Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 28- 2015-16 Edition

Just hours before spring break came, it started to snow. Figures. Either way, though a bit disappointed that old Man Winter had returned after some pretty warm days, my forest friends enjoyed one last morning outside before spring break.

With this being the last time out before break, I planned a Trivia Trek to wrap up some of the numerous things we have been learning together inside the classroom walls. At stops throughout the trail, we worked through various questions to review some core curricular areas. Whether spelling out sight words, adding and subtracting, counting out syllables, rhyming word families, or discussing the amazing (and somewhat gross) process of digestion, the students were raring to move from question to question to keep out of the wind gusts.

After finishing up the questions, I posed an extra credit opportunity.  Begrudgingly at first, the students obliged. Once they found out it involved singing and dancing to one of our favorite class poems, they warmed to the idea, both literally and figuratively. After doing the actions of Gingerbread is Fun to Make, we sang and danced to a forest favorite, Leaves, Branches, Trunks, and Roots, speeding up each time through the chorus.

Because of the wind, we postponed our forest floor art project and decided on reading our story inside. We did however still get in some quality natural play time.

After lining up and taking count of bodies, our weekly rendition of using our outdoor voices to count backwards to zero, the class enjoyed a more recent tradition, running from the outdoor learning area closest to the trailhead and racing down the hill towards the school. Once inside, we read It's Spring, co-authored by Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko  and illustrated by Melissa Sweet before getting a closer at a donated avian skull generously donated by a former student.

Maybe just maybe the next time we hit the trail, spring will be here to stay. We'll find out in a  few weeks.  Happy spring break!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tyke Hike #21 - Loew Lake

The February winter-themed Tyke Hike was 55 degrees and bright. The March spring-themed hike was low 30's and flurrying. Gotta love Wisconsin! Throw in the latest edition of my toddler's "threenager" tantrum which may or may not have been exacerbated by an unexpected dip in the Oconomowoc River and you've got the ingredients for a memorable Tyke Hike.

Nineteen hikers of all shapes and sizes trekked beautiful Loew Lake on this chilly last day of winter. With signs of spring on our mind, the kids led the hike from the get go, often breaking away a little more than usual.

Collecting sticks and pointing out every pine cone in sight kept the pace reasonably attainable. Once we made it to the river, we used the bench for our group photo and took a break with the picture book And Then It's Spring, by Julie Fogliano. After a quick snack, it was on to the boardwalk and the surrounding area for a squishy session of natural play. Traversing the sticks and broken boards of the boardwalk, we were able to find many wonderful signs of spring, from the chorus of birds to the presence of the odoriffic skunk cabbage.

As I mentioned to the visitors, one of my favorite sayings in forest kindergarten is becoming a regular phrase uttered during the Tyke Hike's natural play time. "Dirt won't hurt." This might be my catch phrase.

Quite the "cheesy" smile

Now falling into the river might. Now, "falling" is a bit of an exaggeration. While I was answering some questions,  Embry followed the creative  lead of other children and was using a stick to "fish." She got a little close, slipped on the mud, submersed one hand into the drink. This was not her finest moment, but just one of the drawbacks of nature play. Luckily for me, her, and the rest of the hikers, nature offers way more benefits, so a little mud and river water is nothing.

Though I ended up carrying her for most of the return trip, she did get to continue "bopping those blazes" and insisted on doing something we call a stump jump as we approached the end of the hike. Fortunately, her stump jump did not end in a rump bump. She is going to be an excellent rhymer. :)

With another Tyke Hike in the books, we will see what the April 23rd hike at Lapham Peak has in store. Based on the Tyke Hike weather so far this year, I'll bring my snowplants and sunscreen.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 27- 2015-16 Edition

70 degrees last week. Flurries over the weekend. Thunderstorms Tuesday. Extreme wind gusts Wednesday. Just another week in Wisconsin. Luckily for us, no kindergartners were blown away during forest day.

Heavy rains postponed our morning activities, so instead, we stayed inside and read more about dirt before investigating the soil samples we collected last week. The children were very interested in seeing how the soil from the garden differed from the forest floor samples.

With spring approaching (at least on the calendar), we decided to help our feathered friends by placing a feeder outside our classroom window. With varied bird seeds and suet, we enjoyed playing the watching and waiting game for our friendly neighborhood birds.

Just a few steps into the hike, I heard a scream up ahead. It was a happy scream as we discovered our first (of many) woolly bear caterpillars in 2016.

The wind gusts brought a great deal of excitement from the class (and maybe some extra silliness).

Wind was an impromptu focus of our outdoor time, though it made our reading and art project a bit trickier. The kids were blown away by the wind facts we learned. Get it. :)

In natural play time, two of my little adventurers described how the veins of a leaf reminded them of a map. Naturally, they each found their own "map" and followed the directions to a tee.

We were also able to explore and familiarize ourselves with some recently donated tree cookies. And, since some torrential rains kept us out in the morning, we were happy the wind came alive after lunch as it dramatically helped dry out our learning areas. We even enjoyed climbing our wood pile with Mrs. Wood. :)

With spring just around the corner, it is just about time to get into gardening mode. In other words, it's going to get dirty.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 26 - 2015-16 Edition

Has spring sprung? Based on today's temperatures, I'd say yes. Based on how much learning and excitement I saw in my forest kindergartners today, I hope it is here to stay.

Today, we investigated dirt and soil. Beginning  a settling "experiment," we ventured put to the garden to collect some garden soil and placing it in mason jars halfway filled with water. We then repeated the process out in the woods. We took the bottles inside to settle and will start comparing and contrasting soon.

We also repeated an activity from a few weeks back and used hand lenses to dig deeper into the forest floor. We shared actual examples of observations from our "sweeping" of the forest floor after reading a non-fiction story on dirt and soil. We love fun facts. Did you know that a land the size of a normal soccer field an have up to a million worms living underneath it at any given time?

Students love sharing their forest floor discoveries.
Our student teacher shared a story on soil.

During natural play time, many students ventured off to look at something they heard about in the story: that soil comes from broken down materials like trees and leaves. We went to the wood pile and we investigated different things at different stages of decomposition. The kids loved finding "squishy sticks."

Investigating a possible animal home

I happened to forget my phone inside. Since the phone acts as my watch on our outdoor excursions,  I used my lack of a clock to share the idea of a sundial with kids. We talked about "high noon," and how the sun moves across the sky. Kids chimed in about sunsets and "springing forward" this upcoming weekend.

Reviewing length and measurement, the students had a task. After finding a stuck, they were asked to line up as a  class arranging their sticks shortest to longest WITHOUT talking. We trues this two times and they nailed it the second time around after brainstorming some possible strategies.

We enjoyed some more stick fun in the afternoon. First we showed off our whole sticks.

Then, we broke our whole in half and showed our two halves.

Then, we repeated the process and showed off our fourths.  Who knew fractions could be so much fun?

And of course, to make sure all students were accounted for, we lined up and counted heads before re-entering the school. To make things more interesting, we used our outdoor voices to yell from 22 down to 0 as I worked my way down the line. Getting to yell in our outdoor voice really seems to help kids remember counting backwards. Too bad that wouldn't work as well inside.

It was a wonderful day of learning. While winter offered unique and diverse learning experiences, I am hoping we can test out more snow lessons next school year.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 25 - 2015-16 Edition

You know you're in the Badger State when a record-breaking high temperature stretch at the end of February turns into winter storm warnings the first days of March. Old Man Winter just won't give up!

We didn't let that stop us from inviting our fifth grade buddy class out side to trailblaze with our snowshoes. Though it was first time on snowshoes for many of these upper elementary students, everyone had a ball and the teamwork and collaborative activity was definitely worthwhile.

But the it was time for the kindergartners to do the trailblazin' on their own. We kicked off our forest day with a hike the length of the land, Being the first steps to break through the fresh blanket of snow in many places.

The students always enjoy looking for new hiking sticks.

They were also intrigued by a new sight. The stack of logs pictured below was generously donated by a local tree service company. I had reached out to this business to acquire wood that I would use to set up some natural play structures and create natural seating and tree cookie clipboards. I can't wait for spring to show up so that I can get to work.

We just recently began corresponding with a fellow forest kindergarten class in Vermont. With the help of our new "forest friends," we have come up with lots of questions by looking at pictures of their class in action  and have been inspired to do some different things on our own.

Students have taken sticks from our growing stick pile and started brainstorming some shelter-building. we also came up with an impromptu sound lesson today as a trio of boys realized that different length sticks made different sounds when struck against different objects. They said they were going to be a rock band, but I corrected them and told them they were a stock band instead. I;m still not sure if they got the joke. :)

Natural play time is always a great tome to sit and ponder. . . . .

visit your favorite place. . . .

investigate new discoveries. . . .

or do a little climbing.

We ended our forest day by heading to the hill to play a few rounds of Predator/Prey. Randomly assigning hawks and mice, I give each group a review question and based on their answer, they take steps to either catch or avoid getting caught by their predator or prey partner. This is a simple and engaging way to practice sight word,s math, syllables, and all sorts of other curricular connections.