Wild Life Forest Preschool - Story of the Week
Hey Tree Frog Families!
We're always talking about how to make traditional preschool things more Earth Native-y. Numbers, letters, art, music.... all of these things are vital to the natural rhythm of growing up, and every good school needs them. But how do we add a nature twist to the things we try? This week felt like a really good example of the Earth Native spin, and in this letter I'd like to try to highlight it more!
No better place to start than Valentine's Day, which has been haunting teachers since its inception. Aside from feeling even more loved than we already do, Valentine's day for the kids can be such a confusing time. "We all got the same card, but mine has PB-8 and yours has R2D2! No fair! Why is Evie's in a different color than Asher's?! What is love?!" Nevermind all the paper...
Not to say you shouldn't bring Valentine's like that to school! It can be hard but it gives us teachers a chance to teach about some pretty important stuff in the category of love, friendship, and empathy. However, our Earth Native Valentine's Day brought everyone to the fire, harnessing the color of the day and the resourcefulness we always try to teach at school.
Ask your kids how we turned an avocado's heart pink! If they don't remember, here's a simple recipe:
1.) Remove the pit from an avocado... or two!
2.) Chop the avocado pit into smaller pieces
3.) Place the chopped avocado pit into a sauce pan and fill with water
4.) Bring water to boil
5.) When boiling, add 2-3 teaspoons of baking soda
6.) Watch and stir!
It's amazing to see pinks and blush-reds emerge from something not red or pink at all. Like magic! Throughout the week we used this pigment to make watercolors, face paint, and dyes for our clothing. Miss Kimberly even soaked her white beanie in it to make it much more Valentine's Day friendly.
Symbol-based learning is another thing we're always trying to shift into our natural-world perspective. We can argue until the cows come home whether kids this age need symbol-based learning, but there's no doubt some kids feel especially driven towards it. These are our musicians, story-tellers, writers, scientists, and engineers! If kids are naturally craving it, that means it's good and our school should find a way to supply it.
That's why we've been working so hard on tracking! All the big-time academic pursuits can be found nestled inside of wildlife tracking, and the rains of the previous weeks have cemented so many footprints around our school. If a word is a symbol for the item itself, then a footprint is a symbol for the animal. Understanding how one single part can amount to a whole is math. Understanding which way the animal's going or what made it change its gait is story-telling.... it's all there!
This week alone I've helped the kids spend time with all types of tracks and trails, and we're working to expand our understanding outside of footprints. Why does this tree bark look all rubbed on? Who was digging in this dirt? What does this fur smell like? Whose poop?!
And the final example I'll leave you with, which technically happened last week but it's been built upon this... the Colored Pencil Spindle! I can't stop thinking about it. The kids who hang out with me know how much I love bow-drilling - it's my favorite discipline right now and I often take out my kit around snacktime to show some kids the fireworks.
For those who haven't encountered much friction fire, a bowdrill kit consists of four major pieces. A handhold for not burning your hand, a spindle for drilling downard and generating most of the friction, a hearthboard to receive the spindle, and lastly, a bow for generating energy into the spindle.
The compatibility of woods between the spindle and the hearthboard is the science of bowdrlling. I've tried many, many different things, but when a teal colored pencil tumbled out of Sepp's backpack, and he saw the spindle potential in it, I was amazed.
The kids noticed that the colored pencil met all the criteria for a good spindle. It is made of wood, and it's dry, first of all. It's perfectly cylindrical so it won't wobble while working, and it can be carved to fit the hearthboard! Check, check, check and check. Whether we would get the spindle to generate heat or not, I couldn't believe all the connections that happened in their minds to see something as simple as a colored pencil and think, what else can this do?
The kids are starting to put a nature spin on things, too. Just like their teachers, they are seeing the trees inside of lumber, the hose as a resource for water, and the fire as more than just fireworks. What an advantage they already have, not only in their academic and body development, but in their ability to see what's inside and underneath all this human stuff we got going on.
What's underneath? It's always, always, the forest.
See you all next week!
Every Friday with the Hedgehogs is a great Friday. Mr. Britt, Mr. Jon, and I missed everyone last week and were sad that we couldn't meet because of the cold weather. Luckily, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day. This sunny day taught us a lot! We're always having learning moments when we're in the forest, big ones, and small ones! Every lesson, no matter the size, is an important one.
Although we learn about bugs, fires, and plants, we also learn about each other a lot. We're always learning what everyone's favorite color is, how old they are, and details that make us unique.
For example, Pao, Everett, Clark, and Maverick have discovered that they're all HUGE Pokemon fans. This similarity between all of them has strengthened their bond and we see them exploring and laughing week after week. Their day starts with all the boys talking about their latest Pokemon adventure, like how we adults may create small talk when we first greet each other. This small talk later evolves to playing together, building together, and expanding their comfort zone together in the forest. It's amazing how preschoolers will create an unbreakable bond with each other based on one similarity. This to them, is the formula to creating a harmonious and comfortable friendship.
Along with everyone forming friendships based on their passions, Mae, Violet, and Oslo have formed a strong bond over their active imaginations. They're always making pastries out of sand, taking Rainbow Unicorn and Golden Horse on unforgettable adventures across the forest playground, and looking out for cool critters. It's so sweet watching them come up with the next big plot of their day. Together, their imagination becomes stronger.
Today, Cal, Eila, and Pax found out that they love sitting together reading books. One book, after another, all three of them sat wide eyed as they listened to stories about dragons, fish, and animal bones. All of them sat and kept asking if we could read another book! We learn so much from books and they often inspire our play later on. Reading is fuel for our creativeness!
Shaked and Kai were bonded over their love for trying to fix things! Together they worked on priming the water pump. Kai would pour the water as Shaked pumped. If that method didn't work, they would switch roles to try and figure out how to get the pump running. Each boy would take turns collecting water in the pitcher, until they finally got it working! Once that challenge was completed, and their bond was set, they started filing up pots with water for their project in the sandbox. Shaked and Kai really seemed to enjoy each others company a lot today!
Even with everyone being sweet and playful, sometimes we don't make the best choices! But that's okay! Those are the most important learning moments. Sometimes at school we want to test the boundaries and figure out why the rules are set in place! So how do we that? We break the rules! Again, that's okay! Sometimes we need a reminder. We like to remind the kids that the rules are there to keep us safe. We always take the time to explain why certain things, like fire or climbing trees too high, can hurt us. Sometimes we get too carried away in our play to remember all the rules! That's okay too! These moments are so important because they help us generate so many important lessons that we hope each Hedgehog carries with them after they've graduated from the forest playground.
We are always here to help the Hedgehogs navigate those tough moments and are so happy when they finally grasp that lesson. It's rewarding! It helps their preschool mind and body grow in ways that we don't understand! We'll always be there to catch 'em when they feel like they're falling! It's days like today where we are happy that we can help navigate those learning moments together. There's always room to grow and luckily the forest is big enough to let that happen.
In the wise words of Mr. Britt, learning and growth aren't linear. Sometimes we must stumble and take a few steps back to come back stronger than ever. We're so happy that we are a team and get to handle these moments together. Together we're stronger!
We did so much growing today. You all deserve a restful week! We can't wait to stretch our growth even further next week!
See you all very soon,
Hello Wild Life Families!
I hope everyone was able to attend our Midwinter Celebration! For those who weren’t, it went like this: The kids worked all week preparing the school for your arrival. They created gifts, harvested clay, smashed rocks, made decorations, wrote letters, prepared fires, cut greenbrier, invented games, and so much more. We wanted our school to be inviting... just like a first day!
We talked about our jobs at the party, including the difference between hosts and guests. We are the hosts, we decided, because we are here before the party has even started. It is our job to be welcoming... but how? I asked the kids to do only one thing - have as much fun as possible.
But it was the children who took it upon themselves to delegate tasks, create jobs, and allow small teams to complete focused learning stations. Ask your kid what their job was at the Midwinter Celebration! We had greeters, clay-makers, face-painters, fire-tenders, helper-uppers, swing-pushers, sign-makers, and bug-catchers... just to name a few. They worked really, really hard, and right when the school started looking really spiffy, our guests arrived!
I saw moms in leaf piles, grandmas making art, and babies with their faces painted. There may be a dad in the wiggly worm still! It is clear to me why my days have been so enjoyable. I get to spend time with kids who are well loved and respected… and who have such fun parents! Playing with kids is a sign of RESPECT. It is like returning a handshake or making strong eye contact. In the world of a child, not many things are more important. I appreciate you all for coming with good energy, smiles, and a lightness in your heart.
As the stations slowed, and the start of the ceremony neared, Miss Kimberly announced a short trip to nearby Caracara. Mr. Britt carried a coal from our morning fire pit - the fire that has kept us warm through many chilly mornings - and introduced it to the pit at Caracara. Like the kids, this small fire is stepping out of its comfort zone into a bigger space, a bigger world where it can touch taller things with its heat and spread its flame like long arms.
Jon tended the fire as Kimberly walked the circle, offering sprigs of Eastern Red Cedar to the children and their supporting families. The Eastern Red Cedar tree is by far our most important plant. It teaches our kids how to climb, it starts and ignites our fires, it provides clean air for our lungs to breathe, shade, spoons… so much. We carve it, split it, and smell it every day. It gave me great pride to hear kids shouting the name of this plant among their parents, as if it was a friend in their class.
Three things, we say, make a school. The first we acknowledge are the teachers. Jon and Kimberly have been present every single day (in a pandemic no less!) with reliable energy, spot-on nature awareness, and love for children that are not their own. Teachers everywhere should be as good as Jon and Kimberly, but they aren't. I've worked with a lot of educators and believe me when I say there aren’t many more skilled, more creative, or more dedicated to their craft than these two.
If there are... good! We want the standard set here to spread all over the forest-teaching world. To the education world in general.... Will you join me in appreciating the teachers? We threw our sprigs in the fire for them.
After acknowledging the teachers, another sprig was shared around the circle for the second thing that makes a school... the families! Who brings you to school each day? Who packs your lunch full of healthy choices and bright colors? Who hoses you off and smiles through YET ANOTHER round of car-seat cleaning? Our parents! Our grandparents! Our aunts, uncles, and older siblings! Unconditional love is the soft, cozy center of all our big adventures.
Thank you for choosing us! We know it isn't always easy, but it's the best thing for kids this age. We offer a sprig of cedar to the fire for each of you. Will you join us in appreciating the grown-ups?
Lastly, we had one more sprig to offer. If we show gratitude for the teachers and the grown-ups in our lives, who's left to celebrate? Why.... OURSELVES of course!
It is the children who deserve all the credit. Every hike was them. Every fall and get-back-up was them. Every bathroom attempt, every cheese-stick struggle, every soap bar carved with a butter knife, every NO or STOP respected, every new name learned... school is hard work every day and for this much learning to have happened, struggle must have been present as well. I honor each child for the struggles they've held in their faces as smiles, screwed up brows, or intense focus to move onward and upward.
We offer a sprig of cedar to the fire for each of you... and there's so much more to come! Will you join us in appreciating the children?
But the celebration wasn't over. Our classroom, the forest, needs our love too. You can't have a forest school without a forest! So to cap off the day, and indeed, this calendar year, the kids were allowed FOR THE FIRST TIME to lead their own families on a hike. One of the hiking rules is that a teacher ALWAYS goes first on the trail, but today we broke that rule like a ceiling to bust through. Each child was offered an apple with the intention of leaving it at their favorite spot in the woods.
Where did your child take you? To Climby-Climb? To the creek? The pirate ship?! Maybe all three. As the teachers flew between locations, waiting for wolf-howls of distress, we were all struck by how few we heard. The kids navigated the forest so well, showing their parents strong bodies, minds, and hearts. In fact, the only wolf-howls we heard were playful calls to one another.
Where did you leave your apple? And what will become of it? Will a deer eat it? Or a rabbit? Or the ants? Or the river? Whatever happens, this offering is a huge thank you to the space that makes a school like ours possible. We took space to build the school. We take Wood Sorel when we're hungry. We take clay for creations and animals in our hands to satisfy our curiosities. It felt right to leave something ripe and whole in the ground during these winter weeks, not only for the energy of the apple itself, but for the energy that comes from a group of humans moving behind a shared thought. Again, good intentions, which must be present to begin something good.
Thank you, again, for your commitment to our school. No matter when you come, how, or what you contribute to the group, your presence is felt. One of the biggest lessons we teach is that it takes a village to raise a child. This week showed the children an image of that village. Imagine how loved they must feel.
School will resume for all classes in two weeks! We return the week of Monday, January 3rd. Until then, take good care of each other!
Hello Tree Frogs!
Rain or shine, forest preschool is always in session! The rain did not prevent the fun! In many ways, it added brand new ways of play. It was our very first rainy day together, so many of us didn't know what to expect on such a wet and cold day. No worries! We were all in it together and made the best of it.
Monday was just like any other hot day. Some of us are so tired of the heat and wished for cooler weather. Hot days call for the hose and a break by the creek. Everyone was running, hiding, and sweating. Miss Rachel came to help and even wished for the chilly weather to appear. Together, we all enjoyed our usual activities of roasting marshmallows, running barefoot, and millipede searching. Even though we have our favorite activities, there's always room for more.
Sepp, Quinn, Reese, Talon, and Savannah all tried out their carving skills this week! Everyone tried their best and practiced carving soap bars using butter knives. Soon they'll be ready for a real knife, but until then, the butter knives are excellent for establishing safe carving procedures. With all the soap shavings on the ground, Evie, Marisol, and Melody found a fun way to recycle the soap bits. They found some flower pots, added the soap shavings, some water, and frostweed flowers to make flower soup! It was deliciously clean!
Monday was already a great day, but Ray took it upon himself to spread some extra love! Armed with crayons and paper he got to work and made special, one-of-a-kind cards for everyone. He would take his time drawing his masterpieces. It made everyone's day extra bright.
We're so happy that our Tree Frogs care for one another because it came in handy today! No one expected the rain to come pouring down like it did today! It was such a contrast from Monday. Everyone had layers on, and we were all trying our best to stay warm. Everyone was looking out for each other and making sure we all stayed together on this wet day. We had a fire going by Cliff Swallow and another going on in Dewberry! How many preschools do you know have not one, but two fires going on when the temperature drops?!
It was such an exciting day and our energies were high! There were so many puddles to splash in. Lacey was THE most excited. She was searching for the best puddles to jump in and found some really good ones around the forest playground. Not too far behind were Noah, Julian, and Asher! They LOVED running through all the puddles and making big splashes. There was no stopping them from having their puddle fun.
While some friends loved the water, others decided to enjoy the rain by the cozy fire in Dewberry. But what to do on a rainy day when puddles aren't your first choice? The answer is listen to special stories told by Mr. Britt and Mr. Jon, of course! Their stories are always the best! So good that not even a whisper can be heard from the Tree Frogs. I know, it's hard to believe! With eyes wide open and jaws dropped, everyone who came to seek shelter in Dewberry heard the best stories.
Throughout the day, you could just hear the rain pouring. Although some of us were not too excited about getting wet and muddy, we are so proud of everyone for making it through a tough day. Nature sure gave us a challenge today, but we were ready for it! Everyone did great! Hug your Tree Frogs a little harder tonight for doing extra great this week!
Life is always good at Wild Life Preschool! Rain or shine, these smiles will always appear. What is nature without a little bit of rain, anyways? Stay cozy and warm, Tree Frogs!
With much love,