Playful Directions

Mrs. Forst's Pre-Kindergarten Blog

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Adventures in Nature

This week, our class got a little too close the pond than our protective Daddy Goose would have liked and he quickly let us know to find another way around with a perfectly-timed hiss or two. The students handled it well and slowly backed away to give the goose some extra space. Once we were a safe distance away, I explained that the geese have recently laid eggs on the island in the pond and are now very protective of their home and their growing babies. I continued by saying that the geese don’t know that we won’t hurt their babies and sometimes they get upset when we get too close to the pond. Then, one of our youngest students looked at me as said,

“Yeah and the goose probably doesn’t know that this is Winchester Thurston and we ‘think also of the comforts and the rights of others’ so we would never hurt their babies.”

Proof that caring for others and nature go hand in hand!


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With a Little Help From My Friend

Sometimes we just can’t finish a plan without some assistance.  The children have lofty goals when we are exploring the Northbound Trail.  Quickly, they realize that their plan requires more hands than they have available.

Asking for help takes both language and cognitive skills. The children must interpret the sensory input they are receiving and accurately weigh the possible outcomes they are faced with while working alone.  A tipping point is reached when they decide that another body would be helpful.

The next big obstacle is verbalizing their need to a nearby peer or adult.  Knowing “how” to ask for help may seem like a no brainer, but it’s harder than we expect .  There is more than one way to ask for help.  Some ways will get you the assistance you desire and others will not.  For instance, would you agree to help someone who is yelling at you?  What if they were talking to you in an exceptionally quiet voice while looking at the ground? One of the most common ways for young children to ask for help is to stand near an adult or peer and stare at them.  For reasons I’m sure you can appreciate, that doesn’t always work out.

Guiding children as they develop the skills they need to ask for and receive help is an exciting part of Pre-Kindergarten.  Luckily, we’ve got plenty of opportunities for large scale projects and risk-stretching experiences on our Northbound Trail.

In the pictures below, you will see a few examples of Helping Each Other.  One child decided that he wanted to place a very large stick so that the tip went through a “Y” in a nearby tree.  The mark just happened to be located about 10 feet above the forest floor.  Asking a teacher for help got the job done.  Mrs. Pless helped carry the stick and aimed while our 4-year-old placed the point in it’s designated spot.  This child’s idea inspired a few others to try this plan, as well.

Another child found a detached, curved vine and was determined to make it into a tunnel.  However, it was impossible to hold the vine up while experimenting with arrangements to stablize the log.  After a few tries, this child enlisted a number of friends to steady the vine.  Eventually, she found that using large rocks, she could prop the ends in a manner that would make the tunnel usable.

Near the end of our Green Day, or Forest Four, the children discovered one last tree to climb.   Many of the children became anxious about coming down once they perched along the first junction. The branching point that they enjoyed standing on wasn’t very high, but it appeared to be a big drop once you were standing there.  Asking friends for help  and receiving assistance became very important to the children.  Happiliy, many friends rose to the challenge.


A Dash of Risk


Beginning a new school year is rife with uncertainty.  An unknown routine, strange surroundings, and rooms full of unfamiliar people all contribute to a high level of stress for both children and adults.  Will I know what to do? Will I like what I’m asked to do? What will happen if I’m afraid to try or, worse, try and fail?  Luckily, the reality is that our species has learned to adapt quickly.  Unfortunately, our emotional brains frequently forget this, leading to a fear of risk.

Within our educational bubble, we define risk as an opportunity to take a chance or explore an unknown.  It can involve physical, mental, and emotional tasks.  It becomes an acceptable risk when the consequence for failure is not life threatening nor seriously detrimental to the health and welfare of others.  A risk worth taking must present a substantial benefit that is not off-set by possible treacherous outcomes.

Our children encounter a multitude of risk-taking opportunities everyday.  Some of them seem benign to adults; putting marks on paper, talking to a peer or adult, trying out a new material in play.  Others can make adults nervous, but are important for child development; jumping between two rocks, attempting a joke that ends up embarrassing your parents, hanging upside-down, judging the speed needed to run downhill, using scissors to chop chop chop.

Our job is to assess the risks they encounter and balance the potential of the outcome against the possible danger.

Within our classroom, we recognize the risks children meet everyday provide an opportunity to either learn something new or reinforce previous concepts.  Our job is to assess the risks they encounter and balance the potential of the outcome against the possible danger. Our students should leave school comfortable with taking reasonable chances and willing to try something new.  Innovation cannot happen without a moderate comfort with risk.

We want our children to be able practice assessing risks, as well.  While making decisions about small risks such as drawing something you’ve never drawn before, their neurons are practicing for the bigger risks they’ll need to evaluate later.  In this way, children practice making choices based on weighing the options.

Interested in learning more about risk in childhood?

Risky Play: Why Children Love It and Need It

Outdoor risky play for all

Taking Risks



Climb Aboard!

Our new playground is open! The children in each grade level are helping us experiment with the equipment as we discover its “climb-ability.”


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Environmental Stewardship

While reading about and discussing animal migration, we discovered that some species are forced to migrate due to changing environmental factors. Walruses must move their families as temperatures rise around the globe causing their needed ice flows to melt.  The children were deeply concerned about this.  One child explained that this occurs due to global warming.  He shared that people all over the world are using gas and making smoke that goes up into the air and makes the temperatures go up.  Another child mentioned that sometimes there is trash in the water, as well.

This conversation inspired the children to invent some very creative machines to help clean-up the Earth.

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Little Ornithologists

It is certainly Spring.  We’ve been keeping an eye on our feathered visitors for a few weeks now.  The mother Canadian goose made her annual nest on the island situated within our pond.  This Monday, we discovered that she had left her nest.  We had to search around for a bit, but we finally found her!

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Upon returning from our Spring Break, we noticed two new inhabitants near our pond.


We have been watching them from afar and are beginning to formulate questions about our new feathered friends.  The goose above can be found sitting on the pond’s island, visible from the both the pond and fireplace decks.  The other goose can frequently be found hanging out on our sled riding hill.  We can easily observe the former from our Nature Playground.

This morning, we asked the children where they thought the geese might have been before arriving at our school


We had answers ranging from “Up north” to “Hawaii”.  The children noticed that some of the ideas held connections.  Many places were warmer than Pennsylvania and a few listed the same state.  One of the students added that geese like to go where it is warm in the winter and referred to it as “hibernation.”  This set other children on their toes, with their hands waving madly in the air.  It took us a few tries, but eventually we figured out that it is actually called “migration” and that hibernation is something different.

Our new questions are:

Who hibernates? Who migrates?

We’ve asked the children to help us figure out where to find the information.