Creating simple centers outdoors is not only easy but economical.  To demonstrate this – I want to share a simple center.  This center could be a solo activity or group collaboration.

OBJECTIVE: Sorting, Classifying, & Pattering.

Sorting and classifying objects not only teaches children about attributes and relationships, but also promotes thinking logically and applying rules.

MATERIALS:  Fallen Leaves and a place to work.  We used a stump.  You could use concrete, the grass . . .any flat surface.  It is helpful to have a defined working space like the round top of the stump.

CENTER TASK:  Gather at least 25 leaves of different colors.   Sort the leaves into color groups.  Make a pattern using those leaves.

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Step One:  The children gathered fallen leaves and put them in the middle of a stump “table.”

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Step Two: The children compared leaves, then categorized or classified them by color.

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Step Three:  We described and compared the differences of the leaves that were sorted.  This gave us the data of observable characteristics beyond color and other possible ways of sorting the leaves.

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Step Four: Next I challenged the students to create a pattern.  I did not put any criteria on the pattern making.  I just asked for a pattern.  Patterning forms the foundation for analytical thinking,

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Step Five: Once the “pattern” had been created – we investigated the creation and its attributes.  We found where we could observe a pattern.  Taking photos of children’s patterns provides valuable documentation of developmental growth.

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Step Six:  Additional items were added to the design (mandala).   Symmetry emerges.

This center provided hands-on exploration of four key mathematical concepts: sorting, classifying, patterning and symmetry.  There was no cost to the materials used – the stump was given to the center by a tree removal company, and the leaves were abundantly available on the ground.