The leaves are falling! The leaves are falling! Quick, before they all shrivel up and turn brown, pick them up and do something with them. But what?
"If you get them early enough, before they're too dry, you can make leaf prints," suggests Raye Le Valley, who teaches arts and crafts at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Le Valley suggests rolling printing ink on the leaves with a brayer, then pressing the leaves onto paper.
"You can also spread glue -- a white glue such as Elmer's -- on a sheet of rice paper and arrange some leaves on top. Then spread another sheet of rice paper the same size with glue and press it, glue side down, on top of the leaves and press the two sheets between some books," she adds. The results can be made into lampshades or hung in windows, since they're prettiest when light shines through them.
Le Valley's students have also dipped leaves in a solution of Elmer's glue and water and, when the leaves were dry, tied colored yarn to the stems and hung the leaves on branches to make autumn mobiles.
Alpine Bird, who used to teach art at Maret School and now does a lot of arts and crafts with her own children, suggests that leaves can also be used to make pictures of things other than leaves.
"My daughter Cara once used leaves to make a picture of fish swimming in the ocean," she recalls. "You can also get away from the whole idea and shape of a leaf by cutting leaves -- they can't be too dry -- into pieces and making mosaics. If you do this on wax paper you can get a stained-glass-window effect."
Bird has also helped children do leaf prints and, for a variation, suggests arranging the leaves on paper, then going over the composition with an inked brayer. The result is a negative imageof the leaves.
For a lasting impression of its pattern, a leaf, like a shell or fossil, can also be pressed into plaster of Paris, she adds.
Elana Wolin, who teaches kindergarten at Capitol Hill Day School, gears leaf crafts to the capabilities and attention span of five-year-olds.Her students make leaf prints by brushing bright paint on the leaves and pressing them on paper. Kindergarteners also enjoy making rubbings of the leaves, using thin paper and flat crayons or chalk, and simply using the leaves in conjunction with other found objects, in collages.
Collages don't preserve leaves, of course, but leaves pressed between wax paper will keep their colors for several years.
"I have some that I did four or five years ago," says Wolin, showing the technique to a new crop of kindergarteners. She dumps a big pile of red, yellow, orange and ochre leaves on the table and gives each student a sheet of wax paper.
"Put as many leaves as you want on the paper, but don't put them too near the edge," she instructs. "If you want to, you can tear some of this colored tissue paper into shapes and put them in, too."
When the compositions are complete, the children place another sheet of wax paper on top and Wolin runs a hot iron over the wax paper.
"I trust the children with a lot of things, but not with a hot iron," she explains. "Actually, it's on the permanent-press setting. If the iron is too hot, it doesn't work.'
"I hope it doesn't melt," worries Madeline Broadstone as Wolin irons her composition.
"It does melt, because there's wax -- like candle wax -- in the paper," says Wolin. "The melted wax will hold it all together, especially if you press the edges together carefully with the iron."
Most of the children are trimming their works with scissors and holding them up to the light or the window, but Meredith Lewis wants to make one more.
"Can I put this acorn in?" she asks.