As I drive through downtown Opelika and see the railroad station and the crisscross of tracks, the sights bring back so many good warm memories I had while growing up. Now I am 70 years old, but I remember one certain field trip like it was yesterday. I was in Mrs. Louise’s kindergarten in Opelika. She and her teacher team went all out teaching us stories, arts and crafts, playtime, snack time and rest time.
They planned many field trips around town but the best one I ever went on was when we gathered at the Opelika railroad station with picnic baskets in hand and got on a passenger train to travel from Opelika to Auburn and had a picnic at Chewacla State Park.
At our young five-year-old age, this trip was truly larger than life. As an early childhood teacher, I tried to replicate this childhood memory with my classes. Living in Mobile, Alabama, for 30 years, we had the Amtrak train where as a school, parents, and teachers would work with Amtrak to go from Mobile to Bay Minette, Alabama. This was a memory maker for children and their families. Sept. 20, 1853, is when the first Railroad Station opened in Indianapolis Union Station at 39 Jackson Place.
I love to sing the little song train jingles with children. Opelika, our railroad town, has taken us to so many places.
This coming Saturday, Sept. 23, we welcome in the beginning of Autumn. I love the way Lee County displays the beauty of Fall each year. It is breathtaking to see how the leaves begin to turn colors of red, yellow, orange, etc. The crisp cool air seems to put extra energy in our steps. As I am driving, I am already having to dodge the bushy-tail squirrels bustling around for acorns and nuts to store up for winter. autumn offers so many teachable moments for young children. It truly doesn’t take a lot of money for families to learn and enjoy the seasonal changes. In reviewing some of my resources from lessons and articles past I want to make just a few suggestions.

  1. Take a nature walk around the neighborhood or even the house. Take time to point out nature items such as fall leaves in many colors, nuts, acorns, pine cones, pine straw and seeds. Simple brown bags can be used to pick up nature items. Families can come together and share what they have found. A simple craft of gluing nature items on paper can be a fall masterpiece, math lesson and science lesson.
  2. Take time as you go about Lee County to note how the different animals are getting ready for winter. As you drive, walk or hike with your little ones, point out the birds, ducks and geese that are gathering in flight as they migrate to other places to prepare for winter months. Talk to your children about migration and that the birds are moving to a warmer environment in preparation for the winter.
  3. We already mentioned how bushy-tail squirrels are starting to gather acorns and nuts for the winter. Take time to sit back with your children and observe different places the squirrels climb and rush to.
  4. When it comes to fall, we love our foods of pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice coffees, apple sauce, apple pies, apple fritters, etc. Young children love to help and be a part of cooking up something delicious. Helping to cook recipes helps with math skills. Some of my favorite Friday afternoon events that we did in Kindergarten if the class had a good week was to make simple sugar cookies. The children would lay the cookie slices in rows to be put in the oven. If weather permitted, laying a blanket outside of my classroom on the grass with a carton of milk or drink to go along with the warm cookies made for the end of a good week and a good reward for a class of young children who had worked hard. This idea can be adapted for family fun too.
    Another annual event that will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 26, is to celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day. Who was Johnny Appleseed? He was an early American pioneer who planted apple trees in the 1800s in the Ohio Valley, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, northern parts of West Virginia, as well as Ontario. He was fascinated by the westward movement across the continent. As he traveled west, he planted trees as he went his way. Johnny Appleseed used the very simple things in life to help others and show them care and love. I love wearing a tin pot like Johnny Appleseed when I read to young children about him. For him, the tin pot served as a cap and a mush pot to cook in.
    I hope these ideas start getting your family in the excitement of autumn.
    Beth Pinyerd has taught in the Early Childhood Classroom for many years. She holds a Masters’ Degree in Early Childhood Education. Classroom Observer wishes to point out the many wonderful educational opportunities going on in our community for young children. Feel free to email of special class events that you would like to share.