Acorns and First Graders Combine for a Lesson that is “Nut-thing” but Fun!

By Alanna Dushok
October 17, 2023

In Ms. Whaley's first-grade classroom, education took a hands-on, nature-inspired twist this fall as students delved into the world of counting collections using a rather unconventional tool—acorns. The idea for this creative and engaging learning activity sprouted when Ms. Whaley was out walking her dog one crisp autumn day and noticed the bountiful array of acorns littering the ground. She saw an opportunity to spice up her lessons about counting collections, an important but repetitive first grade math standard where students practice counting groups of objects. Ms. Whaley collected a bag of acorns on her next walk and brought them into the classroom to become a counting collection.

Though Ms. Whaley had plenty of acorns to complete a counting collection, students became unusually invested in the collection and independently began to harvest acorns from their own backyards, streets, and neighborhoods surrounding Westlawn. The variety of acorns was stunning, and students couldn't hide their excitement as they sorted and compared their findings, discovering a world of diversity within the acorns they had gathered. Not only were students practicing counting using acorns, they also became interested in acorns from a scientific perspective. Ms. Whaley fostered their curiosity by borrowing all of the acorn books from the Westlawn library and shared them with the class during read-alouds. After discovering that one acorn had sprouted, Ms. Whaley set up a hydroponic growth station using a cup and plastic wrap. Each morning several students eagerly check the tiny oak tree for any growth that may be visible.

sprouted acorn in a cup of water

To reward students’ hard work and enthusiasm, Ms. Whaley organized a delightful acorn party. At this special event, the students transformed donut holes into edible acorns with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and pretzel sticks. It was not only a sweet treat but also a chance for the children to connect their classroom learning to a fun, creative project that celebrated their love for acorns.

child standing over a bowl of edible "acorns"

Ms. Whaley's acorn-inspired counting collections project didn't just teach her students math; it showed them the magic of learning in a way that fostered curiosity and excitement. By incorporating real-world elements and a delicious treat, she proved that education can be both meaningful and fun, making a lasting impact on her young learners' education journey. And, the acorn learning isn’t over yet! Ms. Whaley plans to continue the acorn theme while teaching students about ordinal numbers in an upcoming math unit.