We had a small group this week, with 9 children in attendance, which made for some very focused small group time after snack. Kylie offered children a chance to catch bugs, while Amy offered a bird walk and nest building activity. Our small group time is a chance for teachers to get to know children and their interests more deeply, and for children to get focused attention from the teachers. Small group time also helps us plan for the next week of Forest Kindergarten, as we can take what we learn from the children and incorporate it into our discussions with the children the next week and look for provocations in the forest that might help children extend their learning interests.
Amy’s small group started with a bird walk where we looked and listened for birds. The children directed the walk and the direction we took, deciding which spots would be the best places to see birds. They felt like we should find a high spot so we could be closer to where the birds were, and that would give us the best chance to see one. We spotted a downed tree that stuck up into the air, and the kids climbed up it like a mountain. When we couldn’t spot any birds from there, Amy asked if there was another spot we might try. The kids walked us up a hill through the woods until we found another downed tree that made a bridge over a depression in the forest. The kids were all able to sit on the tree, and then we took turns using the pair of binoculars that Amy brought for bird watching. It was exciting for the kids to use this special tool for birding, and they tried out looking at each other and looking from both ends of the binoculars. They also agreed to the challenge of using the one pair of binoculars that Amy had. The 4 children in the group passed the binoculars on to each other when Amy prompted, and willingly shared the binoculars while we birded. The binoculars also led to children investigating other activities happening in nature. When the kids used them to look at the log we were sitting on, they found ants traveling around and a very large mealworm!
Bugs are frequently a provocation that engages children with nature, and just as our birding group got interested in bugs our bug group came back with several of their finds! The children shared their finds with the whole group, and we had a chance to observe how some of the smallest creatures can help children learn skills of nurturing and gentleness. The bug group found several eastern tent caterpillars that are safe for children to hold. They are very soft and most children feel very comfortable holding them. Almost all of our children wanted a chance to hold one of the caterpillars and once the caterpillars were in their hands, the children slowed their movements and calmly watched them move. When another child asked to hold the caterpillar, the children wanted to be the ones to pass them on instead of a teacher helping them. Each time they passed the caterpillar, they very carefully picked it up and gave it to the next child. At one point, the teachers were able to just sit back and watch the children share the caterpillar experience with each other. They showed an extreme amount of care for the living creatures, and asked questions about how they moved, what they ate and if they could take them home. We discussed what the caterpillars needed for living, and the children agreed that we should find homes in the forest for the caterpillars before we left the woods for lunch.
We enjoyed our Friday together as a small group of 9, but we really look forward to next week and more of our friends being back with us as we look for more signs of spring in the forest!