3 fun fall ideas for your young scientist

With one of the most colorful seasons here, we’ll start to see the scenery brighten up around us. If we allow ourselves to slow down and enjoy the view, it can be one of the best seasons to spend outdoors with your children!

There are many ways to observe, explore, and connect to our natural world—it’s all about encouraging our kids to start thinking critically. Autumn is a great time for them to begin practicing their STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) skills in real-world contexts.

The following are three ideas to get outdoors with your children this fall:

1. Pumpkin Observation: Find your favorite location to go pumpkin picking and enjoy decorating spooky designs. The fun part for your children will begin as they observe how their pumpkins change over time. Ask them to consider the following: under what conditions do their pumpkins last longer? How much light or shade did they receive? What kinds of organisms were attracted to your pumpkins? How did the size affect its expectancy? Did a carving and/or decorations such as paint affect it? This is a creative, fun way to build our youngsters’ scientific skills of investigation and observation!

2. Apple Picking: Enjoy a day of apple picking with the family! Gather three to five different kinds of apples and discover the differences—everything from the color to the size to the taste. Have your children carefully slice the apples and explore whether the textures are different; if animals gravitate toward certain apples over others; whether there are differences with organic versus non-organic apples. All of this discovery will not only be a sweet treat, but it also makes science exciting and accessible for everyone!

3. Lesson in Leaves: One of the most gorgeous parts of fall is all the beautiful colors! This is an easy and affordable way to get outside with your children. All season, you can collect your thoughts in a nature journal by observing the trees in your own backyard or a nearby park. You can encourage your children to identify trees, but teaching them the critical skill of observation is even more important. Note which trees have leaves that change first versus last, and how long it takes to change the color of the leaves on the trees. Your children can continue observing the leaves on trees by identifying different patterns, colors, and shapes—and anything else they may discover! This is a wonderful way to get your child active by utilizing the world around us.

These three fall family activities will get your children hooked on the wonder of science—and teach them to ask their own questions. That is science for everyone!

Jaunine Fouché, D. Ed., is the Milton Hershey School Director of STEAM, Agricultural & Environmental Education.