STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) is part of daily life for our Forest Kindergarten class. This week the Oaks dove into physics. How do you teach physics to young children? The world actually does it for us, mostly. Children are drawn like magnets to experiment with objects in motion, force, momentum, simple machines and gravity. Sometimes, when they are swinging large sticks or hurling chunks of wood, it helps to remember that four and five-year-olds are still quite new to this planet. They are figuring out daily “what will happen if…”
If you asked them whether they were doing physics experiments, they would definitely tell you no. They each had very specific things they wanted to do, and the doing of those things taught them something about how things work. That’s how children learn.
Because our class is also a balance of child-led and teacher-led activities, we also brought in some math. To prepare for our campfire on Friday, we decided we needed to collect at least 20 sticks of different sizes – fairy-finger sized, finger sized, arm-sized and leg sized. The Oaks collected, counted, compared and sorted wood.
Some leg-sized pieces needed to be cut into smaller lengths with our folding saw.
The children came and went from the stick-sorting activity – there was a fabulous tree next door for more gravity-defying experimentation.
Back at Hilltop, we returned to science as we introduced the Great Sassafras Leaf Mystery. Sassafras leaves were scattered in the fallen leaves, but where was the tree? With Nature Detective partners, the Oaks set out to find six different leaves AND the trees from which they had fallen. A perfect activity for early November when half the leaves are down and half are still up.
Finally, it was Campfire Friday. Since our last post was about risk, I should mention that there’s a great TED talk by Gever Tulley called, “5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do.” Playing with fire is of course one of them. He says:
“Learning to control one of the most elemental forces in nature is a pivotal moment in any child’s personal history. Whether we remember it or not, it’s the first time we really get control of one of these mysterious things….From playing with it, they learn some basic principles about fire, about intake, combustion, exhaust.These are the three working elements of fire that you have to have for a good, controlled fire. And you can think of the open-pit fire as a laboratory.”
For Oaks-aged kids, there is of course a lot of adult direction, supervision and rules about fire safety, but space for experimentation and learning too.
We used our fairy-finger sticks to get the fire started and gradually added the larger ones. Then we cooked up some tasty cinnamon apples and biscuits on sticks for snack. Yum!
Of course, then we had to put the fire out!
And there is always time to hang out in a tree…and read a book!
Stories this week:
The Man Who Tricked a Ghost by Lawrence Yep
How To by Julie Morsted
Leaf Jumpers by Leslie Evans
Sandcastle by Brenda Shannon Yee
The Ash Boy and the Troll (oral storytelling)