Exploring Circles in Autumn
by McCadden, ERAFANS Course Facilitator
With the new school year beginning, it’s a natural time to introduce some new songs to your repertoire! Our latest ERAFANS Song Grove is a collection of songs sharing the theme of signs of autumn in nature and within ourselves, including some selections related to the Autumn Equinox.
Here are some additional activities you might enjoy this season:
Reflect together on circles you observe in nature - from the Earth and Sun whose dance creates the Equinoxes, to the cycle of life and death as embodied in tree leaves. Then going out on the land, invite children to gather leaves, nuts, twigs, feathers, etc. From these create mandalas (from the Sanskrit मण्डल pronouncedmun-duh-luh, this literally translates as “circle”), whether symmetrical or not. This can be a solo, pair, trio, or larger group activity, depending on the children’s developmental level.
In conversation and/or song, reflect on the impermanence of these mandalas, how wind or rain or creatures will help the elements of the mandala continue their journeys to new places on the land and in the water. With older children, you might mention that particular cultural traditions invite humans to embrace the ephemeral nature of experience by creating particularly transient mandalas, such as Tibetan Buddhist mandalas made of colored sand, which upon completion are swept away and dispersed into flowing water.
A group mandala of such “nature allies” can be a wonderful way to set intentions for the season to come - creating the mandala on the earth together, then standing in a circle and taking turns to speak about what “nature ally” each person contributed to the mandala, what they’d like to contribute to the group this season, and what they’d like to receive from the group.
As temperatures begin to fall, all sorts of trees, plants, animals, insects, fungi…everyone’s preparing for the cold season! Invite the children to begin to observe changes in your program/class’s nature neighborhood, and at home.
Bring out field guides to compare with their observations, not only for the purpose of species ID, but to begin to consider how else they might make their observations (eg. shapes, colors, sizes).
Do you have other favorite autumn activities or songs? We’d love to hear from you! Email email@example.com to tell us about them.
In coyote-mentoring style, mentors can gently introduce some additional understanding about the processes children are witnessing by starting with questions to stoke their curiosity, rather than providing informational answers for them to absorb. Eg. Why do you think… the leaves change color? they get brown and dry? they fall off the trees? the pine needles don’t fall? some birds flying south? other birds are staying here through the winter? we are finding piles of nuts? the nuts are in those places?...” etc. In this style of mentoring the emphasis is not on arriving at a correct answer, but on wandering together through curiosity and possibilities.