Taking a Sock Walk is one of my favorite fall activities to do with children. I have “sock walked” with many, many groups of kids.
There is nothing like a Sock Walk
Fall is a time for harvesting, but it is also a time for sowing. As the days grow cooler and the sunlight wanes, many small plants complete their growing cycles and die back. But they ensure the survival of their species by producing seeds, which will sprout in the spring. The seeds will be most successful when they are scattered – or “sowed” – away from the parent plant, so they don’t have to compete with each other for water and sunlight. Some seeds are scattered by the wind, some by water, and some by animals. If you observe a seed closely, you may be able to guess how it will travel.
One of the best ways to collect seeds is to take a Sock Walk. First put on your shoes and socks – in that order. Pull a large pair of old socks over your shoes and as far up your legs as they will go. Then take a walk through a field of dry grasses and wild flowers. Those seeds that are scattered by sticking to animals will stick to you. You’ll be surprised at how many seeds have tiny hooks, barbs, anchors, and spikes just so they can hitch a ride. When you return from your walk, take your socks off and look at the seeds through a magnifying lens. Don’t they look mean?
Don’t try to remove the seeds. It’s easier just to plant the socks! First, lay both socks on a tray and pour water over them until they are soaked. Find two shallow pans, and partially fill them with sterile potting soil. (If you use dirt from your yard, it will probably have some seeds in it and ruin your experiment. You can buy sterile potting soil or sterilize your dirt by baking it in the oven.) “Plant” one sock in each pan by laying it on the soil and covering it lightly with half an inch of soil.
Place one pan in a light, warm spot and keep watering it. You’ll be amazed at the little plants that come up. Place the other pan in the refrigerator for two weeks. Many seeds are scheduled to rest through the winter and sprout in spring. The “wintertime” in the refrigerator will trick the seeds into germinating when you take them out. After two weeks in the refrigerator, place the second pan near the first and keep it watered. How do the two sock gardens compare?
A Sock Walk is one of dozens of nature activities included in A Kid’s Fall EcoJournal by Toni Albert.
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”