Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 32 - 2015-16 Edition

Any teacher knows we are in the "dog days of teaching" this time of year. Summer is getting close and the kids know it. Yesterday was one of those days where I felt defeated and frustrated as it seemed like what could go wrong did go wrong and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I was exhausted and depleted of energy. Today, we went outside and it all came back. The energy. The excitement. The happiness. :)

Though temperatures in the mid 40's and a stiff breeze don't exactly scream summer, our painted lady caterpillars had arrived the day before so it was butterfly life cycle day. After reading Amy Rockwell's Becoming Butterfly at the oak tree classroom, we decorated our own butterfly, attached a popsicle stick and folded up our butterfly into our toilet paper roll chrysalis creation.

We then physically acted out the life cycle of the butterfly from egg to fluttering butterfly. I also felt the impromptu urge to tweak the title of our Leaves, Branches, Trunk, and Roots song to Head, Thorax, Abdomen. Throw in some side verses about antennae, wings, and the proboscis and we have a potential #1 hit for the charts, or at least a silly way to remember the parts of the butterfly.


Crawling Caterpillars

Hanging from their chrysalis. . .then fluttering away to natural play

After snack, our morning natural play session led to some friends heading back to the recently neglected rock pile and the majority heading to the newly-christened natural play area. Observing them, listening in to their creative games, and listening to them thresh out their issues through active and appropriate problem-solving really validates why I started this forest kindergarten. I feel these students are getting such a unique and powerful experience with nature while practicing and perfecting skills necessary both in and out of the classroom.

We returned from natural play with the ever popular tick check in our  mowed classroom affectionately named the "grass class" before enjoying an inaugural garden yoga session. While not being the most flexible yoga instructor, I certainly had fun trying.

Butterfly pose

Seed to plant pose

The Flower

Tree pose

The Froggy

Before lunch, we kicked off our next science on Rainbow, Color, and Light by using tempera paint and bubble solution to make bubble prints. This fun art project gave me some ideas for the future, another big benefit of trying new things in our outdoor classroom.

In the afternoon, we enjoyed our new natural play area by balancing on the logs while playing our newest version of our counting game, Math Champions. However, rather than all standing and sitting as we are eliminated, we all choose a stick and then drop it as we are out of the activity. The last remaining stick holder is the reigning Stick Champion Not an exciting title, but the kids love the new twist on an old favorite.

When our newest stick champ was crowned, we wrapped up with our nature journal time, an afternoon session of natural play, a sharing session, and a discussion about how our experience will soon be made into a documentary by the high school audiovisual club.

With all those exciting things, the highlight was one friend coming to me and saying, "I hope I get to come learn  and play outside as a first grader."

Me too!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tyke Hike #22 - Lapham Peak

When my daughter was born, it was clear right away she loved being outdoors, especially on our family adventures on the Ice Age Trail. As her trips on the trail moved from her infant carrier to her own two feet, my viewpoint of hiking changed from focusing on quantity to quality. When I carried her, it was all about getting in every mile I could. When she was trailblazing at a toddler pace, I realized the real joy came from the discovery.

These toddler treks brought about the creation of the Tyke Hike program. On Thursday, July 24th, 2014, nineteen hikers enjoyed a nerve wracking but exciting inaugural Tyke Hike at Lapham Peak. On Saturday, April 23rd, at that same location, Tyke Hike broke its' own record and had an amazing 103 signed in hikers out and about on Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail. Add in nearly 75 at a second special hike later that afternoon and nearly 200 friends of all ages came out to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous spring day.

With our focus being general information about the Ice Age and the trail in general, we dug into topics such as the evolving mileage of the trail, the reason for the trail being called the Ice Age Trail, and of course, landforms and glaciers. Going back to my 4th grade teaching roots, I offered up these concepts in a quiz format and the hikers aced them each time.

Mojo, our Tyke Hike mammoth mini-mascot, was loved by many children on our 1.5 mile trek through rocky and rooty Lapham Peak. When we scaled the 120+ steps back to the tower, Diane, our new librarian friend from the Delafield Public Library, shared Lisa Wheeler's wonderful picture book, Mammoths on the Move, with some of the tykes.

In just two short years, the Tyke Hike program has taken amazing steps forward in providing opportunities for families to enjoy this tremendous trail. I can't wait to see what the next two years bring!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 31 - 2015-16 Edition

As I arrived at school today, I noticed a new friend at the classroom birdfeeder. Unlike the crows, morning doves, killdeer, and chickadees that frequent the area, this bird was a visitor I hadn't seen before. Unfortunately, our feathered friend was not photogenic as he/she flew out of sight before I could snap a picture. With a little bird guide research, I was able to see we had a Northern Flicker pay us a visit. I hope a return trip is in order so my students can see for themselves.

It was so nice to see the sun shine through the classroom windows as the students streamed in. I knew these rays of golden warmth would brighten up all of our mornings and prepare us for an excellent day of outdoor learning.

With today being a full day outside, rather than explain the whole day, let me sum it up in some short and interesting phrases.

Stick Champions.

Ant eggs.

Turkey Vultures.



Besides exploring our new natural play area, our forest kindergarten friends practiced sight words and counting while balancing on logs. We learned about and found the five things that all plants need (air, water, sun, soil, and space). We created, reviewed, and practiced the rules of our new natural play area. We listened for birds, searched for birds, and made our own bird calls, which is where the ostrich came to be. When brainstorming what birds we might encounter, one friend suggested an ostrich. That'd be fun, but it was unlikely. We even learned about ticks, practiced tick checks, and were even fortunate (or unfortunate)enough to find one and use it as a show and tell so all students knew what to look for when tick checking their peers.

Please enjoy some of our highlights with the photographs below.

Story time on seeds
Hiking with many turkey vultures soaring ahead

Post-lunch flower creation

Tick check

Our first standing stick structure
Exploring an ant colony under and within a log
Gray-headed coneflower seed bombing
Balance time!
More seed bombing
Just hanging around
Tree cookie castle
Nature journaling

More tick checks