Learning Landscape for September: A Transition Between Seasons Brings a Colorful Table


Every month, Hilltown Families features a new Learning Landscape, which aims to inspire learning along with a common theme easily spotted in our surroundings that month. The hope is to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside for inspection, dissection, identification, creative play, art projects, and lots of other educational activities.

September has brought a nature table filled by the hands of young amateur scientists. As we work to build our new classroom community together, we’re also learning how to look at the world around us. Writing lessons take us outside with clipboards, ready to write about the things that we find. Science sends us on a hunt for specific items, though we’re easily side-tracked by crickets and butterflies. Math surveys are centered around favorite local animals, and whether or not we go hunting with our families. Outside games disintegrate into a group effort to free apples from trees using sticks…

Lucky for all of us, fall’s graceful appearance comes on slow, allowing us to soak it in. Our collecting so far has been filled with excitement over the very, very first signs that the seasons are beginning to change. Sumac – plentiful ’round these West County parts – has started to turn a little bit, and golden rod is blooming with glory. Both of these have been major players in our early fall table-scape, reminding us of the overlap of summer and fall. The half-eaten apples we’ve found (and have watched quickly brown) can only be the leftovers of a feasting animal, though the students don’t seem to be inclined to believe its origins. 

One surprise addition to our September collection of nature treasures was a pretty major colony of aphids. A beautiful bloom of gladiola that welcomed students into the classroom two weeks ago wilted slowly before our eyes (quite the dramatic process of dying) and turned out to look “fuzzy” – the fuzz look being the result of a thin coating of aphids, happily enjoying life inside out classroom. Some of the little green guys are in a jar and have been under close observation, but most of them will need to adjust to the mossy ground just outside the classroom door.

This month’s collection includes:

  • crispy sumac and maple leaves
  • tiny crab apples
  • snakeskin
  • iris seed pods
  • feathers
  • walnuts (including an inside view)
  • goldenrod (dead and alive)
  • apples and apple leaves
  • aphids

We’ve been learning more about our treasures using:


Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent

Robin joined Hilltown Families in 2011 as an intern and has remained with the organization ever since, first volunteering as a community-based education correspondent until 2016 and now as a contributing writer with two monthly columns. Robin is a graduate of Hampshire College and Antioch University New England, where she studied place- and community-based education. She lives on the banks of the Sheepscot River in Maine, where she and her husband are working to start a small farm. Robin teaches at Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education and is the founder of our first affiliate community-based education network, Dirigo Learning.

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