Saturday, October 10, 2015

Timberwolf Trail - Week 6 - 2015-16 Edition

Autumn has hit the Timberwolf Trail. The leaves are changing and falling and the kids are exploring new outdoor experiences. We crammed in amazing amount of learning this week and set up many further lessons. I am getting tired just thinking of it all. :)

Based on a previous lesson on changing leaves led by our amazing media specialist, the class came to the trail with some background knowledge on chlorophyll, anthocyanin,and a multitude of other science words. After a quick review of the color changing purposes, the kids were sent on a leaf collection based on a specific list they chose at random. For example, one list might say 3 red, 2 green, and 5 yellow while another might read 3 green, 4, brown, and 3 red.

After allowing a few minutes for leaf exploration and collection, we read a non-fiction story about the changing colors of leaves while the kids examined their own collection. Then, the kids drew their leaf using their bare eyes followed by their magnifiers, comparing the difference between the two perspectives.

It was time for natural play. Although we had some amazing learning before and after playing, as is the case on a regular basis, some of the best learning came during natural play. A small group of children came across a chipmunk whose day had come. Being a recent kill and a pretty cute chipmunk, it drew a great deal of interest. I must say I was surprised that the reaction from basically everyone that joined in on the buzz of the discovery was of intrigue, not disgust. They. of course, were excited to call me over to check on what they found. As I arrived, I noticed their interest was a perfect opportunity to try chain questioning,a  technique used to further exploration and understanding through asking questions, not answering then. As if on cue, as soon as I arrived, a student began the questioning. A few other students joined in after the initial question  Paraphrased, here is a portion of our conversation;

Student:  "What happened to the chipmunk?"

Me: "What do you think happened to him?

S:  "He broke his leg:"    

M: "Why do you say that?"

S: "Because chipmunks are fast, so he should've gotten away."

M: "So, if a chipmunk breaks his leg, he will die?

S: "Yep."

M: "People break their bones all the time. We don't die. Why is it different for a chipmunk?"

S: "Because they don't go to doctor"

M: "Well, if they don't go to doctors, how do they take care of themselves?"

S: "They hide. They are super speedy."

M: "And if their leg is broken, they aren't super speedy anymore and can get caught, right?"

S: "Yeah. They'd get eaten."

M: "Great thought. But, if that's correct, how come this chipmunk hasn't been eaten?"

S : silence for thinking

M: "Let's look closer and see if there are other clues."

S: "There's a hole in his neck."

M: "You're eight! What could that mean?"

S: "The hole is bloody, so it must have run into something sharp, like a rock."

M: "Possibly, That would have to be a very sharp rock. Could there another reason?"

S: "Maybe it's one of the hawks we saw last week."

(At this point, I had to hold back the smile.)

S: "Yeah, the hawk has sharp feet and loves to eat mice."

S: "Why didn't the hawk eat it?"

S: "Maybe the hawk dropped it and couldn't find it."

S: "Or maybe a loud noise scared it off."

This type of conversation made all the planning and work worthwhile. You may have noticed, but while I facilitated questioning at the beginning, by the end, the kids were asking and answering the questions amongst themselves and I was merely an observer. When the comment was made at the end about loud noises, I was extra happy because I have emphasized that being near a school and as of now, a currently active construction site, there are a lot of factors that might scare away nature so we need to be extra respectful and quiet to "catch" nature in action.

Someone enjoyed our hidden corn from last week :)
After natural play, we went on a tree tour and looked at a variety of trees that were scattered throughout the land. Because we were zooming in on leaves, we discussed and searched for trees that dropped their leaves (deciduous) and trees that stayed green (evergreen). While I obviously don't expect kids to remember these specific scientific terms, it's fun to expose them to these higher vocabulary words and even more exciting when they do remember them.

After lunch we took a math picnic, practicing counting, adding, and subtracting and memory through the removal and adding of items underneath a blanket. Kids enjoyed adding or removing items and figuring out what had changed. This provided an early look at addition and subtraction.

Then we took a trip to the garden to add our leaf collection and apple skins form last week to our compost bin. We had previously watched a short video about composting and were now ready to make our own.

As I told the kids, patience is a virtue. Last week, we dissected apples and removed the seeds. This week, we started out own compost pile. When spring hits, we hope to take our seeds and our fresh compost and plant apple trees. This might be the longest lesson plan I have ever written.:)

I asked the kids to raise their hands if they liked forest kindergarten. . . .

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