The other day I found something exciting while walking in the woods.
One of our trees blew down many years ago. This treasure-trove was easily visible inside. I had to share it with my class. I wondered what questions they might ask. “How did those get there?” “Who lives here?” “Why are there so many?” I imagined our next research project drifting into animals in winter or animal homes.
I forgot that children bring their own perspectives to all experiences.
Yes, they looked inside this log and said, “Hey, there’s coconuts in there!” However, that was as far as their interest led them. Instead, they were very concerned about the “mushrooms” growing on the outside of the log.
They decided the log provided a great place for some large motor practice, climbing back an forth across the large tree. A few investigated the jump-worthiness of the stump.As we were about to leave, without any interest in the stash of nuts, one of the children felt the tree had not been fully explored. So he went in.
Obviously, some things are much more interesting than talking about some old nuts. Reminder to self: trust the children. They will find what they need.
Yesterday was our first official Forest Four Day. Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten spent about two hours exploring our Northbound Trail. The undergrowth sprouted up beyond our knees over the summer, leading to a lovely, wild excursion.
Big discussion this morning in the forest: What made this hole? The first discovers were sure it was a snake. Laughing, screaming, and yelling warnings while running through the woods followed. This brought the rest of us in for closer inspection. Many assured us that it was definitely a snake hole. That is until we were presented with another idea.
MF: It is not a snake hole. It is a mole hole.
Mrs. F: Oh, how can you tell?
MF: Mole holes have the dirt pushed up around the edge like this. Moles are bad. My grandpa has them all over his yard. We put little yellow worms in that the moles don’t like and they go away.
VJ: Snakes don’t dig holes. They slither and there are no slithers here.
FD: Moles aren’t bad. They are cute. I held one once and they are cute.
GS: Yeah, moles are good for the world. They help trees and plants grow.
AZ: No, it’s definitely a snake hole. RUN!!!!
After this discussion, some of the children remained to contemplate the origins of the hole. The rest ran off to run from the attacking moles and snakes. It appears it doesn’t matter what is attacking, it’s just fun to run around hiding from the imaginary threat.
Yesterday we experienced many firsts. Foremost was the weather. While we expected the rain in the afternoon, we were caught off guard by the on-again-off-again torrential downpour from 8:30 until around 10:30. Some of us had raincoats, most of us had boots, and none of us melted. All of us had fun regardless of the persistent precipitation.
In addition, our City Campus Pre-Kindergarten class came out to join us for Forest 4s. All together, we had 29 four and five year-olds exploring the wet and drippy woods. Before heading out, our North Hills Campus students made plans for introducing our new friends to the fort, squirrels, sticks, moss and snails.
The weather provided us with added observation opportunities. The extremely damp conditions encouraged previously hidden wildlife to cross our paths, sometimes quite literally.
This little creature, a Northern Spring Peeper, was spotted by one of the children as it climbed slowly up a tree. We had enough time for all of the interested children to stop by and marvel at it’s agile upward movement.
While hiking with Mr. Cooper, this lovely Eastern Box Turtle was spotted by one of our visiting Pre-K students. It was simply ambling along the trail.
(I personally thought this one was quite exciting. I haven’t seen a wild box turtle since I was little.)
Today was a Forest Four day, and what perfect weather we had for it! Last Forest Four day we decided that it was time to move our Fairy House (the stick lean-to) to a new location. With this in mind, we headed out on the trail today with moving on our mind.
Above is an image of the old hide-away. The children spent over 30 minutes moving all of these sticks to the new location. I apologize for not having any photos of the massive undertaking. I, too, was busy hauling logs of all sizes.
Our new fairy house is much bigger and has the potential for many rooms. The children began playing in it before it had even been completed. We are looking forward to future child directed renovations.
It was a blustery, wintry, picture perfect Forest Fours day today! Not only was there enough snow to finally go sled riding, but it was also great packing snow. We had giant snow balls and snow-people galore and many discussion about where the fairies go for the winter. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect morning. I think it’s safe to say that our little snow bunnies quite thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Today, we introduced the students to a new chapter of Forest Fours by implementing a writing component to our day. Each child received a special journal that travels with us while on the trails. The students are allowed to draw pictures of the games that they are playing, the structures they build, or the specimens they see while out in nature (fungus, birds, rocks, deer, etc.). They also are allowed to collect things like leaves or small pieces of moss and tape them into their journals for safe keeping.
In addition to the journals, we borrowed four Polaroid cameras from Mrs. Weber so that the students can take pictures of items that would be too big to fit in their journals. The pictures are then taped onto a page and the students write about what they observed. The journals will travel with us each time we venture into the woods and the children are allowed to fill their journals to their heart’s content whenever they deem it necessary.
Since it’s inception, our class has used Forest Four days to play in an unstructured setting so that they could explore and create at their will. The addition of the forest journals allows students to extend their learning by giving them the opportunity to write, even while outdoors. Through this activity, the students are practicing skills such as fine motor development, phonemic awareness, self-regulation, observation, categorization, identification, and much more. We look forward to sharing our journal entries with you in the future!