Playful Directions

Mrs. Forst's Pre-Kindergarten Blog


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Rainy Day Discoveries

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Noticing the insect trails in this well chewed stump.

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.

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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.

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(I personally thought this one was quite exciting.  I haven’t seen a wild box turtle since I was little.)

Forest 4s: The Real Woods

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Reading Outside

Such a lovely day, why don’t we meet with our Book Buddies outside?

 


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Fairy Houses on the Move

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.IMG_6299

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.

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Enclosure Schemas

You might recognize some of the play below if you had a chance to read the article we connected with last week explaining schemas in child development.  For the past week, we’ve noticed an increase in enclosure and containment play where the children are creating small worlds or rooms for themselves within non-traditional containment spots.  It does look like they are having great fun, but what are they actually learning? How does this help them grow?

Before you can begin to decide where to hide your body,
you must first know what size you are.

We watched the children navigate through many possible natural enclosures.  Some were too small, some too low, some were too squishy.  As they tried to fit their bodies into spaces between branches, they reassessed and redefined their ideas about their own body size in relation to what they can see.  Adjustments to preconceived ideas, concerning size and shape, had to be made.  When adding structure to an enclosure, angles and length must be taken into account.  Spacial relationships grew within their cognitive and muscle memories.

But can this information really help them?

You know that moment when you are packing up the left-over dinner and you realize you just started pouring the chili into a storage container that is never, ever going to be able to contain all of the remaining soup?  That moment. Right there. Spatial understanding is a part of our daily lives.  How can we organize the books on the shelf? How best to pack the moving van before we traipse across the country for our first real job?

Is that enough?

Not to worry. There’s more.  Now that they have spent lots and lots and lots of time squishing themselves into fun little spaces, they know exactly where their limbs and digits are.  We take it for granted that we know where our fingers and toes end.  When I spin in a circle, I can adequately judge whether or not my arms will strike something. When contemplating a leap across a stream, I can correctly deduce the speed and height I need to make it across.  It is not so for young children.  They honestly don’t know that doing a cart-wheel next to their friend is going to end in a bloody nose.  It takes practice to make the neural connections needed for body and spacial awareness.

Here we are witnessing multiple experiments of enclosure and containment.  Sometimes it involves small items and other times the whole body is involved.  Either way, we bask in the beauty of the human mind at work.


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Dear Friends

This morning we made a dash for the woods, making quick use of the clear skies.  The slightly muddy ground presented us with clues as we headed deeper along the trail.  Beasts had been here.

 

 

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Within a few minutes, we spotted an assembly of bounding white tails leaping away.

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As we quietly snuck forward, the children realized that one had stopped within eyesight.  We stopped, as well, and gaped in awe.

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The Forest Kindergarten: My Own Experiences

Cedarsong Nature Kindergarten is an outdoor immersion program for children ages 2-6.  The children and teachers are outside, regardless of the weather, for between three and five hours per day.  The week I observed, the weather showed a cantankerous spirit, pouring rain each morning.  On most days, the rain abated by 3:00.  Though some might think this a disappointment, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to see how the school and children would adapt.

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I should not have been surprised.  Each child arrived properly dressed in rain pants, rain coat, Bogs, and waterproof mittens.  Who thought a few splashes of rain might intrude upon the learning of young children in a natural environment?  Without noticing the starting and stopping of Mother Nature’s sprinkler system, the children explored, discovered, experimented, and engaged with the world around them.  Thus the most vivid lesson I bring home is a common saying.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” -Ranulph Fiennes

The Entry Point: This structure is used only for snack.

The Entry Point: This structure is used only for snack.

Much of the approach and language used by Ms. Kenny and her colleagues evinced similarities with our own current WT way of working with children.  The language reflectively used was reminiscent of that found in the Responsive Classroom Approach.   This observation added validation to our choice of program management.

The fire pit at Main Camp.

The fire pit at Main Camp.

I was impressed by the children’s comfort with varying weather and temperatures.  We have traditionally avoided rainy weather despite the fact that we believe it is important for children to be outside everyday.  I am interested in looking toward manageable ways our outdoor classrooms can enjoy just as much use on drippy days.

An area for digging and exploring water flow. It connects to "the mud puddle" via a tunnel.

An area for digging and exploring water flow. It connects to “the mud puddle” via a tunnel.

Inspiration also came from watching the children interact with a large variety of natural materials.  Sticks and rocks were used as tools frequently and were always safely handled.  The students had been taught from the beginning how to safely manage these often vilified items.  Most of the plants in the forest were edible.  The children knew how to identify the trees and bushes, knew which parts they liked to eat, and which ones would make the best tea.

The Mud Puddle: everyone's favorite spot for play, rain or shine.

The Mud Puddle: everyone’s favorite spot for play, rain or shine.

The daily flow and emergent curriculum reminded me very much of our own pedagogy at WTN PK.  The lessons of self-reliance, self-regulation, and social interaction mirrored our own truths.  The forest kindergarten view of “risk” is uncannily similar to my own and I hope to write more about this topic in the future.  Many science, language, and mathematics opportunities occur as the day unfolds.  The teachers help the children reflect and focus.  The entire trip reminded me that young children are designed to learn and discover.  Our job is to provide them with a  rich environment for their experimentation.