Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 11 - 2016-17 - Nature's Gifts

With it being nearly 60 degrees and sunny yesterday to barely 40 and drizzly much of today, maybe Mother Nature is ready to stop spoiling us and get us ready for winter. Regardless of her intentions, our plans are to learn, grow, and achieve both inside and outside.

I was oddly proud when I heard my students groan as our student teacher informed them today was our last day to build new mouse houses or add to the ones that survived the weekend rains. This has been such a wonderful and engaging project that kept growing and growing.  However, we won't leave our animal friends high and dry. Using the book Snowballs by Lois Ehlert, we guided the class to discover that even when the flakes start flying and out mouse houses are  done, we can find new ways to offer treats to our animal friends. In this story, a snowman family is created with many unique objects, many of which animals would find delicious.  Before you know it, our land will be filled with snow and we will be adding raisins, popcorn, chocolate chips, and whatever else we can find to give our animal friends extra food during the long, cold Wisconsin winter.

Until then, we still had time to create,


and place our new mouse houses. Many students tried our new locations and worked on camouflage techniques before adding bedding and snacks to their mouse houses.

Then, as we move deeper into the holiday season, we moved deeper into our lesson for the week. With a recent focus on wants and needs, we wanted to talk about gifts. Rather than make wish lists for what we wanted, we instead took a hike around our land and stopped at strategic locations marked by lettered flags. These letters stood for a gift we receive every time we go outside.

We kicked off at the grass class, where we found flag A, which stood for active bodies. here, we stretched and danced, getting our bodies warm on the chilly morning and getting healthier with every movement.

Then it was off to the dead alive tree where we found flag N. Here, we chatted about how going outside offers new experiences. We then hiked to a new part of our hidden forest that we have yet to enjoy. It was so awesome to see the kids get excited about the new views to observe, the new rocks and logs to explore, and the new natural items to discover.

We then headed over to the oak tree classroom to find flag U, or understanding. Here, the class shared much of the understanding they now have about trees, animals, and preparing for winter. Whether through our tree life cycle "dance," our hibernation activation migration chant, or our random questioning, the class impressed me with their knowledge, retention, and exuberance about our natural understandings.

Back to the trail we went as we trekked towards flag T. Right behind the flag was a tarp, but that wasn't the reason for the T. Here, we shared how nature allows us to try new things and test ourselves. Students shared things they had never done before this experience and I prepared them for the prairie plant restoration that lies ahead.

After answering a few questions about  our prairie restoration project, we walked towards a few outlying oaks and ran into flag E, representing education. At this stop, I wanted the class to realize that everything we do outdoors educates our minds and bodies. I wanted to take a moment to share new information with them, but they seemed to know everything I wanted to educate them about. We discussed why we need trees. They told me about how trees make products, trees, produce food, and trees help us breathe. Seeing an opportunity, I got scientific with them and introduced oxygen and carbon dioxide. We of course practiced this new education by talking to the trees.

Heading back towards the natural play area, we came across our final flag, flag R. This flag symbolized recreation. Though we did define it as fun and play and talked about things we liked to do for outdoor play, the best way to learn about recreation is by engaging in it. But, before we began, we got together and figured out why these specific letters were chosen.

Our six flags spelled out the gift that keeps giving throughout the year: NATURE.

Then it was off to natural play. Children worked on their growing "bonfire pit," played tag and hide and seek games on the trail and fields, and even checked up on their new mouse houses. Our weekly math stick champion game, a quick nature's gift review, and play time filled up our afternoon nature kindergarten time.

And just like that, as the geese above us flew away, so too did another week of nature kindergarten. Lucky for us, nature kindergarten and the gifts it provides will come back much sooner than those geese.

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