This week we felt that we could really see our group starting to come together as a family of Forest Friends and everyone has started to fall into a good groove. The children have started to pick up on the rhythm of the class, and were ready and excited to start the day right away. They were prepared for our hike mentally and physically, they were ready and excited for the adventures of the day, but also for the quiet of a sit spot and listening with and to nature.
Our hike led us to our sit spot in a field off the path; the moms were sent to go to their own sit spots as Sherri led the children to their own private spot. We played a game of "who can be the quietest" to observe the sounds and sights of the forest. Our Adventurers' energy was beautiful as they found their center during our sit spot, with listening ears we heard birds tweeting, a woodpecker hunting for bugs, geese honking, the wind, and much more. We spotted grass flowing in the wind, geese flying over head, and sticks became a large center of attention as everyone found their own special tool. After some reflection, Sherri blew her flute as a signal for the moms to rejoin the group. The children were excited to see how their moms responded to the call of the flute. The flute serves as a tool for Forest Time Kindergarten teachers to bring the children together and get their attention. The mothers set a good example of listening and responding to the flute quickly, the children were visibly excited to see the flute in action from a new perspective. We believe that having seen their mothers respond to the flute had a positive reaction and our Forest Friends followed their mother's example and responded well to the flute for the remainder of the session.
We hiked a bit further and explored bird houses, counting, and animal habitats. Soon the explorers began to express an interest in snack time so Sherri sent the moms ahead to prepare our hot broth and biscuits, giving the children some time away from moms to see how they responded to the change. We were beyond thrilled with their reaction to the change of pace. Suddenly the children banded together even more and seemed to take on the role of the parents in many ways. Sherri directed our Forest Friends to some acorns off the boardwalk to distract them from their moms leaving, but what happened was beyond our expectations. Our little adventurers began to work as a team to find more acorns and we discussed the different sizes, shapes, how they crack under pressure, what they look like under a magnifying glass (which brought by one Adventurer and he shared it with everyone and everybody did a fantastic job sharing). They gathered around as a team to view various objects under the magnifying glass, discussing the texture and what they thought the objects were. What I was most impressed with was how the friends took on an almost parental role for one another; some of the phrases I heard from them included: "Do you need help?" "You should put your gloves back on, its cold..." "Can I help you?" "Are you ok?" "Let me help..." It was beautiful to watch our sweet explorers care for one another in this way. The children really blossomed during this time and took on a great family and team mentality.
On our hike back to snack time, a few of the adventurers became distracted by a thick, woody vine stuck under a fallen log. They were determined to break it off and began pulling on it. Soon all the adventurers were involved. It was truly a sight to see as they hypothesized methods and tested them out. Every child had an idea of how to remove the vine, and all the children helped to test that idea. It was an interesting study for them of physics, problem solving, and teamwork.
After snacks the kids started exploring the natural play space at W.W. Knight Nature Preserve and most continued to conquer the wooden fort structure. My son, Danny, had fallen from the fort at our last class and got a rather big bump on his head so he had stated at the beginning of class that he would "not like to climb the fort today," but without question or concern, he started climbing the fort when the others did. Risky play is always a difficult thing to watch our children do because as parents it is our desire to keep our children safe and unharmed, but there have been so many studies that suggest that risky play is not only something our children enjoy, but is integral to their development. Check out this article to read up on it more: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201404/risky-play-why-children-love-it-and-need-it
Our Forest Adventurers soon turned towards a patch of ice they had explored in the previous week. It was great to watch how each child explored the ice in their own unique way. Some children jumped right onto the ice patch, while others walked the perimeter first, testing out spots here and there. Children are really wonderful at accessing their own abilities and testing themselves on their own terms. The ice provided a learning ground for physics, taste, texture, fine-motor skills, teamwork, balance, and sound.
After some time on the ice we hiked back to the Nature Center for the remaining thirty minutes of class to read a story in the bird watching area. Sherri noted that even though the children had implored for a book, their eyes remained on the woods through the windows nearly the entire time we convened in that room. To our joy, it was as if the forest was calling them to come back outside and play.
It was a wonderful class as we all grew as individuals and a group and we cannot wait until next week!
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or to book Sherri as a Guest Presenter on The Beneftits of Outdoor Education at your school, church or event.
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