We have some cozy things to reflect on after a chilly Forest Kindergarten day! As we progress more into the colder months, the teachers wonder what new activities will emerge or be provoked by the temperature each morning or by the changing appearance and feel of the forest. This morning, the temperature provoked pretend fire making while another find in the forest got us building our own bird’s nests!
At drop-off, we continue to look for a space and provocations to attract children’s interest and imagination. This morning, the temperature itself served as a provocation to make us want to move and also think about warm things. We found a little nook in the drop-off meadow, where a semi-circle of raised earth made a natural space to gather and to investigate. To help the first two children who arrived engage with the space, Amy suggested we gather materials to make a fire. We pulled up grasses, found some interesting and fluffy lichens, and invited other children to join us as they arrived. An open-ended activity like building a fire has the potential to invite children with many different skills to play together, and to all feel that they contributed to the play. Amy saw some of our younger Forest Kindergarteners circle the area where we were building the fire and touch some of the materials. They could easily pick up a matching material and pile it onto the fire, or just enjoy observing what other children and teachers were finding! Some of our older Forest Kindergartners were interested in the real questions behind building a fire. Amy picked up a stick and asked if it would be a good one to add to the fire. In response, Sammy acknowledged that the stick would be good for the fire but brought up the point that we didn’t have anything to light the fire with. Amy asked what we needed, and Sammy mentioned a lighter or a match. Since we didn’t have those, Amy wondered back to Sammy if there was anything we could find in the meadow or woods that would help us light the fire without a match or lighter. Sammy wasn’t sure, but the fire activity provoked an opportunity for him to think creatively about the materials we find in nature and new ways they might be used. As the weather continues to cool, building imaginary fires may be an activity to build our fine and gross motor skills, become more familiar with the properties of the plants in our forest, and to challenge our minds to think about ways we could make the fire real!
Nest building was another unique activity during our day, and one that made Amy think about warmth and comfort. The activity was provoked by our discovery of numerous very brightly colored feathers on the forest floor. The dry brown leaves of this time of year made the vibrant yellow and black feathers stand out, and once we had spotted one, we just kept finding more and more. Amy recognized the feathers as coming from the Northern Flicker, a type of woodpecker. Isla, Eden, Sammy, Felix and Maddox immediately wanted to hold one- and we certainly found enough for every Forest Kindergartner to hold onto! (By the way, it is safe to pick up a bird feather. Check this information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) Since we were on the way to Root World, Amy wondered what we could do with the feathers. Isla, Will and Eden were undecided about what play they wanted to do at Root World, so Amy suggested they build bird nests since we had found the feathers. The children began to pile leaves in a circle, and Isla and Eden asked for the feathers that Amy was now holding. They arranged them in a circle inside the circle of leaves, and continued to build at least two other nests. But it was Will who took the bird play the furthest. Once the cozy nests were built, he became a baby bird! He told us that he was a baby bird and requested food. It was a great way to keep other children engaged in his play, and they could bring objects like acorns and berries to his nest to feed him. When he wanted to leave the nest, he flapped his arms like wings, and he even tweeted to the children and teachers once they knew he was pretending to be a bird. Pretending to be an animal like this, gives children the opportunity to learn much more about the animal they are playing and to start to develop an empathy for that animal. Teachers can support the play by asking children to think about what the animal might eat, or where it might sleep, or how it is feeling. If we see the real animal, we can encourage children to observe it and mimic its movements or sounds!
The teachers will certainly observe and identify opportunities for encouraging children to develop animal allies, and learn about animals by actually becoming those animals!
One last note from our day- we found a scorpion in a decaying log at Root World!! It was smaller than Amy’s thumb, and we all got a chance to observe it safely through the plastic of a water bottle. All of the children were very interested and excited to see this animal, and they noticed its pincers and its stinging tail! They made the excellent observation that it could hurt on both ends, but that meant it was ready to keep itself safe. The species of scorpion we found was the Southern Devil Scorpion. If you would like to know more, you can read about them here. There is one other species of scorpion in Georgia (currently), and you can learn more about both species and a third that might be moving into south Georgia here. For Amy, this has been one of the most exciting animal finds of our Forest Kindergarten experience, simply because she hasn’t come across a scorpion since she was a child!! It brought back memories of childhood play, and she certainly hopes that the memories the children at AFK are making with the plants and animals we encounter each week will stay with them into adulthood and make them think fondly of nature!