Autumn has arrived here in Northeastern Ohio, bringing with it crisp weather, all things pumpkin, and beautiful fall foliage. The trees are only starting to reveal their brilliant hues of orange, yellow, gold and red here, but soon I’ll awaken to a glowing landscape that seemingly exploded overnight. As this season traditionally brings many requests for fall themed library materials, as well as special fall programming, I was inspired to think of ways that technology may add further enjoyment and educational opportunities to this time.
The best way to experience the beauty of fall is to strap on your hiking shoes and venture to the nearest wooded park (or your backyard!). Bringing along your smartphone or tablet, loaded with fall foliage apps, can enhance your exploration of autumn’s beauty. Children of a variety of ages will enjoy learning more about our natural environment with these apps and websites highlighted below, although most young users not yet in elementary school may need some parent or caregiver help.
- Yankee Leaf Peepr– This free app by Yankee Publishing Inc., available for Apple and Android devices, provides you with a very handy color-coded map that indicates where the leaves are changing anywhere in the United States. Users contribute to the map by posting photos and ratings of the foliage, making this app not only useful, but
interactive. The current foliage color is determined by averaging user ratings in a geographic area.
- Chimani apps- These apps, offered as free downloads on all major mobile platforms, are a really fun way to explore various National Parks. They help you with planning your trip, letting you know when Ranger-led trips occur, and more. These apps work with or without WiFi or a data signal, which is especially helpful when you are out on the trail.
- LeafSnap– Once you’ve found some beautiful leaves, you may be left wondering what kind of tree they’re a part of. Make this a great learning opportunity with LeafSnap! Developed by researchers at Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institute, LeafSnap helps users identify trees by allowing users to take a picture of a leaf from the tree and then providing them with the species. The app is free for iPhone and iPad, and also has a website displaying tree species. The only negative is that this is only usable for species found in the Northeastern United States and Canada.
- U.S. Forest Service website and Yonder app– The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with Yonder, a free app, to help nature lovers share their adventures. The website also provides a map of fall color based on eyewitness accounts and allows users to choose their state or local forest to see specific fall foliage information. You can find weekly color updates in your state using this tool!
- Foliage Network – The fall foliage prediction map on this website helps users visual the changing leaves around the United States and plan when to see the most beautiful colors in your neighborhood.
You can pair these fun apps and websites with traditional activities for a great autumn library program. How about leaf rubbing (which was recently discussed here on the blog), sharing a classic fall read-aloud such as Ehlert’s “Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” and then using LeafSnap to identify the tree outside the storytime window? There are many possibilities to incorporate technology and nature into library programs and family time. What are some of your favorite hi- or low-tech autumn extension activities? ___________________________________________________________
Nicole Lee Martin is a Children’s Librarian at the Rocky River Public Library in Rocky River, OH and is writing this post for the Children and Technology Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.