The Oaks continue to investigate cartography. We have visitors to Hilltop, so we proposed the need for a map and directions to help people find their way. We talked about the way points the Oaks use between the Preschool and Hilltop Home. The Oaks agreed that there were at least six way points. We have been naming these places since the beginning of the year, and they each have meaning to the children.
On a cold rainy day, we took advantage of our dry, windless indoor space to draw pictures of each way point: The Preschool, The Safe Spot, The Lunch Spot, The Bridge and Benches, The Lookout, and Hilltop Home. The next day the sun shone, and the children worked on gluing all of their Way point pictures in order to show the route between Hilltop and the Preschool.
In addition to practicing representational drawing, this mapping activity was also an exercise in sequencing, an essential cognitive skill that is a key building block for reading, writing and math. Sequencing is the process of putting events, ideas, and objects in a logical order. We practice sequencing every day – our class circle ritual is an exercise in sequencing; we talk about sequencing in stories (what happened first, what’s going to happen next); songs and poems; counting and much more. Parents practice sequencing at home with every day routines. Asking children to think about what comes next is a great sequencing prompt.
As we have children ranging in age from 4 to 6, it was interesting to see the developmental gradient. Some could order and glue and even label their pictures independently and others needed more scaffolding. “Where do we go after the Bridge?” “Which picture is this?”
This week, we played Hide a Penny, a treasure map game. Chelsea and I made simple maps of Hilltop, hid pennies, and marked them on our maps. The children used the maps to find the pennies. Then, in a smaller group, they each made their own maps, hid pennies, and swapped maps. After hunting for treasure and finding most of it, we talked together about what made it easy or hard to follow the maps and find the pennies. Pictures that looked like the actual place were helpful, as were labels and accurate detail. We repeated the activity the next day, giving the first group the chance to add to their maps or make new ones. Maps gained detail and accuracy the second time around, and even included features like a blow-up inset to show the penny location inside a stick fort. Again, the children came into the activity in different places, and we could see that like anything, the more they practice, the better their maps will become. It was exciting to see how a child who is often very reluctant to participate in directed activities was the first to raise his hand and jump in.
Because maps go hand and hand with adventure stories, we also started reading our first chapter book: My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Our new volunteer Carol brought us a laminated map of Wild Island and the Oaks are fascinated. They pass the map around as we read, following the route Elmer Elevator takes as he searches for the dragon. First he takes a boat to Tangerina, then he crosses to Wild Island by hopping from stone to stone (and a whale), then he passes the tortoises and the boars…and then…more trouble is sure to follow. But with a knapsack full of useful things like hair ribbons, rubber bands and chewing gum, he’s ready for anything.
The Oaks designed a stellar physical education activity in the old foundation they call the Ice House. No adult would ever come up with something like this, but they could have done it for an hour (or more). It involved climbing into the foundation, collecting brick one by one, and throwing them out to ground level. Then climbing out and throwing them all back in. Super core strength work out, plus motor-planning and communication. All we did was add the rule that everyone should be out of the way before the bricks started flying.
The Oaks had plenty more adventures these past two weeks, including a romping game of Fox and Rabbits in the pouring rain (like hide and seek and tag with base at the rabbit warren); lots of climbing in and out of the old foundation and up into trees; the tearing down and rebuilding of forts; and digging, mixing and moving the glorious mud. There was time to engage with friends in cooperative play and time to play alone. We found an old paper wasp nest, worm castings, puddles, jelly fungi and many many deer.