It’s September. The weather is beginning to change and our children are back in school. I think the change they feel the most during this transition is that they have less free time and more structure in their days. School feels like school, and it can be a difficult adjustment.

Phillip Potenziano, superintendent of the Brunswick School Department.

Fortunately, autumn in Maine is chock full of opportunities for combining exciting activities, family fun and learning. Think corn mazes and apple picking. Consider leaf peeping, hiking and agricultural fairs as learning opportunities and a chance to enjoy the outdoors.

With our children back in school full time this year, parents can worry less about having to “home school” on math, history, science and literature, and focus on the fun of “experiential learning.”

Experiential learning is defined as learning experiences that:

• Incorporate reflection, critical analysis and synthesis.
• Offer opportunities for students to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for the results.
• Provide opportunities for students to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially or physically.
• Create learning experiences that include the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.

And according to the experts, experiential learning has some very specific advantages over work in the classroom:

• Ability to immediately apply knowledge.
• Access to real-time coaching and feedback.
• Promotion of teamwork and communication skills.
• Development of reflective practice habits.
• Accomplishments are obvious.

Corn mazes certainly require critical thinking and teamwork. Divide the group into teams and see who can make it through faster. Apple picking sounds like nothing but fun, but does anyone know the difference between a bushel and a peck? What about other units of measure? Volume versus weight. Place your bets on weight before you do the official weigh-in and see who comes the closest to actual weight.

Leaf peeping and hikes in the woods are ideal times to reflect on photosynthesis and how nature “dies” to live again. Not to mention discussions around species of trees, birds and fall flowers. There are apps for your smartphone that identify birds, flowers, trees, etc., or books you can check out from the library and take along. You can also find out the best time to see the leaves in your area.

If you need a bit more support from the experts, check out some of the local farms and try your hand at fiber arts (visitmaine.com/trip-ideas/farms-fiber-arts-brunswick-bath-waldoboro, visitmaine.com/trip-ideas/farms-fiber-arts-portland-freeport).

And I can’t think of a better place to get an overview of livestock, crafts, gardening and food than at the Fryeburg Fair (fryeburgfair.org). If your kids insist on the rides, talk about velocity, centrifugal force and gravity … right answers to an on-the-spot pop quiz can win a ride ticket! And you can be creative about some not-so-serious competitions and rewards.

This list offers several more fascinating ways to take advantage of fall, spend time with family and keep all those home teaching skills you developed last year sharp (visitmaine.com/things-to-do/lighthouses-sightseeing/short-takes-on-the-best-of-fall-in-maine).

Happy fall!

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