Forest Kindergarten News from the Wild – Week 9

img_0209One of the most influential books in environmental education (EE) is Beyond Ecophobia – Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel. I have been thinking about the tenets of Sobel’s research-based philosophy this week.

There have been several studies that looked at which childhood experiences are most important to the development of strong environmental values in adults. The answer was really simple. 1.) Many hours spent outside in a wild or semi-wild place and 2.) Time with an adult who taught respect for nature. This is why we do what we do at Audubon.


Getting a different perspective.


If you’ve never tried lying on your back in an autumn forest, we highly recommend it!


According to Sobel and many others, the primary object in early childhood should be empathy between the child and the natural world. We want to create deep emotional connections that help support the larger ecological concept that everything is connected to everything else.


Young children do not yet have the abstract, logical thinking that would allow them to process big, faraway, hard-to-solve environmental problems. Their world is here and now.  Trying to teach young children about the kinds of environmental issues that keep us adults up at night can actually backfire. Children tune out and turn off. Sobel calls this effect “ecophobia” – fear of environmental problems and the natural world. His rule is “no tragedies before 4th grade.”


Don’t worry. Be happy!

This week the Nature Preschool launched the “Planet Pals” curriculum, a preschool EE program that introduces environmental characters as superheroes. While we share conservation values with the children constantly, the Planet Pals offer a concrete framework to talk about and explore specific parts of the environment, and a way to connect the children emotionally. “Mother Earth” is the earth beneath our feet, full of life and giving life. “Green Bean” is all things that grow. “Sunny Ray” becomes not just the far-off sun, but a relatable character with the power to warm you, light your way, and help plants grow.


Collecting samples of “Mother Earth” We found seven different samples of soil from around Woodend.


How do the different types of soil feel, smell, look, and sound? What do you think they might taste like? Their descriptors were mostly tasty food words like chocolate and “sand maple syrup”.


Sampling “Green Bean”‘s garden bounty: kale, sorrel, fennel and chickweed.


Harvesting a little compost


Preparing a corner of the bed


Planting garlic


Checking to see if the Sunny Ray has dried the solar prints


Writing a senses poem about Sunny Ray after a walk around the meadow

We did more directed activities this week, but also gave the children plenty of time to just play. Playing in nature is probably even more important than anything we teach them about nature. Play is where the children connect to each other, and in a deep way, to the wild.


Playing with his dancing shadow


Sunlight on the guardian cheetah


New game: bouncing on the bending bamboo

We want to celebrate the child’s curiosity and sense of wonder. We want to share our own love for a wild place and the wild things that call it home, including the children.

Stories this week:

Frogs and Locusts – oral storytelling about working together to make things better

Under Ground by Denise Fleming

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (We know! It’s a tragedy, but with hope at the end that is very concretely tied to planting that last Truffula seed.)

How Grandmother Spider Stole the Sun – oral storytelling (Native American traditional story)

November Circle Song (to tune of Itsy Bitsy, mostly)

November leaves are lovely

They rustle when I run.

Sometimes I make a heap

And jump in them for fun!

Autumn leaves float quietly down

And form a carpet on the ground

But when those leaves are stepped upon

Hear the crackling sound!

November Closing Poem

I like the woods

In autumn

When dry leaves hide the ground

When the trees are bare

And the wind sweeps by

With a lonesome rushing sound.

I can rustle the leaves

In autumn

And I can make a bed

In the thick dry leaves that have fallen

From the bare trees



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