As the fall season transforms our valley, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies teaches a range of programs, both in school and in the field, that draw attention to the shifting seasons. One of these programs is ACES’ Fall Trees unit, in which students learn to identify local tree species by their leaf shapes. During these programs, students are encouraged to practice their observation skills when out walking in nature, helping them develop a sense-of-place and better understanding of their environment. Learning to identify trees is a great first step toward feeling more connected to local ecosystems from a young age.

Activity ideas:
Leaf rubbings are a fantastic way for students to capture and record their favorite leaf shapes, as well as to learn the differences between tree species. Another, more creative way to explore leaf shapes includes pasting together a collage of leaves to create a new image, such as a “leaf person,” animal, or other shape. Collect fallen leaves while out on a walk, and then use these leaves to create something new back at home or school.

No matter how you choose to immerse yourself in the fall colors, take time this fall to observe this beautiful season. Share the experience with your family and friends, and pause to notice the natural cycles that transform our valley each year. Let this observation fuel your own questions and curiosity about the place you live, and if you need a peaceful place to explore, come visit us at the Hallam Lake nature preserve in Aspen or Rock Bottom Ranch in Basalt.