In elementary school, young scientists spend a lot of time sorting, categorizing and learning to observe objectively, and young writers set lifetime literacy foundations. Help your second grader build all these skills while appreciating nature’s beauty—and making a keepsake that preserves it, too.
Leaves, grasses, and flowers that flatten well (see below)
Plain white paper
Clear contact paper
What You Do:
Pick a nice day and get outside! Take your young scientist on an investigative search for beautiful foliage and flowers that can be pressed. Fall is an especially fine time to find gold, russet, and red leave and dry grass; in the spring, you can look for violets and rose petals. Ferns are also spectacular at any season. Look for flowers and foliage that are flat and fairly dry; puffy, succulent plants do not lend themselves to pressing!
Flatten your finds. Place your treasures between two layers of plain white paper without overlapping. Use as many of these “sandwiches” as necessary to hold all your leaves and petals. Place each “sandwich” underneath a heavy book, and stack the books on top of one another. Leave them that way for at least 4-5 days.
When you’re done, you will have a collection of delicate, intricate pressed foliage. Start by laying it gently on a table and categorizing. Which leaves have two points? Which ones have five? What colors are most prevalent? What are the similarities and differences between each of the ferns? And if you’ve got a field guide, so much the better. Help your first grader read the book to identify the name of the plant from its leaf or flower.
Make a stunning nature card. Take a piece of 8-1/2 x 11” card stock, and fold it in half to make a 5 -1/2” x 8-1/2” card. Now invite your child to make a leaf and/or flower collage on the front, and tack it down gently with the glue stick. Have your child write a cover greeting too—these cards make great holiday or birthday greetings, for example, for relatives far away. And if this is a generic card, it’s also a great idea to have your child write the names of the leaves, grasses and flowers included.
Help your child measure and cut a piece of clear contact paper, 5 x 8 inches (just slightly smaller than the card). Working together (this next part can get tricky), gently place it on top of the pressed leaf collage so that it is centered and smooth.
Inside the card, there’s plenty of room for a personal message. Invite your child to send greetings and perhaps even tell the story of how the card was made. By the end of the project, he’ll have practiced science, reading and art skills, while having fun too!
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school History and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.