We started these last two weeks welcoming spring, and ended up saying hello again to winter. Be ready for what comes your way. A life lesson – one of many we learn in Forest Kindergarten. Its important to shine the light on these lessons as they happen, with the children. Look what you are learning RIGHT now. Look how hard you worked on that. Look at that teamwork. See it. Name it. Celebrate it.
There is a big difference between praise and encouragement, between saying, “good job” or “you’re so brave (smart, strong, etc)” and giving specific observations about what you see a child doing or trying to do.
What is bravery actually? What does it look like? For one child, it is crawling through a hollow log. For another, it is sounding out words and writing. For another, it is reaching out to play in a new way, or with a new person. We gave a journal prompt “Tell about a time you felt brave during Oaks.” And they all started, “I felt really scared…but then I ….” Yes, you did. Shine that light.
Spring was lovely, while it lasted. We kept adding, “plant peas and greens” to our plan…and then decided we’d better just wait. We started Spring Journals, where each child chose a plant in the Blair Native Plant Garden to observe and document each week. Not this week. Flexibility is another goal!
We took advantage of a fabulous fiber arts exhibit on birds in the Mansion and went on a private guided museum field trip. No bus required. Note the “Art Critic’s Poses” (hands behind backs to remember not to touch) I learned from Lesley Romanoff at the Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School.
We enjoyed some Hilltop time, finding yet again how the addition of new props, loose parts and tools can shake up the play in fabulous ways. The buried bones from the week before started a cooperative digging frenzy, attracting children who are not the usual dig pit customers. After the new outdoor kitchen became a hit in the preschool play yard, I drew a cook top on an old shelf we’ve had at Hilltop for ages, placed it just so on a log with the kitchen pots below, and added some shiny glass tiles. Now that’s a kitchen!
On winter’s first day back, we planned a stream bed hike, from one end of Woodend to the other. It’s not very far, actually, but an hour’s not even enough time. When you “hike” with young children, there is no need to rush. There is so much to see right where you are, always.
And since 90 minutes in the wet and cold is a lot of hardiness (Look how resilient we are!), we headed in to the Mansion to warm up.
Then winter REALLY arrived (finally!). We decided to go sledding, because we could. I honestly hadn’t thought about all the educational value there would be in getting 11 children with 11 sleds safely up and down a very slippery meadow hill (we had a few guests). I just thought it would be fun. But actually, it was a giant lesson in all kinds of essential skills. From gross-motor coordination (climb a slippery, snowy hill pulling a sled) and planning (how do I lean my body to steer and when?), self-regulation (I want to just go NOW, but I have to wait until it’s my turn. Or, my sled won’t go where I want it to!), multi-step direction following (walk up in the grass on the right, wait your turn, make sure the path is clear, sit securely on the sled, push off, stay in the path, roll out if you head the wrong way), risk-assessment (What is safe? If we start from too high up, we get going too fast. If you are heading for the woods, it’s time to bail out), communication (what does “bail out!” mean?), teamwork (“Hold my sled while I get on” “Do you want to ride with me?” “Can I go in the back?” “Are you ready?”), spatial awareness and topography (Actually, your sled won’t go uphill. If you start here, where will your sled go? Where does the hill go? Where are the trees?). And more. Wow. Who knew all the things you need to learn to sled safely? (Stephanie, actually). Then just think about how those skills translate to life. There are not a lot of pictures – the three adults were too busy!
We ended up our week with a campfire day and more fun with the icy snow.
Books we read:
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
Stone Soup by Jon Muth
Brave Irene by William Steig