Being out in the forest provides such magnificent opportunities for the children to create theories about the world around them. Every day we find something new that provokes questions and encourages them to create theories about what they observe. The most fascinating moments are when the children bounce these theories off each other and then refine them as they observe the environment over a period of time and gain more knowledge.
“I wonder why that tree fell down?” a child asked about a log lying across the trail. Every child responded with a solid theory to what happened to the tree. Some of the ideas were: Lightening hit it, men cut it down, the wind came, a bear pushed it over, it just died and fell, bugs ate it from the inside, and that it burnt down in a fire a long time ago. Over the next few weeks, they talked it over every time we walked past the log. One day they voted and that was all that was needed to decide that it was the wind that had caused it to fall. Their reasoning for this was that it would have saw marks if it were men, and it would be burnt if it was a fire or lightening, and that it would have more bugs in it if they were to blame! This led us to question what would happen to it next. Would it stay there forever? What animals would use it? These questions stumped the children and they all stood their silently and stared at it and then continued down the path.
At the site we go to most days, some of the children have been exploring a different large log that has been there for some time and is now slowly decomposing. At play time some have been trying to hollow it out and will often find Red Backed Salamanders and Wood Bugs inside. After exploring this log for weeks, one of the children revisited the first fallen log that has become so familiar on our walks down. He stared at it for a few moments silently and then said “Bugs will eat it and then it will just turn into dirt”. The rest of the children added in similar comments about what was happening to the log and a few proclaimed themselves as tree scientists!
These children learned what happens to a fallen tree by spending a few moments everyday over weeks with the same two logs in different states of decomposing. Though literally digging deep into one of them, they were able to investigate what was happening inside and noticed how the first fallen tree wasn’t yet soft enough to hollow out. These children are gaining knowledge by experimenting, playing and observing. It was easy to expand and deepen this interest by starting our class worm compost and creating our new garden from last year’s compost. They will be able to continue to watch the process of how the logs break down in the forest, as well as how their left over fruit and veggies will break down and provide nutrients for our garden.
Written by Nature Kindergarten ECE, Erin Van Stone
It has been such a great start to our second year! The second cohort of Nature Kindergarteners are out enjoying this beautiful fall and discovering all the learning that arrives with it! The last two months have passed so quickly and the children are creating a connection to the forest as well as finding their place in the community in which they are creating.
For most of September the focus was on creating friendships, team building and learning how to safely be part of a group in the forest. This included team building activities such as creating nature art, group discussions and challenges, cooperative games, safety games, learning about cougars and bears and also learning about how to treat others and be a good friend.
We also focused on nurturing the children’s abilities to explore, question, discover, inquire and find information! We did this through asking the children to expand on their thinking through questions, connections and further discussion. We became scientists and used our senses to notice and wonder and then make plans about how we could find out more about what we were observing. After a weekend full of rain a child commented on a log he had found: “I noticed it is squishy, it is different than last time”. We responded by asking what she thought had happened. From there we starting to notice, talk and explore all things water!
Water, Water Everywhere!
As we noticed the children’s interest in water take off we began to plan how we could expand their interest and the learning opportunities the forest was offering us. We found books about water and started a water station in the classroom. Since then the children have been noticing the rain, dew, clouds, fog, and now the frost! We even went to explore in Bee Creek for a few mornings so the children could fully experience what a water habitat was like! Now we are doing an on-going experiment using our observation skills to figure out if water is living or non-living!
Next we are going to work on a projects that bring together all of the learning we have been doing about fall and water! Stay tuned!
Written by Nature Kindergarten Early Childhood Educator Erin Van Stone
Earlier this week, students in Nature Kindergarten received neoprene rain boots and rain pants from Oakiwear. Oakiwear is a Washington state based company. Please consider visiting their website at http://www.oakiwear.com/ to look at their outdoor children’s gear and great prices.
Thank you to Kenneth at Oakiwear for his help in placing our order and for the excellent customer service we received.
There has been growing interest across school districts in the province in the Nature Kindergarten model. Several school districts have started similar programs or are contemplating starting them in the near future. Please follow this link to read a recent Times Colonist story about the Victoria School District.
Please see link for a recent Globe and Mail article on outdoor playspaces and outdoor learning (including Sooke’s Nature Kindergarten!)
Interested in learning more about Sooke School District’s Nature Kindergarten … consider registering for The Nature Kindergarten Experience course at Royal Roads. This year the course will be all day from 10 am to 3 pm on Friday, Dec. 6, Friday, April 11 and Friday, June 13th.
Please follow the attached link to learn more about the OPEN Conference at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific on October 19th.
Open the Door to a Greener Space