News from the Wild #20

Emotions always bubble at the surface when you are five or six. And now, with spring truly launched, there is change in the air. The children know by now what comes next. Spring means the school year is winding down towards summer. Then comes fall and the great unknown. What will Kindergarten or First Grade be like? Some of the children can and will tell you that’s what they are thinking about. Some of them just pick up a little anxiety like radio signals in the air. It flickers out, causing small social fires. They know some of what will be expected of them. “I don’t know how to read,” one tells me. “I can’t write it,” says another.

But you do. You can. Reading and writing are so much more than decoding the letters on a page, more than sounding out and printing words. Yes, that’s a part of it, but it’s like the turret on top of a indomitable castle. There’s a solid foundation, three-foot-thick walls, and buttresses holding the whole thing up. Before you read, you have to love stories, you have to have a sense of the way tales are spun. Before you write, you have to have your own story. Before you do either, you need words and ideas, lots and lots of them. In the words of British educator James Britton, “Reading and writing float on a sea of talk.”


Notice how each of these children is doing his/her own thing? Some are weeding, some are eating the weeds, some are watching. Some aren’t even in the frame. They are each in their own story. And it’s all learning.


The planting brings everyone together in the gardening story. First we weed, then we add compost, then we build the trellis, then we plant peas and we water…and hopefully for a grand finale, we eat!


If you let them, children will create their own individual lesson plans: Notice plants growing in the bottom of the compost. Investigate clues. Identify sprout as a pumpkin “Look how it’s coming out of the seed!” Remember the Halloween pumpkins that got composted last fall. Decide to rescue sprout by planting it in the garden where it can get sunlight. Mark it with a sign. “How do you write pumpkin?” 


It looks like a sunny day, but there is of course danger in this story. A hurricane or bad guys or both…where is the safe zone?


This hideout is alternately a safe castle or a dungeon. It changes. They discuss it and come to an agreement – because play revolves around agreement on the story you are all in.


It’s moments like this, bathed in light, together in a bush, immersed in a story of their own making.


You are also safe if you can get into a tree that no one else can climb to. Perfectly safe, 10 feet off the ground. That’s his story.

We continue to talk about the important things in life: kindness, bravery, resilience, encouragement, respect, empathy.


Wagon team getting up the hill


The weatherman was wrong about clouds but no rain, so we huddled in a stick shelter for circle and story.


Resilience is being wet and cold and squashed together and still being able to respectfully talk and listen.

We read a book that for me was love at first word. Mattland, by Hazel Hutchins. It’s about a kind of play that I fear is being lost – about creating something out of what you find. It’s about connection and friendship. A lonely boy builds his own small world in an empty lot, and without saying a word, makes a friend. We talked about going to new schools and different ways to make friends. Some people talk to new people right away. Some people wait and watch. Some people, like Matt, just start playing.  Then the waiting and watching children come closer and closer still.


Building Oaks Land


Some dive in, some wait and watch.


Just look how many stories there are here. Dragon lair, tunnels, bridges, rollercoasters…and more. 


Warming up with March Wind Blows. A game of connections.


Once upon a time, I found a Giant Worm…

As far as the sea of talk goes, there is really nothing better than spending your days in nature. Always changing, always full of stories. As part of our Signs of Spring unit, we started looking at arthropods. This week, we built pit traps and went on a spider hunt.


Digging an insect pit trap


How much soil can we put in the bottom to make them comfortable, but not let them out?


Language counts: We are scientists setting up a sampling site at our monitoring station.


Look what we found!


Every single pocket in this root ball has a resident spider!


Look what I found! The treasure tree is full of stories.


Confidence is one of those stalwart building blocks. “Belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.”


Visitors! The afternoon Saplings visit Hilltop Home. New people, new play, new stories.


Kid-built obstacle course.


What’s changed in the Blair Native Plant Garden in the last two weeks? A lot!

There is so much more to the story of building the foundations for literacy. There are chapters on core strength and fine motor skills, on crossing the midline, on understanding symbol, on sequencing, on making connections, and yes on awareness of phonemes. But mostly it’s about making meaning from the story and have a deep well of words from which to draw upon. So, parents, be aware of your own anxiety about what comes next. The best thing we can do for both literacy and emotional growth is to talk and to read and to talk some more.


The pond finally looks like a pond!


A little help for a friend


We made an island and a lake.

Thunderstorms were forecast today, so we headed inside for an indoor arthropod hunt, some games and indoor play.


There is an evil queen in this castle land, and booby traps…


Snail’s Pace Race


Small world dramatic play – who’s in the animal family? What will happen? (characters and plot) What is that cat (?) up to?


Tall tall towers. Patterns in construction…math in play is another story.


New partnerships form when you both love the same game: Obstacles. Games can also be stories and this one is one of the best. How will we use these tools to get past the obstacles and back to home?

Books we read:

Equinox story (oral) from A New Beginning by Wendy Pfeffer

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano

Finding Spring by Carin Berger

Mattland by Hazel Hutchins

Spiders Spin Webs by Yvonne Winer

How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer,

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder


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