We spent the morning in the woods on Friday. After a summer of heavy rains, our fort was certainly worse for wear. After removing all of the fallen logs and sorting them by size, we were ready to rebuild.
I put up the first few large logs, building the base, but after that, the children took charge of collecting sticks and deciding on placement. A few of the larger logs were farther from our construction. Team work was required to move these behemoths through the undergrowth.
One of the largest logs provided us with an addition, almost doubling the size of the design. While we built, the children used their forest journals for the first time. Many drew our new fort.
Once the children deemed the building complete, a few chose to add small details to decorate the inside. Flowers were added as well as a phone. Some of the leaves were swept away revealing a carpet of soft moss inside.
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.
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.