treasure cone in hand explore the woods and gather those items that catch your eye, maybe a beech mast or an acorn, a berry or a piece of bark. The options are limitless and will change with each visit as the woods continue to be pared back and display more and more of their delights as the season progresses.
With a forest floor covered in leaves you will soon have your choice of sycamore leaves to create your own treasure cone and be enthralled by all that you find as keepsakes of your time spent in wonder, in nature.