Falling leaves, hot apple cider, and holidays with the family. It’s an easy to understand why autumn is favorite time of year to celebrate, even in your class lessons.
But how much do your students really know about fall? They may know why leaves change color or that the Pilgrims first made landfall on the New World in November 1620. But did they know that those Pilgrims first landed in Cape Code, not at Plymouth? Or that squirrels try to fake each other out in the fall when they’re hiding their nuts?
We’ve compiled fun and intriguing facts about fall that may not only fascinate your students but also motivate them toward a future career:
Fact: Some animals are smarter in fall.
The phrase “bird-brain” may not be an appropriate insult in the fall. Studies have shown that the hippocampus of some birds – especially those that cache food for the winter – actually increase in size as much as 30% during the fall months.
Squirrels may undergo a similar phenomenon, but scientific opinion seems to differ on whether or not squirrel brains increase in size in the fall. Certainly, their memory is nothing short of amazing, as they recover hundreds of nuts, hidden weeks earlier.UC Berkeley neuroscience researcher Pierre Lavenex, said, "They use information from the environment, such as the relative position of trees and buildings, and they triangulate, relying on the angles and distances between these distant landmarks and their caches…such a feat would not be possible for humans."
However, squirrels do exhibit a trait your students may find entertaining: they try to fake each other out, so their competitors won’t steal their nuts. When squirrels know they’re being watched, they create “false caches,” making a great show of burying imaginary nuts, to trick their opponents.
See more fascinating facts on squirrel caching behavior in these articles:
Fact: Some turkeys don’t gobble.
Although we all grew up mimicking the beloved gobble sounds, only male turkeys, called toms, actually gobble.
Students with keen minds for business should know that changing seasons mean profit-making opportunities. New England claims $3 billion per year in fall leaf-viewing tourism.
In class this fall, discuss some of the ingenious ways that entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the fall season, then challenge student teams to come up with their own Autumn Business Plan.
Some clever seasonal business ideas include:
Selling authentic leaves from New England, gathered by “Foliage experts”
Moving students into new residences
50 small business ideas for the winter season
For Meteorologist or Botanists:
Fact: Global climate change affects fall colors.
This article from Appalachian State University explores various ways that climate change may affect fall foliage, including factors such as:
Timing and amounts of precipitation
Length of the growing season
Acidic deposits that leach nutrients from the soil
Fact: Halloween is more Irish than St. Patrick’s Day.
According to the Library of Congress, Halloween’s origins come from a Celtic festival for the dead called Samhain. Celts believed the ghosts of the dead roamed Earth on this holiday, so people tried to appease these roaming spirits by dressing in costumes and leaving “treats” outside of their front doors.
This article will also entertain your students with other “weird, fun facts about Halloween,” such as:
Historically, in Europe you had to dance for your treat.
In a few American towns, Halloween was originally referred to as “Cabbage Night.”
In the Middle-Ages, the poor dressed up in costumes and went door-to-door during Hallowmas (also known as All Saints' Day, November 1) begging for food or money in exchange for prayers.
Black cats are associated with Halloween because they were once believed to carry their masters’ dark powers.
Fact: Kyoto, Japan is one of the top 10 places on the planet to see autumn leaves.
This is according to NatGeo’s opinion, and those folks are usually pretty well-travelled. Japan has a strong leaf-viewing tradition, called koyo. One of the best spots for koyo is Kyoto, on the island of Honshu, where vivid leaves frame sloping temple roofs, remnants of the city’s many centuries of imperial history.
You can also inspire your students with Weather.com’s photo gallery of 50 Stunning Places Around the World to See Fall Color.
This article is a revised version of a previous post. Share your fun fall facts with us in our comments section below.