Oaks News from the Wild # 3

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The very tricky lava ledge pass.

One day we headed out to a “mystery location” in Woodend. Last year’s class had a name for this particular tumble of fallen logs, but we have purposefully NOT named some favorite destinations yet this year. The children will find their own names, and in the naming, make these places their own. They are not the same places after all. Wood decomposes and bark falls off, new trees fall, new animals move in, and the children bring their own transformative ideas.

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There are definitely zombies living inside this hollow tree. But they are apparently known to bury treasure right at the just-safe-enough-just-scary-enough opening.

As teachers, we bring our own ideas, but we also leave big spaces open for the children to explore. We often find something interesting and bring it to the play-yard or the classroom – a new wooden pallet, flexible tubing, stumps, boxes, concrete blocks. “What is this for?” a child asks. “I don’t know. What would you do with it?” And his face lights up, and the ideas pour out. And then another child joins, and the ideas join and change. And at some point, the whole thing comes down to make space for something new.

We went on our first class field trip, to the Patuxent Research Refuge and the National Wildlife Visitor Center. Highlights of the trip included a tram ride around the refuge’s wetland habitats, an education program on otters, and a hike to a pond.

On our return we lucked into some rain and a lot of puddles. The children are learning to manage their outdoor gear, and to assess their own comfort level with exploring nature’s gifts of water and mud. Some jump right in, while others watch and dip their toes.

We enjoyed our first visits with our volunteer naturalist Nancy, who joins the Oaks on Wednesday mornings to explore Woodend. A parent volunteer, Nikki, demonstrated a home-made water rocket, which shot high above the Oaks play-yard to squeals of amazement and delight.

Our program is so much about choice, about honoring children’s interests while at the same time offering them space to stretch and grow. On a visit to the “Pooh Tree” the children remembered learning about beech trees on their field trip. They noticed that people had carved letters and names into the tree, and were inspired to make signs to protect the tree. This is emergent literacy – seeing a reason to write, wanting to write, making your mark (just not on the tree!).

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At the same time, some children just need to climb the tree and give it a hug. All are equally important!

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We continued to explore the theme of friendship through stories, games, and of course play – inside and out. It is primarily through play that children gain the robust oral language that underlies literacy, along with key social emotional skills – self regulation, collaboration, negotiation, empathy and much more.

We have some avid artists in the Oaks class, so drawing happens anywhere, anytime. Lately, they’ve been working on large-format collaborative art. Just imagine the discussions as they each add their piece and explain how it all comes together in a story. Emergent literacy again.

On one hike, we collected acorns, chestnuts, redbud seed pods and many other natural treasures. Back in the classroom, the Oaks sorted and counted their finds. Math foundations at this age include counting with one-to-one correspondence, sorting items, recognizing and making patterns, being able to know how many items are there without counting, one-digit addition and subtraction, and numeral recognition. Any time you can count things with children, do!

This week, we started a unit on insects and other arthropods. They are the creatures we see most often at Woodend, so we wanted to learn a bit more about them. We sang the Insect Body Parts song, adding new verses each day. We searched for insects in the woods, under logs, in the meadow and even in the trees using a “beater tray”  –  a white sheet on a frame that catches insects as they fall from tree branches.  We observed insects in the classroom with magnifiers. The children made fingerprint bug art, play-dough insects, and wrote about their favorite insect in their journals.

We conducted a science lab on pill bugs, practicing asking questions, making testable hypotheses, setting up an experiment, recording our observations and making conclusions. One Oak stated, “I think pill bugs will like the dark more than the light, because when I find them, they are usually hiding underneath things like logs.” How can we find out? We used a special tray and covered one side, then counted the pill bugs. This led to more and more questions, as science often does. Do they like sand? Or sand and soil? Or just soil? How about wood? How about plants and soil together? How moist do they like the soil? What do they eat?

The children take time each day at Hilltop to visit their “Sit Spots”, observing what has changed, and taking a few minutes to sit in silence outside.

If you visit Hilltop Home, you will find an elaborate and ever-changing fairy adventure playground. The project started with a few Oaks and some stumps and twigs, and has now expanded to a whole-class design crew armed with color, sparkle and a lot of ideas. There are swings, a zip line, a tight rope, slides, bridges, a ladder, an underground lava-heated pool, and even anchors to keep it in place until the builders return. Notes have been left for the fairies who are sure to have a great weekend of play.

And then we explored, and played and climbed some more!

SONGS We Sang

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

The Insect Body Part Song (to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes)

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

Compound eyes and an exoskeleton

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

(additional verses)

Some have wings and antennae too

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

They come from eggs and

Most have a larval stage

Head, thorax, abdomen

Six legs!

 

Books we read:

Wetlands

Rain Song by Lezlie Evans

The Surprise (Frog and Toad) by Arnold Label

Big Wolf and Little Wolf by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec

I Will Surprise My Friend (Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost and Rick Lieder

Bug Hunt by Neecy Twinum

Bugs – A Closer Look

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Hank’s Big Day  – the Story of a Bug – by Evan Kuhlman

Fly Guy stories by Tedd Arnold

The Amazing Book of Insect Records

 

 

 

 

 

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