One of these days, I will actually get to do compete some of the winter lessons I have researched and created. Until then, you won't hear me complaining about our unseasonably warm 50 degree winter days. Based on how much learning my students had this week, I don't think they'll be complaining either.
We kicked off our forest kindergarten day with a non-fiction book about the life of an oak tree. We enjoyed stopping to discuss different parts of the story that we had already found out about in our real live oak tree classroom. After the story, we headed out to that classroom and warmed up our bodies before we stretched our brains. Singing a spin off of the traditional song, Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, we belted out the words and actions to Leaves, Branches, Trunk, and Roots.
After getting musical, we took the parts of the tree from the song and story and used a labeling strategy to label these important parts of a tree. A we labeled each part, we took time to work together to learn some important jobs each of those parts do. From leaves catching the sun's energy and turning it into food all the way to the roots acting like straw to suck up water and nutrients, we acted out the circular life cycle of trees right under the canopy of one of our favorites.
A few lovely ladies transformed fallen goldenrod stalks into super swords.
Others enjoyed the sights and sounds of the construction vehicles into the former cornfield adjacent to our school. Not exactly natural, but exciting nonetheless.
Still others found the remnants of some fallen down and decomposing trees and used their feet, hands, and even other wood pieces to help break down the once mighty tree further.
I even caught one of our decomposers saving some of the wood for something else she wouldn't reveal.
And on our way back to the oak tree classroom, the now fully bare trees revealed a once hidden rock pile that will surely be a favorite place to explore in the future.
Before we snacked, each child had the opportunity to share what they had learned or what they had done during natural play. Most kids shared the activities mentioned above while one child mentioned that "I found black locust tree and it scraped me." Once a bandage was applied on the minor scratch, I took a second to revel in the fact that these kids are sponges of information and I would have never expected five year olds to be junior arborists in that way. After some snacking, we headed off to a sit spot to observe and record what we had seen in nature that day.
After our lunch and specials inside, we prepared for our outdoor afternoon with a quick oak tree life cycle review in the classroom. After watching a quick five minute video, the students drew five stages of an oak tree life cycle sheet (acorn sprouting, sapling, small tree, big tree, and fallen, decomposing trunk) classroom video and drawing, Then, after sharing their drawings, we watched a very engaging time lapse video of an acorn sprouting into a sapling over an eight month period (Oak Tree Time Lapse).
Then it was back outside for a game of Sight Word Predator and Prey. After brainstorming some predators and prey we may find on our land, we ended up selecting hawks and mice. Half the class were hawks and the others were mice. Lining up in pairs in some open space next to our trail, we have the mice a few step start. Then alternating between hawks and mice, students had the opportunity to spell some of our sight words. If they got it right, they moved forward a certain number of steps. For example, if a hawk spelled can correctly, they moved three steps forward for each letter in the word. Eventually, mice got caught and the roles were reversed. They loved it! Plus, the rules can easily be altered to practice other skills like addition, subtraction, and syllable identification.
Back into the forest where we decided to look at the trees from a new perspective. :) Then, off to our favorite spot for a few extra minutes of well-deserved natural play.
Maybe next week Old Man Winter will arrive and we can practice using the snowshoes we just recently acquired through a generous grant from the Hamilton Education Foundation. If not, you won't hear a complaint from me. :)