Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 1 - 2016-17 Edition

It was great to take the new class of nature kindergartners out for the first official outdoor day. In the first few days of school, we have hiked daily and gained experience in our main gathering areas connected to the trail, but there' s always something special about venturing off trail and seeing where nature takes us.

I hope our first steps weren't an omen of things to come as three steps into our journey, we found a chipmunk who had seen better days. Though the kids were engaged, I hoped the "life" of the forest had many more lessons to offer.

Black Locust identification
After saying sayonara to the chipmunk, we headed to the "grass class" to read one of my favorite picture books: Little Tree, by Loren Long.  I think this book is perfect for the young outdoor adventurer. In a nutshell, a small tree doesn't grow like his tree neighbors because he refused to drop his leaves out of fear and nervousness.  While the others kept growing, this little tree is stuck being little. He finally gathers enough courage to try something new. He drops his leaves and before you know it, he is as tall as the others.  I want my students to avoid being little trees and take a chance, trying things they are unsure of, taking chances, and putting trust that those chances will help them grow to the best they can be.

Practicing their own risk assessment
On our first off trail adventure, we headed to the fallen tree. On our way, we did a mini lesson on identifying the thorny and annoying black locust tree. Almost instantly, the kids were shouting out when they found the tree so that others could avoid it. We also brainstormed various safety strategies for going off trail before putting those strategies to use.

After leaving the fallen tree, it was over to the rock pile for some building and exploration and on to snack. Even this early in the year, students noticed that there was some trash and bottles by the rock pile. Without any input from me, they took it upon themselves to clean it up.

After stopping for a few minutes of free time in our natural play area, we trekked through the goldenrod field to find the inside tree. Here, the kids also were able to catch a glimpse and hear the sounds of the subdivision construction next door. They even found a tree shelter that I had never seen before.

The "Inside Tree"

Once we returned to the main trail, we found a large collection of tiny mushrooms. One of the students belted out the line of the year so far, "It's like a pizza in here." After searching for other ingredients, we found the hidden forest and marked out our boundaries: the "V" tree and the "3" tree. Once we knew where we could explore, the class found bugs, spiderwebs, vines, and sticks. . .lots of sticks. Luckily, we were using sticks for a math lesson in the afternoon, so we took the collection back with us to the oak tree.

Some of the fungus among us
"V" tree
"3" or "W" tree

Who says chivalry is dead?
When we returned outside after lunch and specials, we reviewed an earlier math lesson of longer and shorter by measuring sticks with our classmates. We paired up, compared sticks, used our math vocabulary and then tried to line up as a class from shortest to longest with our various sticks.

Comparing lengths
We wrapped up the day with our introduction to nature journals. Recapping our outdoor days in words and pictures, today we focused on the process of adding the date to the page and finding a nice working spot. As the year goes on, more elements of writing will be added to each journal entry.

Nature journaling

If today was a sign of things to come, we are going to have an absolutely fantastic year of play, exploration, and social, personal, physical, and academic learning.