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!
This week, we had the opportunity to introduce the Fairy Tale Trail to the Pre-K students. It is one of our smaller trails, but has been beautifully embellished with a variety of whimsical decorations from the older students. Today, we were able to spend an extended period of time exploring the ins and outs of the Fairy Tale Trail on our Forest Fours day. It didn’t take long before the children made an exciting discovery! Someone had taken three of my painted “Story Stone” houses (that were meant for the small world table) and placed them on the Fairy Tale Trail! They naturally thought that I had placed them there but after learning that I had nothing to do with it, they had decided that fairies must have used their magic to put them on the trail and turn them into fairy houses. Fairy magic is some pretty amazing stuff!
Now, they are commissioning me to make more fairy houses that can live on the trail. After all, winter is coming and every fairy needs a place to live. So don’t be surprised if you show up to school only to find me stealing rocks from the playground or covered in paint in the classroom. It’s messy job but someone’s gotta do it!
There is nothing better than enjoying snack outside on a beautiful fall morning!
Yesterday, we joined together with the city campus Pre-K class for our annual Nature Day. Our nature explorers spent the whole morning playing, exploring, collecting, climbing, and making new friends. We even got to climb on a large tree that had been cut down on our property. The students couldn’t believe how big it was and were so excited when they figured out how to safely climb on top of it. We also spent some time introducing the new nature playground climbing structure to our new friends. We ended our picturesque day with a singalong and a picnic lunch. We are so excited that the students had some unstructured time to get to know one another and we cannot wait to everyone together again!
Taking appointments at your convenience!
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!
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!