In reflecting about the wide range of strengths in our small class, this excerpt from the article Amy selected for this year’s parent orientation packet came to mind:
“Unlike self-esteem, which often depends on praise from others, self-efficacy develops when children have opportunities to discover their personal strengths. These will range from child to child. Some children discover an aptitude for balancing on logs and ice. Others develop empathy for animals. Still others are good at making friends, at playing cooperatively, or at solving problems.” Even with our small group, it’s easy for the educator team to see a range of aptitudes and passions in the children! We strive to build on their inclinations and encourage them to discover new opportunities through the authentic opportunities that arise in a child-centered, play-based program.
A particularly smooth and easy moment for our foursome of older children happened this week when they found a small frog and wanted to find a good home for it! The emotionally taxing work of negotiating roles in their superhero/bad guy/explorer games just moments before melted away as they came up with a plan for why, when, and how to get the little frog established in a moist and safe new home. They got water from our dispenser, scouted the area, and worked together to get (this year’s!) “Little Buddy” somewhere safe. The Educators took note of some of the prosocial work happening for these older children in the context of Little Buddy. We will be helping the children increase their social-emotional self-efficacy by helping them draw on this moment for ideas of how to use similar language to solve problems and deepen friendships.
Learning and negotiating social norms is a big part of how new groups form, and in play-based early childhood programs like ours, children expend a lot of energy on building community. However, it manifests differently with different age groups. We saw Larkin and Eden crossing the bridge near our play site over and over and observed complex rule-making in the process. They were moving like butterflies and working out how they would take turns, where each would stand to watch the other, and what they would say after they were done watching.
Our emergent curriculum means that we are not just willing to change our plans but actively looking for direction from the children for the most meaningful next steps we can take. We saw a theme emerge throughout the week, which showed us the children’s deep fascination with plant identification. Kylie shared some of her knowledge and passion about plants when she was with us on Thursday, helping children identify muscadine vines and make jewelry from it, dig up and delight in the strong scent of wild ginger, and learn some of the characteristics of poison ivy so they could better identify it in the wild. We we will be incorporating some new invitations and provocations so they can expand upon their interest.
Some children were unhappy on Tuesday about the safety vests we added this year, so we talked to them about ways to make the idea work better for them. Everyone had their own improvements in mind, all of which had to do with aesthetics! So on Thursday before lunch we spent about 20 minutes outside personalizing vests and collecting bags with fabric paint!
Likewise, we followed the needs of the group after a particularly hot and subdued snack time on Thursday. The children kept asking for one more story from our new book of world folk tales. It was such a small and beautiful thing to be able to follow their interest and stay in our cozy circle for nearly 40 minutes listening to Nicollette read! It was a welcome respite from the heat and the children were ready to explore afterwards because the break fulfilled their need for rest more than the loosely allotted 15 minutes would have.
We are happy to have each of your families along for the process of co-creating the best version of forest kindergarten possible!