The North Branch Nature Center's Forest Preschool spends the majority of its 3 hour session outside. We hop, scamper and flutter down the trails like our favorite animals, we name the different colors we see in the autumn’s changing leaves and we snack under our favorite White Birch tree. Our home base is “Deer Camp,” a magical place in a stand of old White Pines on the border of the North Branch Nature Center’s property. Learning outdoors is fun, adventurous and full of surprises, and safety is always at the forefront of our thoughts. Our 3-4 year old students need to stay close to us so we can monitor potential hazards and risks and capitalize on spontaneous teachable moments. We introduced the idea of “Safety Sticks,” as visual reminders to stop along the trail. These sticks are approximately 3 feet tall – just about preschool eye level – with brightly colored thread wrapped around the top. At Deer Camp, one of the teachers tied the same brightly colored string on the trees to act as the boundary of the area that students could explore.
We planned for a brief “Scavenger Hunt” to look for the colored thread and learn the boundaries of Deer Camp. We expected this to be a quick little walk before breaking into small groups to play, but little did we know that this was the basis for our adventure for the day!
We took a slow loop around the camp and when we returned to the beginning, there was an emphatic, “Again!” and we took a second lap. Students asked if they could make their own safety sticks along the perimeter, and we happily agreed. Each student received a section of colored thread and practiced tying knots as we walked along the perimeter a third time.
The next session, one week later, Zach and I brought a few pairs of children’s safety scissors and a few skeins of thread in case students were still interested in using string. Every single child wanted to cut for themselves and so we worked with small groups to cut. Many students needed help with holding and using scissors, which was an excellent opportunity for practicing fine motor skills and proper care for materials.
Besides the satisfaction of successfully cutting, kids were excited about playing with string in many ways:
What else can we do with string and scissors? With a little imagination, the options are endless!