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!
You might remember that a few weeks ago one of our students was inspired by our box-0-saurus and created his own horse. Along a seemingly unrelated vein, some of you also might have heard that we’ve been working on writing a play. (I was über inspired by Teacher Tom on this one!) Today, the horse took on a new job and personality. He has been dubbed a “War Horse”. Since we were trapped indoors due to the weather, we had a lot of time for tinkering today.
Just in case you don’t remember, here is how our lovely horse began:
Our play, which will be unveiled in the next few days, underwent some rewriting today. We added new characters, changed the plot a bit, and added an ending. Though it was quite fun to act out our third version of the script, I wasn’t sure if this project was making it into the collective mindset of the students. I was shown just how influential the idea has been when a group began making “props” for the play during our inside “recess”.
While this project was being constructed, I was attending a fashion show on the other side of the room. When I realized there was some major construction going on in the block area, I sidled over to find out what the hubbub was about. I was amazed to find over half the class working on this project. Some of the children wandered in for short periods of time, adding just a few details, while others spent over an hour (throughout the day) on it.
I, of course wanted to know why we needed a War Horse. Why, for the play, of course! Silly me. I guess the fact that there is not actually a war in the play is not really a good enough reason to skip having a War Horse. With all of this focused work, I wanted to know more about the design.
Although at first glance, it looks as though the children haphazardly taped random pieces of cardboard together, they describe it with much more intentional thought. They pointed out a row of pipes that make music, a small cannon at the front, armor to protect it from Army Men, rear defense systems, headphones, and speakers. I find it interesting that the ability to listen to music was considered paramount to at least two separate students. Who knew music was a prerequisite for a War Horse?
Watching them build this creation as a team is inspiring. They’ve gone from creating their first dinosaur with Mrs. Allan (where they built what she told them), to building an Ankylosaurus with me (where I built what they told me), to this. Here, they built what they decided upon without any input from adults. The previous experiences gave them just enough practice to feel confident and ready to experiment with the tools in their own way.