Learning from a special teacher … nature!

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 StoneA Decomposing Tree StumpLiteracy on a Log



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