Our apprentice teacher Jess subbed for Amy while she was away at a conference. I asked Jess to write up some of her reflections about working with the children for our blog. I was drawn to this theme of interdependence that she touched upon so I offer this selection from her writing to share with you here! Thanks for your thoughtful presence with the children and your close attunement to their intricate development, Jess!
The air was crisp. The ground was covered in leaves. The spiders, grasshoppers, and caterpillars that usually greeted us at drop-off were out of sight. As the kids arrived, they zipped their jackets, sipped warm tea, and Sammy announced, "It smells like snow!" While it wasn't cold enough to snow, it was noticeably cooler than our first five weeks. Fall was here, hopefully to stay.
After welcoming everyone to the woods during morning circle, we headed down the upper trail to our first play site. Quickly, the kids dispersed. The kids’ energy level mirrored the energy level in the forest. Maybe it was the cooler temperatures, or maybe it was the quiet of the forest. The kids moved more slowly than normal. But as the forest came to life, so did the kids.
Some of the kids were busy building. Wendell and Sammy were using sticks as saws to pretend to cut down trees. Maddux was collecting sticks. When his arms were full, he would head to one of the holes he was using to display his collection. He would arrange the branches in his hole as if he was arranging flowers in a vase. He proudly announced, “I’m building trees”. Maddux approached Sammy and Wendell and said, “I made a surprise for you. Come see.” Sammy and Wendell followed Maddux. When they arrived, Wendell asked, “What are we supposed to do with it?” and Maddux replied, “Anything you want to do with it. I made it for you!”
Luke discovered some bright green moss near the base of a nearby tree, climbing about a foot up the trunk. Luke stroked the pillow-like moss with his hand. He squatted down admiring the moss. He sniffed the moss. Occasionally, he would call out “Come smell the moss.” At some point, each of the kids stopped by to check out Luke’s find. When Will, Eden, Mabry, and Isla came to see the moss, they too seemed mesmerized. They stroked the moss, smelled the moss, and commented on its fern-like pattern. The moss was so soft, they thought fairies might sleep on it at night. Some of the kids started picking the moss and holding it up to their cheeks like tiny pillows. Distraught, Isla said, “Don’t pick the moss. You’ll kill it.” The kids tried to patch the moss back together. Every time they set the moss back in place, it would roll down the trunk to the base of the tree. They tried again and again. Frustrated, they asked an adult for help, “Can you put it back?” Collectively, they pieced the moss back to together. The kids huddled around the base of the tree smelling, touching, and looking at the moss without uprooting it from its home at the base of the tree. Isla’s observation changed how the kids interacted with the moss; a profound example of both the power of peer learning and the ease with which behaviors rooted in kindness sometimes catch on.
In the forest, the kids are learning about how to interact with each other and the natural world. In the first story above, Maddox is trying to invite Sammy and Wendell to play by making them a gift. In the second story, the kids are finding ways to interact with the moss, a living thing that calls the forest home. Isla’s observation prompted the kids to reconsider how they were playing with the moss. Not only did they stop picking the moss, they tried to replant it on the trunk of the tree and find ways to play with the moss without hurting it.