Natural Explorers: Reflections

Our first few weeks have been about learning to be together! We have done many activities and explorations designed to foster the building of this learning community.

GREEN! Summer leaves are green; grass is green; moss is green. So many shades of green. Weexplored green with paint, bee’s wax crayons, and collage materials.

FOXES! “Silent Fox” is a symbol we use to focus attention. We read many fox stories and talkedabout fiction and nonfiction, types of foxes, and fox facts. We made a list of what we need andwhat foxes need. “Foxes don’t need clothes to keep warm. They have fur.” “Foxes live in dens!” “A fox needs water.” “And food! Foxes need food!” “What do foxes eat?” We used the classroom loose parts (blocks, fabric, gems, tables, chairs) to build fox habitats –small scale and then kid scale. Friends were learning to work together and share classroom resources.

MEASURING! What began as a “find something longer/taller than this ruler” and then “find something shorter than this ruler” challenge evolved into listing, counting and measuring. So much exploration overseveral days! “The chairs is taller than the ruler!” “This pencil is shorter.” “My stuffie is seven long” Then friends started asking, “How tall am I?”

Another day we learned that a fox’s tail can be as long as 22 inches. We counted off 22 inches and cut pieces of yarn to the length of a fox’s tail. We found things longer and shorter. “Hey, I’m taller than a fox’s tail.” “We are all taller than a fox’s tail!” Then we tried to make a line of wood blocks that would be the same length as a fox’s tail. It was a challenge to find the combination of blocks that would match.

WILD GOOSE FARM! So much joy in the woods. The children bring their imaginations, creativity and energy. It was magical! Stick play was definitely a favorite. Transporting sticks, buying and selling sticks at the stick store, swinging sticks, breaking sticks, jumping with sticks, using sticks as a tool – so many things to be done with a stick!

CLIMATE RALLY! These young people did an amazing thing – giving voice to what to what they value!

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable – Kenyan Proverb

Expedition Friends: Mapping

The name for our Expedition group (ages 5-8) came about in a very unplanned way. On our first day, I knew that I wanted to take the children outside after lunch to provide some quiet time for the younger children. I remembered from Winnie the Pooh that Christopher Robin would often suggest that his friends embark on an expedition, and I thought that would sound adventuresome. The children now expect that we will go on expedition of some sort every day, and I refer to them as Expedition Friends.

Our first expeditions were simply to gain a better sense of place. We walked around the GreenSpace building. I asked the children to pay close attention to what they saw and heard. We came back from that first expedition and created a list of all the things we remembered from our walk (the rose circle, grasshopper wall, the Lewisburg Children’s Museum courtyard, the weeping tree, grassy mounds).

That led to creating a collaborative map. We spent time measuring and mapping on grid paper to get a general sense of the shape of the building. That gave us an opportunity to count to twenty A LOT because each square on our grid was twenty steps. We also discovered that some of our larger friends had fewer steps to measure the length of the building than our smaller friends.

We created a background for our map with green paint that we mixed from blue and yellow. The children used different techniques to create different textures. Some used pieces of burlap or yarn, and others used their hands.

On subsequent days, we observed even more closely to add more landmarks to our map. We solved the mystery of Door #6 (where was it?) We even collected items to glue to our map to represent that location. We gathered clover, rose petals, dogwood fruits, a leaf from the grandmother tree. Children also drew pictures of some of the major landmarks on our map.

We still have some other details to add to our map, e.g., door numbers, more trees, the parking lot, but we have also started to widen our sense of place. Last week we took our first trip to the park, and we counted rectangle sections of the sidewalk in each block. We hypothesized about whether the next block would be longer or shorter than the previous. We discovered that most of the blocks are around 30 sections, but there is one that in the 40s and one in the 20s. We noticed that not all of us got the same numbers as we were counting, and we talked about why that might be. Going to the park also gave us the opportunity to remember how to cross the street carefully.

Some of the student interests that emerged from these activities were building and solving mazes and also creating multi-sheet “maps” of roller coasters.

I’m excited to see where their interests will lead us next, and I know we have some more important questions to explore about GreenSpace.

Just how many lockers are there in GreenSpace, anyway?