This theme came about because of a special fascination my preschoolers had one day when we were outside at recess. We happened to have a great big Oak tree in the back corner of our playground that the kids loved to run around and play on, it even had a crack just high enough that even my preschoolers could climb up in it. Of course that was as far as I would let them go, but what they enjoyed more were the treasures they found under the tree. The little bitty nuts as they called them that the squirrels loved so much. You guessed it, Acorns. After that it forced me to pay attention to such a small wonder of God’s creation and how it would hold their fascination and interest, and also their creativity. It was amazing what they would pretend to do with the acorns, or how they would use the acorns. Eventually, I deemed these little nuts a interesting theme to incorporate into my classroom. Sometimes, I found the best themes came just from watching my students.
Nature picture: For these we use the acorns and other things, like sticks, and leaves, to create our own pictures of animals, or houses, or even dragons. The kids would look at the items they had and tried to come up with their own creation using the gifts from God’s creation.
Handprint Acorn: For this you paint your students hand brown and have them place it upside down on the paper. This is one hand print project you want the hands closed as tight as possible. Then for the cap I use a lighter brown and paint the side of the fist with the thump and have them stamp that at the top for the cap.
Acorn cap prints: For this my kids kept finding the caps of the acorns that had been eaten by birds or squirrels, and were fascinated with them, so we used those and some paint. We made acorn prints by stamping with them on to little pieces of paper. We called it squirrel art, because it was because of squirrels that we got to use the caps to make the art.
Rolling Acorns: For this simple one, I chose about three fall colors, like brown, orange and red, and then we dropped one or two acorns into each color. I then used the box covers from the office paper boxes and we taped a piece of paper on the inside and then picked one acorn or two at a time, and dropped them in the box and rolled them around. This created a fun kind of art. (Idea that came to me after the fact: you could use this as a back ground for another project like the acorn hand print. Maybe have them cut around their acorn hand print, after it has dried of course, and then glue it onto the Rolling acorn background. Then maybe attach a cute poem like: A little hand you see now, like an acorn painted brown, and like this acorn it will grow, into its own tree don’t you know, so save this little acorn to remind you, of your little acorn that soon will be behind you.) Ok, maybe the poem isn’t great, but I just thought that would be so cute. I love all the poems I’ve seen with all the little hand prints, I just thought the acorn one deserved one of its own.
Songs and Poems
I’m a little squirrel: (tune Bingo) I’m a little squirrel, small and brown, and I hide acorns in the ground. I hide them all fall, and then you’ll see, I have food to last all winter for me.
ACORN: I’m a little squirrel and I like acorns, A-C-O-R-N,
A-C-O-R-N, A-C-O-R-N, and I like acorns.
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Scavengers: We talk about how some animals have to search and store up food for the winter because they can’t go to the grocery store, and they might not be able to find food under all the snow. We talk about the caches or stores of nuts that they have, and they find them through smell. We talk about other animals who store food like the squirrels, like; chipmunks, bears, mice, raccoons and others. I also read informational books about squirrels. One that works well for me is “The Busy Little Squirrel.” by Nancy Tafuri. Otherwise my best suggestion is to get to know your local librarian, and ask them for help. I love reading books in science class with real pictures of the animals or things we are talking about. For that reason, I love this book, but I think your local library has a lot of amazing resources too. My experience is often they will almost put so many together that I couldn’t read them all, but the kids loved to always look at all the amazing books that they gave me.
Science Project: For a science project we make squirrel feeders using the dried corn you can get at any hardware store by the bird seed. First of all Cut the pointy end off of the corn cob, then pound a nail in each end of the corn cob. I do these initial two parts on my own. Then I have the kids pick a yarn, string, or ribbon that they like, we measure a 18″ string. I tie one end of the string to one end of the corn cob on the nail, and then I tie the other end of the string on to the other nail that is at the opposite end of the corn cob.
Storing Up Kindness: For this I make a cute little squirrel cut out on the bulletin board, and then I use my cricket machine to cut out a bunch of acorns. Then as I see kind acts or kind acts get reported, I write them down on an acorn and put it on the bulletin board. The title of the bulletin board is, “STORING UP KINDNESS!” I use this as a chance to encourage the kids to report good behavior. It helps to take the focus off what we don’t like to what we do like. Sometimes, if I have someone tattling, I try to redirect them by saying I understand you are upset with that person right now, but what did he or she do today that was a good thing. I do this especially if I know the student is reporting something as simple as they are staring at me. I find it changes their mood a bit, and gets their mind off the frustration.
For this we talk about the places where we see squirrels in our community. Maybe take a trip to a local park, and watch the squirrels, and make sure to bring the left over corn from your project to share with the squirrels at the park.
A-Acorn: For this I love to do my literacy Charts. For these I use colored tag board and draw out a giant acorn (the best I can) and then I send home a note to the parents to bring in pictures of things that start with A. I encourage them to bring in pictures of A things from magazines, newspapers, or cereal boxes, or things around the house.
Acorn Search: For this I again use my Cricut to cut out acorns again, and then I write the letters we’ve already learned on them and I hide them around the room. Then they have to be squirrels and search for the acorns, but in order to store them, they have to bring them to me, and tell me what letter it is. Then they put them in a basket at their table, their cache. Note: Make sure you know how many you hid and where you hid them. This game could go on for a very long time, and you could find acorns during the summer after school lets out and you are cleaning out your classroom, long after the unit is over.
Squirrely Story: For this it is simple, I start out an LES Story on a giant piece of paper, and I have them take turns adding parts to the story about where the squirrels and where they are going to hide their nuts. I use cues like where might they hide them? What would be a funny place for the squirrels to hide the acorns? What might be a problem they face? Do you think other animals might try to steal their nuts? What might they do? I find this story goes over very well. For each part that a student comes up with I write their name in little letters at the start of their sentence. This way parents know what part their student wrote, but also it allows me to make sure that everyone gets to add to the story, even if it is just “THE END” because they couldn’t think of anything else through out the story.
Fishers of Men Story: For this I go through the story. Then I talk about how we are catching people for Jesus. In a way we are saving or storing up people for Jesus, by sharing the good news of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. Then I get a big net, and I have them cut out simple fish. On each fish we write the names of people we could share the good news of Jesus with to catch people for Jesus.
Nut Sort: For this I go to the grocery store, and hopefully they have their Christmas nut assortment out. I get a whole bunch of the mixed nuts, and I use it to let the kids help sort nuts. For sorting I find muffin tins work the best.
Adding Acorns: We can practice adding by giving each student a work space, like a tray or laminated piece of construction paper. Then I give them each a handful of acorns. I have them do simple adding like, place three nuts on your tray. Now put two more on the tray. How many acorns do you have together? And I have them count out the acorns.
Measuring with acorns: For this I have things like a pencil, a ruler, a book, an eraser, toy carrot, and I have them measure how many acorns it takes to be the length of the object. If you can make a sheet with the items they are measuring, it could give them a chance to practice their numbers in recording their answers they found while measuring.
Matching Acorns: For this you can use the acorn cut outs, have one with the numbers 1 through 10 and the other acorns with the dots to represent the numbers 1 through 10. Then have them match the acorns.
I get out the rakes, fake leaves, bushel baskets, acorns, and garbage bags. We practice raking and working together.
The mixed nuts from the Christmas Mixed nuts section at the grocery store.
Squirrel Scurry: For this I use those ball pit balls, and 5 hula hoops. I put one hula hoop in the middle with all the balls in it. Then I put the other four hoops at the four corners of the gym. Then I divide the class into 4 groups. Each group has to work together to collect as many acorns (balls) as they can from the tree(middle hula hoop) and store them in their hula hoop. I give them about 2-3 minutes to run around stealing nuts and storing them. When I call Freeze, they all have to return to their caches and count their nuts. The team that has the most nuts, is the winner for winter:)