Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chestnuts to roast on an open fire?

 We began the day with a pail for each child to collect leaves.  We looked for big leaves, small leaves and medium leaves.  We also stood under a maple tree and collected yellow leaves and red leaves.   Another day with the signs of fall.  As we looked closely at the ground we were excited to find a chestnut tree at the farm. This is a sweet chestnut tree with edible nuts.  We also found a closed "burr" (the pod of the chestnut).  It was very pokey and sharp.  Someone suggested we throw it up into the air to see if we could break it open.  It took 2 tries, but it burst open-revealing the nut within.
This week TOP had two visiting teachers.  One is Nicky Mack who is a senior at UW and has applied to get her Masters in Education at UW.  She will be with us every Tuesday this session while she observes how an Outdoor Preschool teaches science. 
Nicky Donovan was with us on Thursday.  Nicky is learning about TOP and outdoor education as well.  She plans to be teaching with Tiny Treks next year at Keep It Simple Farms on Mondays/Wednesday and Fridays. 

Nicky studied zoology for her degree and then went on to train as an Occupational Therapist. After many years she followed her heart and retrained as elementary school teacher. She has spent time teaching 1st grade and 4th/5th grade in the UK. She has particularly enjoyed introducing children to the natural world and has used her background in zoology to aid her teaching.  Since moving to the US,  Nicki has taken time to settle her teenagers to US life but remains an avid walker and nature lover.   Tiny Treks is lucky to have such a talented teacher come join the Tiny Treks team!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rake, Jump and Laugh!

Some of the older kids were really determined to make big piles of leaves.

It was a beautiful fall day.  A day we don't always get  in the northwest.  The leaves were dry and crunchy and just begging to be jumped in.  We took kids's rakes ( and 2 adult rakes for the teachers) and went under some huge Big Leaf Maple trees and began to rake up piles of leaves.  Everyone helped.  I mean everyone!  The 3 year olds were working alongside of the 5 years olds!  The little ones were the first to jump into the leaves and stop raking-but I was impressed that they helped at all!  I think it helps to have size appropriate tools like we do.
Everyone helped with the raking.

 Everyone was giggling as they threw the leaves up into the air and eventually us teachers were belted with huge armloads of leaves.  All in good fun.  We had so much fun that we forgot about snack and then had to send Teacher Roo back to the picnic tables to get our lunches so we could eat lunch out in the back meadow.   We ended up making 3 big piles of leaves that kids hid in, jumped in and threw!
No one got smacked by a rake-everyone was careful.
At lunch we continued with our study of salmon.  We read the story Swimmy  by Leo Leonni and a facts book about salmon.  We also talked about seasons.  Concentrating on fall and what the changes are in fall.

We will be continuing our talks about the seasons as we observe nature change around us.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Balancing on a log

Deep in the fern wood.
This sunny day led us to a favorite fallen log.  This log is so long that the kids practiced watlking up and down it for a long time.  If you follow it to its natural end-behold!  There is another log there-so you can jump or climb onto the next log and keep going.  The younger ones wanted a hand to hold as they walked and the older ones managed just fine on their own.  We are so lucky here in the northwest that even if the kids slip off-there is usually a soft fern or leaf covered forest floor to catch their fall.  As we were up and down the log the kids got more and more comfortable with their own balancing prowess.
I must say that as a forest teacher, I don't help the kids much.  Even those who want my help by holding my hand as they climb or balance-find that I'm not much help at all.  If they resist me telling them how to climb up themselves, then they find a very limp and not strong hand at the ready.  Sometimes they try and direct me to be stronger-but instead my hand goes to the log or branch that I want them to learn to grab-and soon they are climbing and balancing all by themselves.
Our log walk dropped us off into some very high forest brush where we bushwhacked our way through in order to get back in time for our tractor ride! Thank you to Farmer Elise for giving us a fun and very bumpy ride around the park and farm.  We were up high and so we could see the apples on the tip top of the apple tree.  We saw leaves changing colors and the tractor found some deep holes to jostle us around!
Waiting to ride the Farm tractor and wagon.

Now that it is October, we are beginning to talk about pumpkins and Halloween.  Today we read a book about pumpkins and at the end of the month we will carve our own jack-o-lanterns and then hide them in the woods to watch them decompose! We won't be wearing costumes to school because of our need to wear so much clothing to TOP.  But we'll have fun talking about the season.  We also learned a pumpkin finger play today!\

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
First one said "Oh my, it's getting late!"
Second one said "There are witches in the air,"
Third one said "but we don't care!"
Fourth one said "Let's run and run and run."
Fifth one said "I'm ready for some fun!"
Ooo ooo went the wind, and out went the lights,
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scissors, String, Sticks and an old sheet

Concentrating on how to tie the string.
What do you get when you give 10 children under the age of 5 a roll of string, scissors, sticks and a sheet? I've been thinking about this class for awhile.  I wanted to see if we could build a structure or a tipi with the children or what might happen if we tried.  So into my backpack went string, scissors and an old sheet.

At circle time I showed all of the contents of the backpack to the kids.  I asked them what they thought they could do with them in the woods.  There were suggestions of "make a hammock" and "make a fort".  So then we were off to find an area in the forest.  We first explored an old tree stump that is already in the shape of a tipi.  A bunch of the kids went into it and tried it out.  But it wasn't the right size.

 During snack time on a cool log we read a fun story about kids and a wagon.  Just like the wagon we have at TOP!  The wagon became a train and a rocket ship and a truck.  We talked about how the child really used their imagination in the story The Red Wagon.

We hiked all over the park, listening to the rain pelting the leaves (but not us!) and hearing thunder in the distance.  It got really dark for a while-but since we were deep in the forest, we didn't get wet!.

We ended up in the "secret place."  Again, out of the rain.  There on the ground were all of those sticks we gathered 2 weeks ago.  I got out the string, scissors and every child got to cut a piece of string.  As I helped them to place the sticks on the tree to make a shelter-I was very curious to see how they would use the string.  Soon,  almost all of the kids were picking up sticks and tying on the string.  Some tried to tie two sticks together-but for most of the kids the fun was just in practicing wrapping the string, or trying to make a knot or even a bow for one girl who knows how to tie her shoes.

String carefully tied to sticks. 

After a good long time with the string, I got out the  sheet to hang.  But first the kids wanted to play with the sheet.  We put pinecones on the sheet and snapped them high into the air.  Then the kids went under the sheet and played under there while Irena and I made it flap up and down.  Then we hung the sheet on the tree and the kids went into their fort.  It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed watching how the children played with the think in their own environment. 

In the words of Maria Montessori , Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”

PS Thank you to Irena, Bo's mom,  for helping out today.  It was a very fun day!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"It's unanimous!"

I was sorry to have missed this fun day-the first day of October!  Luckily Teacher Roo and our guest parent, Jen Downing were there to lead the class! Thank you Jen for helping us out in a pinch.  Our other back up teachers were not available and Teacher Ann was down with the flu.  

In the future,  if you would like a chance to help out in class sometime-send me an email and we will put you on the list.  Sometimes we can't find a certified teacher to substitute and turn instead to you parents.  It can be either of you-as long as you are willing to don waterproof clothing and be ready to climb, hike and get into mud with the kids. We usually can't accommodate your younger children, so I know that can be a bummer if you would like to help but have a younger child.  If you would really like to be there sometime-we can plan a day so you can get a babysitter ahead of time.

On Tuesday the TOP kids were storm watchers.  We talked about the storm and what it effect it might have had on the park. The kids looked for downed branches and puddles and found both. At snack time we read a fun book about a witch and a storm.
Our hike took us to very good puddle all the way on the other side of Farrel-McWhirter and the kids had a blast stomping and splashing in the puddle.  Since it was a long hike there, the kids were asked to vote at each intersection of the hike.  We have a name for this kind of voting.  We call it "voting with your body."  The kids will stand next to the trail they want to take.  Sometimes we ask them to "use the map in your head" to remember which is the right way to our destination.  If everyone agrees it is "unanimous"!  We've had many children begin using this word at home.  Let me know if you are hearing it!

We also found this cool beetle.  I tried to identify it online to no avail.  Oh well-its cool anyways!

Teacher Ann will be out again on Thursday and thank you in advance to Monika, Conrad's mom for helping out Teacher Roo!