Learn from Fall Harvesting

 In Resources

We all know that this fall is a bit different than other years. Teachers are learning how to adapt their instruction to having online learners, in-class learners, learners who are in class some of the time, and at home some of the time. Last month, we talked about 50 different ways to get students outside while learning and allowing the Land to be the teacher. There are all sorts of opportunities for learning outside in the fall from hibernation and migration to adaptations, food science, and harvesting methods. 

In some communities, feasts and activities take place in the fall that honour and celebrate the land and its bounty. Many foods are traditionally harvested in the fall, including wild rice, waterfowl, game birds, animals like deer and moose, fish, and a few varieties of berries. The harvesting, conservation, preparation, and consumption of these foods offer many opportunities for learning across subjects. Educators can use the opportunity of community or school events to craft lessons that start with these cultural activities at their base. Even if there are no official events planned, teachers can still create lessons centred around these food sources and this time of year.

Creating lessons and learning centred around traditional activities can be daunting for teachers. It can sometimes be difficult to see how your subject or outcomes match with traditional activities. Below you’ll find some examples of learning activities that all stem from traditional harvesting. 

Begin by taking part in harvesting activities with your students. If you aren’t able to coordinate something as a class, encourage students to go out with family and friends. Activities like berry picking or root, moss, and plant harvesting are easy to organize as a small class activity. There doesn’t need to be a full community-wide or school-wide activity planned. Activities like hunting or fishing usually involve extra equipment that will require some organization by the school or community. Have a knowledgeable community member come with your class to show the appropriate way to harvest and to show respect for what students will harvest. 


Learning Activities

Storytelling – ELA/Social Studies

Ask an Elder or Knowledge Keeper to share a story about fall harvesting or about the animals, plants, or medicines that are harvested in the fall. Encourage students to pay close attention to the story, and how the storyteller’s words, tone, body language, and pacing help to tell the story. After the Elder leaves, have a discussion about what students learned from the Elder or Knowledge Keeper.

Ask students to develop their own story about fall harvesting or about the animals, plants, or medicines that are harvested in the fall. Remind them of how the Elder used words, tone, body language, and pacing to tell a story. Encourage students to think about these things as they are developing their stories. 

Depending on the context of your class, you may wish for students to write down their stories, deliver their stories orally, or some combination of both. 

Do you want to include some science? Some stories that Elders, Knowledge Keepers, or students tell may involve science. Is the storyteller talking about populations of animals changing? Or about their habitats changing? Is the storyteller talking about a trap that did or didn’t work? Is the storyteller talking about an amazing shot they made? Or a time that someone processed meat poorly? All of these topics can be starting points for scientific discussions about the environment, physics, or biology. 

Traditional Activities, Delving Deeper – Social Studies/Science

Encourage students to ask questions about traditional fall harvesting practices. How have they changed over the years and why? What are the traditional ways to harvest these foods or medicines? How are they prepared and stored? Are there any local histories about conservation and management, hunting, fishing, or harvesting? 

If asking questions during demonstrations is not appropriate, have students interview Elders, Knowledge Keepers, or family members after the fact to learn more. 

Students can prepare to teach other students what they have learned by giving a presentation, doing a demonstration, sharing a story, or making a video.

Do you want to include some ELA? The interviewing and teaching aspects of this activity highlight ELA outcomes. 

Animals and Plants – Science

As students take part in harvesting activities, explore the biology of the plant or animal they engage with. Explore seed production, root systems, and leaf shapes of plants and trees. Learn about identification, naming, and dichotomous keys. Learn about organs, digestive systems, and food safety. The opportunities here really are endless. 

Do you want to include other subjects? Depending on your focus, it can be easy to add outcomes for other subjects. Have students write a scientific report on their findings to develop writing skills. Encourage students to use their math skills as they explore the food needs of animals in the ecosystem. Students’ understanding of Social Studies concepts will deepen as they learn about the past and present importance of these foods for Indigenous peoples of the area. 

Harvesting Yields – Math

Taking part in traditional harvesting activities will provide students with real-life data sets for them to practice skills like calculating percentages and ratios, counting data and data sets, finding measures of central tendency, and creating graphs. Students can also use real-life items to practice measuring weight, calculating length and height, and figuring out capacity and volume. 

Extend this learning and create connections with community members by preparing food for others using the students’ harvest. Students will develop many math and science skills as they follow a recipe and prepare food. They will practice skills such as scaling quantities, measuring and understanding fractions, and will observe chemical vs. physical changes to the ingredients.

Do you want to include some ELA? Have students write a piece of procedural writing about preparing a particular dish. Assign one dish to each student to create a class cookbook for the foods prepared for community members. 


As you can see, there are many learning opportunities that can come from students exploring traditional harvesting practices. Do you already create learning opportunities around fall harvesting? What activities do you have students participate in? Share your go-tos with us!

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