Take a Leaf Walk for Mind, Body, and Soul

. October 29, 2020.
Leaf Identification
Stock photo courtesy of Lukas

Concentrating on the variety, vibrancy, and value of leaves while taking an outdoor walk does wonders.

Taking a walk in nature during autumn is the perfect way to experience a kinesthetic, outdoor educational happening that develops every family members’ scientific, artistic, and holistic betterment — all at the same time. It is also a safe and healthy activity during the COVID era. Scientifically, certain educational standards like “Using and comparing observations” along with “Identify external parts of plants” may be highlighted. With regard to the aesthetics, the colors and shapes of fall are on par with, if not surpassing, the vibrant spring and summer fields of flowers. Here are 5 tips for a joyous Leaf Walk. 

1.) Identify a Leaf

Identifying various leaves by their shape and thus identifies the tree that they come from. Some of the more common ones to look for that have fallen and are on the sidewalks or that are even still evident on the trees are the varieties of maple, oak, ash, birch, and chestnut. For instance, count the five points that comprise maple or the teardrop look of a birch leaf, and note the symmetry of each. When you come home, investigate and research as many different kinds of leaves that you can find. Keep a leaf journal and record what kind of leaf you found and why you think it is what it is — the points, the form, et cetera. You can even tape the leaf in your notebook for safekeeping and to look back upon.

2.) Observe Sensations

Observe the feel and sound that swishing your feet makes as they dance through a pile of leaves. Notice the way the motion can make the leaves fly through the air. Think of the sounds created by the leaves and yourself as a percussive symphony of autumn joy. Feel and hear the crunch, the swishes, and the textures of the leaves with your ears. Throw them up in the air and let them fall on your head. Smell and feel their moisture.

3.) Discuss Leaves

Discuss what makes the trees turn their color during the walk. Many people believe that it is the cold that turns the leaves color from green to yellow, orange, and red. But it actually has more to do with less sunlight as the days get shorter. This, in turn, signals the leaves to prepare for winter and to halt producing chlorophyll. There are actually four main pigments in leaves that dictate color: chlorophyll (greens), xanthophyll (yellows), carotenoids (oranges), and anthocyanin (reds). The weather may also influence how the leaves change, for instance, an early frost may make some leaves fall off the tree before they turn a certain color. Then try to figure out why one tree is orange and another is yellow even though they are right next to one another. 

4.) Leave the leaves

As you walk around your neighborhood for a Leaf Walk, you may notice more people leaving their leaves on the ground instead of raking, blowing, and bagging them up. Leaves have actually many natural benefits for wildlife and the environment. For one, leaves are an excellent natural mulch that aids in the fertilization of the dirt. Furthermore, leaves are good for many critters that rely on them for food and shelter. Critters including birds, rodents, moths, butterfly caterpillars, and others all benefit from leaving the leaves where they land.

5.) Absorb the Beauty

The beauty of the autumn leaves and nature is not just pretty to look at, it is actually good for you. Walking in nature is good for us both in the long and short term for mental and physical health benefits alike. One way many people try to capture the beauty of nature is through photography. You don’t have to be a professional to enjoy the process. Simply using the camera on your phone can capture many great photographs of the beauty of a singular leaf, the texture of many, or the forms and colors in the trees. Or just take it all in without recording the process.