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Friday, October 30, 2015

Watershed Wizards At Work

Twinfield third and fourth graders are exploring the patterns of Earth’s features by  transforming themselves into watershed wizards.  Building upon pre-ECO classroom explorations of landforms, we've ventured out into the autumn woods to investigate the lumps and bumps that form the diverse Vermont landscape.  Our challenge has been to design mini-watershed models using natural objects and shower curtains and answer the question of "Where does the water go?  What does it carry with it?".  
The landforms we included are the Green Mountains here, over there is the Lake Champlain Basin.  
Where do YOU think the water will flow?   What natural and man-made things should we experiment with to see if our theories are correct?  

And now for the rain storm---where DOES the  water go?

That is NOT what we thought would happen! Look out!

Marvelous mud!  Where do you think the water that made this mud will flow as it leaves our campsite?  

The work of the watershed wizards is done for the day!
Welcome is moon upon water
Welcome is a warm shower, clean clothes, delicious soup
Welcome is the dragonfly on water
Welcome is water to our crops, thirsty trees, and dry throats
Welcome are ducks on water, fish in water, birds above water
Welcome is a day by the lake, river, or ocean
Thank you to water as it flows across our watersheds and landscapes! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dirt Time; A Photo Journal

Ask any Forest Preschooler what they think about being outside and getting dirty and it's quite likely you'll hear rave reviews. In fact, one child came up to me one day half covered in mud from the mud kitchen and exuberantly shared, "Look at my mud!"

As the landscape transforms, we at Forest Preschool will be experiencing a sensory feast this fall, mucking about immersed in nature, and joyfully learning along the way! Harvesting, sorting, excavating, cooking, climbing, constructing, crushing, and creating are some of the things we'll be inspired to do in our outdoor classroom when the fall session begins on August 30th.

Get inspired yourself and enjoy the following photo journal of Forest Preschool "dirt time" last fall!

It's autumn and seeds are everywhere! As an end cap to a morning exploring the world of seeds and how they disperse, we treated ourselves to a Staghorn sumac tea party beside the North Branch. After harvesting sumac nearby, discovering seeds inside the fuzzy fruit, we made tea using a Kelly Kettle and then enjoyed the fruits of our labor on a gorgeous October morning.
Excavating at Mud Kitchen before the rains came.

Exploration at Mud Kitchen after a rain. "It's a mud flood!" one Forest Preschooler declared!

It's a great apple year! Harvesting, snacking on, and grating apples to make apple salad at Deer Camp has been a highlight.

Hard to beat eating an apple while sitting in an apple tree!

Grinding wheat berries into flour to make bread dough for roasting later in the morning. 

Roasting apples and bread on a stick over the fire at Deer Camp.

Discovering what's inside of an acorn and sorting nut "meat" from the shells. 

The "children's house" or "beaver lodge" cooperatively built and played in for many days.

Fishing! We love rainy days and puddles at FPS!

Rain art using chalk on a wet block of wood.

Painting with natural ink made by crushing grapes that were harvested at Deer Camp.

The tightrope walker!

Paddling a "long canoe" to "an island" at Deer Camp and snacking on a wild harvested apple to refuel along the way!

And so, onward we paddle, towards an unfolding story at Forest Preschool that tells of vivid imagination, growth, child centered learning, a sense of agency, connection, and dirt.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"I notice" and "I wonder" discoveries

Today, students look closely at medicinal herbs.  They draw, describe and name a plant based on its physical attributes. Students craft questions that begin with “I wonder” or “I notice”.  On this mid-autumn day we release the assumption that knowing facts is more important than noticing qualities. We are scientific observers of our woodland ECO camp.

Students explore and observe calendula flowers I brought from my garden. One student spends the better part of a half hour sketching the layers of the flower it with a pencil. She has discovered the serrated edges, the layering of ring after ring of petals. She draws what she sees in this moment with care and attention.

Another student stops at a stand of seeding sunflowers. 

      “Wait, does this sunflower actually create sunflower seeds?” 

She proceeds to dissect it and find dark black sunflower seeds just like the ones she eats from a grocery store Planters' brand bag. The seeds are tucked below the waning composite flowers of the seed head. 

      “Wow! Can I, like, eat this? Can I take this back to share with my classmates?”

Excitedly, she returns to her classmates with this discovery at our closing circle. 

Today began with “I wonder” and ended with “I discovered!” Making a discovery is often accompanied by excitement which triggers specific neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These chemicals create a memory that lasts longer and is filed differently than fact recall memories, such as those we absorb from a lecture or read in a textbook. It takes a bit longer to discover the world around us than it does to absorb it from a lecture. ECO gives us the opportunity to take the time to wonder and notice in tribute to long lasting memories. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spiders, and Crickets, and Grasshoppers, oh my!

  Last Friday I ventured out with Twinfield kindergarten teacher, Sharyn Baum, and her eager  students for our first ECO outing of the year.  The focus of our first outing is to get to know each other and our outdoor classroom, all while practicing the ECO routines and rhythms. 

It was a pretty chilly morning, so we were happy to venture out of the shady woods of our base camp into "Milkweed Meadow" to continue our scavenger hunt.  The field was alive, with students finding daddy longleg spiders, grasshoppers, and crickets with every step.  We even found a pair of mating grasshoppers like the ones pictured above! (Photo credit: Mary Holland)  Don't worry--we gave them their privacy back after just a few minutes of checking them out in a jar.  One child in particular found he had a real knack for catching grasshoppers.  He caught three in about five minutes!  He was beaming, having discovered a new-found talent and feeling a level of awe from his five year-old peers. 

Moments like this, where children uncover parts of themselves that shine in the outdoor classroom, are why I love being an outdoor educator.  During our inside circle time on the rug, this same child was 'wiggly' and had a hard time keeping hands to himself.  Outside, these same attributes that were challenging inside, were assets that helped him excel in gaining a closer look at the natural world around him.