Forest Kindergarten Oaks


The Oaks class continued our theme of At Home in the Wild this week with exploration of new parts of Woodend, dramatic play at Hilltop Home, and building homes large and small. We are purposefully guiding them to the many magical destinations at Woodend, so that they begin to create mental maps and emotional connections to our place.

We started out the week wet and wild with our first rain day. It was a perfect gentle rain, with just enough water to fill one section of the creek. Before leaving the playground, we watched water pouring off the parking lot through a small hole in the wall. We made guesses about where all that water was coming from. After lunch at the garden, we explored the under-construction rain garden and observed how water will be collected as it runs in from the upper parking lots and road. From there, we decided to walk along the creek bed to Hilltop. The Oaks walked straight through the water, testing their rain boots and gear. (Note: the Montgomery County Kindergarten curriculum this week included a science goal of “make connections between the weather and clothing choices.” Check!).

At Hilltop Home, we set up our tarp tent and found that it kept us all snug and dry as we held our circle meeting and read the book A Dark Dark Cave by candlelight. Our books sometimes tie in directly with our theme, sometimes they are chosen for pure joy of story, and sometimes to inspire new dramatic play arcs. This one did all three as it is about children exploring a cave, which (we discover at the end) was actually a blanket fort full of imagination.

Tuesday we spent the afternoon at our Hilltop Home. We introduced the Oaks jobs at Circle Meeting. The six-leg team started out our job rotations, and the four-leg team will have jobs next week. Jobs include helping with: Lunch, Wagon, Bell, Tent and Share (the “tell” part of show and tell). After reading Stick and Stone, about friendship and kindness, the Oaks got busy with tools, dramatic play and fort-building. The excavation pit yielded many precious stones, which were counted and lined up on a nearby log. With capes donned, the Superheros planned ways to defeat the bad guys, “who want to destroy the Earth!”

Wednesday we read the book Not a Stick (about all the things you can pretend with a stick) and also talked about stick safety. We then headed down to a new log climbing area, still to be named. There are always things to see and do along the way, like a deer, a hollow tree, mushrooms and a butterfly wing. At the climbing area, the Oaks all worked together to plan and build a bark roof between two fallen logs. This was the first time they really joined as a larger team to problem-solve and work together towards a goal – two of our key Forest Kindergarten goals.

Thursday we had our first birthday ceremony. We are using a Montessori ritual with the birthday child circling the sun for each year of her life and sharing what she could do at each age. Our birthday girl proclaimed that she will “Climb a really high mountain” now that she is five. We read the book We Were Tired of Living in a House. We brought real nails for the real hammers, talked again about tool use and safety, measured logs and drilled many holes. Some of the Oaks worked on building smaller homes for the toy insect families, as well as a “front porch” for one of the forts.

Today we read Home, which uses beautiful illustrations of people and animal homes from around the world, to inspire building ideas and thoughts about homes. We trekked all the way across Woodend from Hilltop to the Bamboo Castle. As we looked down at the bamboo, we saw a fox, sitting with ears perked watching us. What a welcome!

After snack, we unveiled our brand-new child-sized bow saws! They are made by Haba, but only sold in Europe. We talked a friend into bring us two from Switzerland. They are tiny, but just right for the Oaks’ hands, and they are real tools. After a safety demonstration, the children practiced solo-sawing and also team sawing. Each chose the size branch they felt like tackling. Forest Kindergarten ingredients: fine and gross-motor practice, plus a lot of negotiating, turn-taking and team work. Then add a dose of self-confidence and pride to round it all off. They only let go of those saws because we promised we’d have them all year. And the bamboo was calling…

So, we headed into the dark and just spooky-enough bamboo castle. This large grove of bamboo is down by the amphitheater and offers a few rooms within the towering bamboo, as well as tricky passageways between the open spaces. At least one Oak attempted to climb straight up! Others warned us that one of the rooms was actually a poison cave. We will definitely be going back there next week, because who can resist a poison cave? Trouble and danger are key to dramatic play, which  is key to the development of rich oral language and social skills. Plus, we barely got started learning how to tie bamboo together with twine, and we need to become experts in order to construct our Hilltop shelter!

Next week: animal homes, more bamboo and pond exploration, building and play, and a trek to the Far Corner of Woodend.

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