To have meaningful work is a tremendous happiness

This week, we focused on establishing our forest helper jobs for children. Every week of Forest Kindergarten, we look for ways children can contribute to the processes of making our day happen.  This could be as simple as stacking their bowls after snack to the more complex job we introduced this week of safely and responsibly putting out a camp fire. Jobs ensure the children understand the importance of their role in Forest Kindergarten, and also help them learn about different aspects of being outside and caring for the environment.  They also help build other cognitive skills, physical skills, and social-emotional skills! The jobs we focused on this week were our lunch set-up crew, and our fire clean-up crew.

It was so much fun to have a fire again this week! We were able to get our to our fire circle sooner, and there were still visible flames for children to observe. They noticed that the flames were orange, and Amy wondered aloud if there were ever different colored flames. Wendell commented that blue flames were the hottest, and a few other children agreed. Some children expressed surprise at this fact, since they associated blue with cold. But we enjoyed learning this new information about fire! When it was time for us to put out our fire, Amy selected a small group of 4 children to stay with her and learn how to make sure a campfire is completely out.  Maddux, Eden, Mabry and Ellie were eager to learn what jobs were required to safely put out the fire. They first spoke with Amy about why it was important to put out a camp fire. The children were not sure why we could not let the fire keep burning, or why we couldn’t just walk away from the fire. Amy asked them to think about if fire could ever hurt anything. Ellie came up with the idea that if we left the fire burning, a deer might walk through it and get burned because the deer wouldn’t know how to stay safe from fire. The other children agreed that if we left the fire burning in the circle, animals might fall in and get hurt. The children showed that they could make connections between how we knew our own bodies could be hurt by fire and that animals bodies would probably also get hurt by fire.  Amy asked the children if the fire could ever move out of the fire circle and burn the plants and leaves in the forest. The children were not sure if this could happen, so Amy explained that if we did not watch our fire or completely put it out when we left it, the fire could move out of the circle and catch our forest on fire. There were no visible flames now, so we put our hands over just the very edge of the circle and felt how hot it still was- even when we couldn’t see any fire! The children recognized that we couldn’t leave the heat, and wondered how we could make it not hot anymore. We then took turns with our fire jobs. Amy explained that the first thing we would do was pour water on the fire. The children loved hearing the sizzle and watching the smoke rise up after we poured water on the fire wood! After pouring water, Amy asked the children if it still felt hot near the fire.  It did, so we moved to our next fire job. We dug up cold, wet soil from around the forest and poured it on top of the fire wood. We kept doing this, and then mixing the soil in with long sticks, until the children noticed that there was no more smoke coming off the wood. Amy then asked the kids to only watch the last step, and reminded them that the wood and coals might still be hot. The last step was Amy gently touching the wood and coals to see if any heat remained. They were all cool to touch, and Amy then let the children touch them and test it too. Amy checked with the children, and we were all satisfied that we had put out our fire completely and it was safe to leave it. Amy let the children know she would return with one more round of water, just to be sure, but we had done a great job all together!

Lunch is another time when children can really help make our day at Forest Kindergarten run smoothly.  We are planning to take turns each week with different lunch helpers. Currently, every child is responsible for picking up their carpet dot and placing it in the circle.  Once children have placed their dot, they can sit down and get ready for the lunch helpers to pass out our silverware and napkins. Lunch helpers who get assigned the job of passing out spoons have to be able to make sure each child gets a spoon. They have to know that there is one spoon to be given to every one child, and have the patience to go all the way around the circle! Our napkin helpers have a similar task, and it is important for them to make sure every child in the circle gets one napkin.  If a child is in the restroom, and not sitting on their dot, the lunch helper must still recognize that they need to put one spoon or one napkin on that spot. Children who help will learn different ways to make sure they get each child a spoon and a napkin. Some may start to count and make sure they hand out 13 spoons and napkins (not forgetting themselves!) Others may prefer to make it a social activity, and ask the other children if they have a spoon yet. The teachers will continue to help and support the lunch helpers, and keep track of who helps each week. Every child wants to help, so it is important for the teachers to ensure all children get a chance at these important jobs!

A job we have mentioned to children that they have all helped with is making a compost bowl after we finish our meals. We have briefly talked about what happens to the food we don’t eat, and how we can use it to make good soil for growing new food. The teachers would like to continue to think about this job, and other ways to involve the children in composting! We will update you on how we go about this, and if you compost at home, we encourage you to talk with your children about how they can also do this at Forest Kindergarten!