The Colours of Fall Inquiry

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In October we went on our first nature walk of the school year. In the weeks leading up to our walk, many children had begun to notice the changes that were happening outside. Leaves were being brought in to school, the children were wearing warmer jackets, and our special Maple tree out front had started to turn red.

Before our walk, the children were given a job to do. They were asked to look for evidence of the colours of fall. While we were outside we took pictures and collected samples of the children’s discoveries. The next day, we put all our leaves, pine needles, maple seeds, and pine cones in the middle of the carpet and talked about the colours we noticed. We decided to sort our items by colour to make it easier to see what we had found. The children identified the colour piles we would need and we placed coloured construction paper mats in brown, red, green, orange, and yellow down on the floor. Then we sorted! Each student was given an opportunity to sort some leaves. It was quite interesting to see how the leaves were debated amongst the group. Here is a conversation that arose during the process:

S: “I’m not sure about this leaf. Is it red?”


[some children say no, others say yes]


J: “Put it on the red mat and see.”


S: “It doesn’t look like the other red leaves”


Ms McD: “What does it mean when we say something is red? Is there one kind of red?”


[the class thinks there is one kind of red]


J: “Turn it over. The back is red. The front is just dark. It’s still red.”


[some children are satisfied with this]


W: Yes, there is more than one kind of red. There’s red and dark red.


E: And light red too.

The children were debating each leaf and from those debates were emerging concepts about colour and categorization. We decided to save our sorted colour piles by gluing our artifacts in place and pursue the children’s thinking further by creating a colour provocation at the Art Studio. Here is what our colour provocation looked like:

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At this centre we placed our colour-sorted leaves, photos from our nature walk, paint chips from the hardware store, and paint for mixing. The children were encouraged to look at the objects on the table and create their own special fall colour. After mixing, the children were asked about their process: What colour did you make? What name might you give your colour? How did you make it? Where might you see this colour outside?

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When it came to naming their colour creations, the children were quite inspired by the variety of names we read off the hardware store paint chips – names like “brilliant sun,” and “orange fiesta.” These descriptions helped the children come up with their own unique names such as, “swamp green” (J.M.), “Dark, dark, orange corn” (J.K.), “twirly brown” (W.W.), “dark super purple” (A.F.) and “jewel pink” (A.A). An important part of this project was documenting it. We decided to place the children’s paint samples (which they painted on small canvasses) along with their colour names and descriptions on the wall ‘gallery style’. We included in our documentation all of the artifacts and photographs that gave us inspiration for the project. The children love to look at the work they created. They particularly enjoy seeing the beautiful range of colours their classmates created. We can definitely feel that the idea of colour will be something we will likely revisit throughout the year.

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Has your class embarked on a colour inquiry? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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8 thoughts on “The Colours of Fall Inquiry

  1. I am just beginning my journey of transforming my teacher centred, themed based Kindergarten to a student led, Reggio inspired kindergarten (lots of thinking…). You’re blog is so inspiring and helpful. Thank you for taking your time to share your gift!

  2. Love this. I wonder how my three yos would do with something along these lines. I like the idea of starting with a nature walk and seeing where it takes us. Thanks!

    • I think three year olds would love this! It’s such a hands on experience. And my three year old son’s favourite part of painting is mixing the colours together…Hope it works out for you!

  3. I love this idea, and I am wanting to do something similar with my Kinders. Did you have any issues with the leaves drying out and making a big mess? Did you press them first?

    • Thanks Kim! Our leaf panels lasted all year without making a mess. We glued them down and the kids coated each panel with a white glue/water mixture that kind of sealed everything up. I stapled the construction paper to a cardboard backing to keep it strong. Hope that helps!

  4. Pingback: Environmental Inquiry Institute | CBEEN Online

  5. Pingback: Outdoor Inquiry – supporting our young learners

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