In many ways, our second Friday together was just as full of new experiences as our first Friday. Our relationships with each other, and with the forest, are still so fresh that everything we do feels new. Every log we pass, every path we take, every interaction between children is something we have not yet experienced. This Friday, the newest of new things we did was venture out to a new play space in the forest! As we continue to get to know each other, we will try out spaces and discover the different ways children play in different environments. This week, the first new thing we wanted to do was play in a new area!
We teachers wanted to try a new play area, that could provide opportunities for play that would be different than Root World. We preselected a space that we thought might encourage children to build shelters, forts, or fairy houses. We eagerly welcomed children to Earthsong in the morning, and let them know we were headed to a new space. We hit the trail, and walked excitedly towards the play space. And then, we were reminded just how exciting new can be! The children saw a downed tree near the path that looked perfect for climbing up. It was not located at the new site we teachers had chosen, but it was definitely a new play space. The downed tree was on an incline, and as one child quickly observed, it was “wiggly”. Successfully climbing up it required balance and precise footwork. Each child who managed to scale to the top exuded pride in their accomplishment, and many children wanted to test their abilities multiple times!
In another area of our new play space, children discovered several dead trees that were still standing. These “snags”, as they are called, are often the homes of many different kinds of organisms and are an important part of a healthy forest. The children were interested in them because they could bend some of them back and forth, and also use other sticks to “saw” the dead trees. They even found sticks of different shapes that could work as different types of saws. Each saw had a different name, and they eagerly showed me how they worked. As they did so, they began to notice ants climbing out from under the bark. We pulled off a few pieces of bark from a dead tree, and the children noticed “so many bugs!!” coming out of a hole in the tree. The tree was full of termites, and they were streaming out from the uncovered hole and crawling down the tree. I observed that it looked like a road they were traveling on, and the children agreed and then took my observation further. They pointed out how many different bugs we found at various areas of the dead tree, and that it was like the tree was a whole “town” or “city”! It was exciting to see the children discover how a dead tree can be like a city through their playful investigations in the forest!
During a day of new discoveries, we did return to the familiar to round out our experience. Even the familiar can hold the potential for new play. At Root World, children took dirt showers and ventured further up the exposed root structure than last week. They are becoming more comfortable with immersing their bodies in the outdoors and with the physical abilities of their bodies. They also took a new interest in the spider webs the decorate the maze of roots, and took to twirling the webs around sticks, much like cotton candy. At one point, the entire group was playing together in an imaginary game of “hide from the dragons”. We discovered that the dragons ate leaves, and that it can be fun to play at being just a little bit scared, sometimes!
When we wrapped up our day by placing new treasure on our almost familiar treasure tray, we teachers could see how the new and the familiar will begin to complement each other throughout our Forest Kindergarten experience. The new treasures on the tray made children excited, while the familiarity of a repeated activity resulted in children sharing more fully about their treasures than last week. As we continue forward, it will be this mix of the new and the familiar that will be where some of the most interesting learning occurs. And the outdoors will always bring us new, no matter how familiar we become, so we know we have a lot of interesting learning to do!