Hues of Autumn

Even as I write, it is approaching once again, the season that a schoolgirl celebrated long ago because, precociously, she loved it. It comes back decked in gold, so as to inspire wisdom, or its opposite, so that the chestnut tree may flower a second time, so that the cat, which weaned its last litter in June, may feel the need for further adventures, so that the swallow may be misled and start another nest….

— Earthly Paradise: An Autobiography of Colette Drawn from Her Lifetime Writings


The change of the seasons is an inspiring and uniting force, and each day the children have been coming back inside the Purple Room from the playground with pockets stuffed with fallen leaves, twigs, and crabapples. They share their collections of natural treasures with each other, often incorporating what they’d gathered into pretend play scenarios. Leaves became letters mailed by a postman, paper money, or a treasure map. Sticks became swords, wands, or wrenches to fix what’s been broken.

To support this natural urge to bring the outdoors in, we began to set aside more time for gathering natural objects during Work Time, taking small groups of children around Morningside Gardens to search for fallen seed pods, ferns, leaves, and flowers.

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Back in the classroom, we took out a set of Pantone cards, matching the hues of our found plant life to swatches of color. We could now describe our treasures as not just yellow and red, or golden and green, but Willow Bough, Deep Forest, Almond, and Rust.

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We slowly brought our paper palette to life in acrylic paint, noticing when a color might need a drop of black or red or blue to match its swatch. Once precisely combined, the containers of color were placed at the easel, and the children began to brush swathes of paint onto a large stretch of canvas, reconstructing the autumn landscape together through sweeping strokes of bristles loaded with pigment.

Arlo Mixes a leafy green
Arlo Mixes a leafy green
Kian adds color to our Autumn mural
Kian adds color to our Autumn mural

As the layers of paint continue to build on our collaborative composition, the children are already creating plans for their next collections–rain sticks made with seeds, charcoal leaf rubbings, and block prints of ferns. And, who knows what the next season might bring?

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