It was our chilliest morning yet at Forest Kindergarten, but our Forest Kindergartener’s were prepared for the cold! Several layers, boots, and their rain suits meant the cold was not the focus of our morning. While we still felt the cold, it was not the main focus of our morning. Instead, it felt like the cold simply influenced the choices we made when engaging with the forest. We slowed down a little bit, sought out spots in the sun, and played in a not-quite-new spot!
After drop-off, we took a very leisurely walk to our first site. The cold weather has motivated some of our neighbors at Earthsong to cut firewood, and there is a lovely opening in the forest just a little bit above Root World where scrap wood and logs are gathered. The small logs and leftover pieces of cut wood make wonderful loose parts for children to play with. Loose parts are open-ended materials that children can engage with and manipulate in thousands of creative ways. There is not set way for loose parts to be used, so children get to be as creative as possible. The teachers respond to how children use the loose parts with questions, discussions, or simply observing and documenting children’s actions. These observations, photos and writings help inform the teacher’s about what children are learning during their play and what paths of further exploration and discovery we may want to pursue with the children in the future. It was incredibly interesting to observe the several different ways children ended up interacting with the logs!
One of the first children to take in interest in the logs was Isla. She was very interested in moving some of the logs up the hill and making a bigger log pile. In a short amount of time, she assessed which logs were small enough for her to manage on her own and which ones she needed help with. She was proud to show Amy how strong and capable she was to move a log, and first tried to pick up two of the smaller logs at once. When she was unable to manage to get both in her arms, she asked Amy to carry them for her. Amy asked Isla if there was a different way she could get the logs to where she wanted on her own. Isla assessed, and decided to move just one at a time. She showed Amy that it was still a little bit of effort to pick up just one, and Amy acknowledged the weight of the logs and encouraged Isla to keep up the heavy lifting! In the span of less than 10 minutes, Isla had a chance to assess and push her own physical abilities by setting a goal for her play with the loose parts and seeking ways she could attain it on her own. She was able to move several logs to a play area where Amy had previously set up our mud kitchen wares. Other children were also interested in the mud kitchen area near the logs, and began to set up their play in this spot. Will, Eden and Maddux joined Isla in this spot, and a different use for the loose parts logs began.
Will showed a great deal of focus with the combined elements of the loose parts logs and the mud kitchen. 3 logs of about equal circumference and height were lined up side by side, and Will placed a cake pan on one that he carefully filled up with dirt. Once the pan was full, he proceeded to do something very interesting to the teachers. He carefully poured out nearly even amounts of dirt on each stump! To do this, Will had to estimate the volume of dirt that was in the cake pan and then have the fine motor control to carefully pour out a small enough amount on the first stump and second stump so that he would have enough dirt left for the third stump. That he was able to fairly successfully divide the dirt into three equal parts without having to go get more dirt or wipe some off of each stump, shows that he is creating the building blocks of some very important math skills! After he had his dirt piles on the stumps, Will continued his play by patting down the dirt on each stump and adding leaves to it. It was exciting to see his attention to his play and to symmetry in the mud kitchen products he made with the dirt!
We had a smaller group of 6 children this week, which meant that we were able to stay for a longer period of time in areas that usually feel too claustrophobic for our larger group. Sammy and Wendell responded to the smaller group by finding a small climbing area up a tree where they could sit and talk to each other. The cold temperatures may have also contributed to their desire to have a quiet morning up in a tree! It is interesting to think about how group size and temperatures impact our play, and change the dynamics of what we do and how the children interact with each other and the forest. The weather certainly felt like good snuggle up in a cozy spot weather, and Sammy and Wendell took advantage of it!
One of Amy’s favorite moments that came as a result of the weather was when we exited the forest for the day! There is still a decent amount of leaf cover, and the mature trees provide a lot of shade in the forest. The temperatures remind very cool all morning long, but when we crossed the threshold from forest to the grass covered and sunny parking area- we all immediately felt the difference! Children listened to their bodies and lay down in the sun almost immediately! It felt so good to feel the warmth of the sun on all parts of our bodies, and just to stretch out and enjoy feeling the energy of the sun recharge our bodies. It is hard to think of a better way of growing an understanding of how powerful and important the sun is to our daily lives. It was also a chance for the children to share in a group experience and see how we can all have similar bodily and emotional responses to an environmental stimulus! Maddux helped us finish our “cat nap” time by checking in on each child and helping encourage them to get back up!
We will continue to pay attention to how the changes in weather impact our play and how our bodies feel. Thank you, families, for dressing your child in layers and helping them wear the gear they need to manage different environmental conditions. As we learn more about how the children respond to different temperatures, the teachers will communicate if your child needs more or less layers or other gear to continue their active play at Earthsong!