Goodness! We have had a whirlwind of discoveries this week. We’ve found “frogs” hanging out on our log circuit, mysterious yellow goo appeared on the wood chips, towers of blocks curiously refused to crumble, and the ramps in the construction zone have found configurations unseen before. Oh, and I almost forgot! There has been a rash of author sightings within these four walls. With so many options, it’s hard to choose what to research next…
This year, we are piloting a new initiative in Pre-K called “Forest Fours”. On each day four in our cycle, we are going to try to head out into the forest as soon as our entire class is present and we’ve completed our morning jobs. It is our hope that with a more extended period of time in nature, our students will have the opportunity to explore the natural world around them in a very authentic way. The students are free to play, explore, learn, and observe on our nature trails that weave around our beautiful campus.
Today we had our first opportunity to test out “Forest Fours” as the students spent almost 2 hours immersed in nature. We ate snack outside, climbed on our climbing trees, scooped up dirt, invented a new car game, played The Three Billy Goats Gruff, searched for walnuts, and learned new ways to care for the plants and trees on the trail. I’d say it was a success!
Last week, one of our students discovered a big, green caterpillar who was walking along the sidewalk that leads to our parking lot. We brought the plump little guy into the classroom so that the other children could observe him as well. After placing him in a clear container, we noticed that he had positioned himself near one of the top corners of the container and had started making long strands of silk from one side of the container to the other. Some students thought that perhaps he was growing more hair, while others knew right away that he was making a cocoon.
With the help of our fabulous science teacher, Ms. Capezzuti, we learned that our new friend was a Polyphemus caterpillar and would eventually turn into a moth. We also learned that Polyphemus caterpillars are silk caterpillars and can easily be reared indoors, so we decided to let our him finish making his cocoon in our container and release him after his metamorphosis. According to our research, he should emerge from his cocoon in about a week. In the meantime, we observed him while he finished making his cocoon and have been noticing what he looks like now that he is in his pupal case. We are looking forward to seeing him emerge from his cocoon, stretch and dry his wings, and then release him back into the wild! Yay, science!
We met with our fourth grade book buddies for the first time today. This year, Mrs. Ferguson (the Fourth Grade teacher) and I are hoping to get together at least once every six day cycle. Right now, we’re are scheduled to meet on Day 2.
This tradition is held very dear here at WTN. All of our grades have reading buddies. The elder children get the opportunity to model literacy and be a mentor for the little ones. The younger buddies love having the one-on-one attention.
A child walks up to you and offers you a banana. What do you do? You should say “Thank You” because in our culture, that body language says, “Here, have this banana.”
Kids can and should ask for help.
It is important that we expect our children to begin using their words to ask for specific help as soon as they learn to communicate with us. All speaking children can directly ask for help. Non-verbal children can use sign-language to ask for assistance. It is easy as parents and teachers to simply assume what our children want when they hand us their sealed snack packet or walk up to us and say, “I’m hungry”. Although, initially, this may be faster, it doesn’t allow them to practice the important skill of directly asking for help when it is needed. We can’t assume that every person our child speaks to now, and on into adulthood, will be able to automatically parse out their unspoken needs. Passive requests can be both misinterpreted or completely missed.
So, for better or worse, next time your young child walks up to you and hands you an unopened bottle of glue or tells you they are thirsty, please help them rephrase and form a question. Invite them to include a “please” and “thank you” while they’re at it. Gracious words are always welcome.
With each new year, and new group of students, I’m always so fascinated to see what types of games the students create with one another. Sometimes it’s a classic game of tag or “cops and robbers” but more often it’s a game that they created from their own imaginations. This year, many of the students were interested in collecting seeds from around the nature playground. When asked why they were collecting the seeds, they responded that they were for the animals to eat at the animal restaurant.
Since that day, the children have been working diligently to create different confections for the animals to eat. Some children helped by gathering a variety of natural materials for the kitchen such as rain water, grass, sand from smashed rocks, wood chips, acorns, pine needles, dirt, rocks, and what they had decided are lemons (but are actually walnuts). Once the materials were gathered, they students took turns adding them to the concoction they were working on at the moment. Some days it has been a cake, other days it has been a stew or a salad.
As other children have been inspired to join in the fun, new animal kitchens have popped up around the nature playground as well. A new animal restaurant was created yesterday in what we refer to as the”mud kitchen”, except that this restaurant has a twist. The animals that eat the food from the mud kitchen gain special powers like rainbow powers and storm cloud powers. Animals that wish to dine in this restaurant can use their special power to ward off bad guys that they may encounter in the woods.
We are very excited to see where this game will take us in the following days or even weeks. Tomorrow we will be working on making signs for the restaurants. We will continue to observe the children working in their animal restaurants and hopefully we can find a way to turn this wonderfully imaginative play into a full-blown unit of study. We will keep you posted as the play progresses!