Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Trail Camera Captures- January 2018 Edition

 It seemed like a relatively quiet month on the Timberwolf Trail.  No new friends, but a healthy dose of visits from our regulars. Enjoy a few of them below

Pretty snow deer

Raccoon Rear


Double trouble


Timberwolf Trail - Week 21 - 2017-18 Edition

The lack of snow makes some of our winter activities a bit trickier. We can't design and build snowmen without it. It is hard to snowshoe in the mud and ice. Snow writing is also a bit impossible.

If we had one big old snowstorm where the snow would stick around for a while, I have so many plans. Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to execute them.

Until then, we'll be flexible.

Today, we prepared for a special writing project I have planned for our upcoming bird unit by walking to different spots around the land, playing for a few minutes at each location, and then jotting down a  quick picture and description of whatever it is we did there.

We started off at the natural play area.

Then it was off to the inside tree.

We wrapped up by the oak tree classroom, with easy access to the hidden forest and rock pile.

I am excited about taking these drawings and descriptions and applying them to a fun writing project soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Timberwolf Trail - Week 20 - 2017-18 Edition

Winter is always an excellent opportunity to break away from the germ factory of the kindergarten classroom, exercise new muscles, and enjoy the unique opportunities winter in Wisconsin has to offer.

Today, we took advantage of the decent weather day and had some winter fun. On our way to our snowy field, we found a variety of tracks and slid all around the ice-covered trail.

As we walked around the entire land, we had a Winter Trivia Trek, where we answered various winter-themed questions. With each question having three potential answers, kids revealed their answers by raising one hand, two hands, or both hands and a leg. It was a perfect warm up for Winter Yoga.

When we got to one of out door classroom spaces, we spread out and brainstormed different winter activities. Then, we choreographed a pose for each activity. Winter Yoga was born! Below are some of our favorite poses.

Hot Chocolate



Speed Skater

Figure Skater

The Cookie

After warming up our bodies, we warmed up our brains with a little help of food coloring and water bottles. We usually do a variety of snow writing with the kids, including math problems and sight words. Today we just worked on writing letters with control and getting used to this new and unique tool.

And of course, it was on to natural play, or as I like to call it, "the real work of a kindergartener."

Monday, January 22, 2018

Silly Story #2 -2017-18 Edition

Below is the second installment of the silly stories my students and I co-constructed. They provide the characters, setting, and problem and I wrap it all together while also practicing my own picture book writing. Two for the price of one! Enjoy!

Owl Surprise

A rainbow of leaves decorated the sidewalk outside Jemma’s den. Fall was Jemma’s favorite season, but seeing the leaves whirl and twirl towards the ground left her backyard tree and her heart bare.

“I wonder if the tree feels sad when the leaves leave,” she wondered.

Her wondering bounced around in her brain all the way to school.

“What’s wrong, Jemma?” her teacher asked.

“I feel bad that my tree lost its leaves. It looks so….so sad.”

“Well what would make it happy?”

Jemma thought about it. “The tree probably feels lonely and wants company.”

An idea jumped into her head. “A TREEHOUSE!”

When Jemma got home, she drew out her idea and gathered materials.

That weekend, construction began.

Before winter arrived, Jemma’s tree had a treehouse. Jemma not only planned and built the treehouse, she also decorated it. Her treehouse was colorful and inviting.

Very inviting.

Before she knew it, her treehouse was a meeting place for the rest of the neighborhood animals. Jemma watched the visitors laugh, eat, and play from the safety and warmth of her den.

Squirrels, rabbits, and songbirds visited during the day. Jemma loved it.

Skunks, raccoons, and opossums visited at night. Jemma slept through it.

The treehouse brought everyone together and made many animals smile.

But one animal was not happy about the treehouse. The owl. Jemma probably never noticed her since she came out a night, but a hole near the top of the tree was her home. Until now. . .

“Hoo hoo hoo took away my home?” she hooted night after night.

The owl regularly visited the night gatherings, requesting the animals leave her tree. They refused.

So she stayed up late and visited the daytime visitors to see if they would listen.

They didn’t but someone else did.

Jemma saw the encounter and heard Owl’s plea to leave the tree.

The next day, a sign was placed on the treehouse. It read, “Treehouse closed.”

Jemma went to work re-decorating the treehouse. She added new pictures, new furniture, and hoped to soon add a new visitor.

One afternoon, Jemma created a special card and placed it right near the hole at the top of the tree.

That night, Owl saw the card.

“Hoo hoo hoo made this for me?” Owl opened it and instantly, a smile shot across her beak. She flew down to the treehouse’s entrance.

Waiting for her at her new house and her new friend.

“Hoo hoo hoo wants to celebrate?’ Owl asked.

The 5 P's

I was looking to re-invent my teaching even before I started the nature kindergarten program at my school. A great deal of work has gone into this transformation and even more work remains, but I think I am finally turning the corner and becoming the teacher that I not only want to be, but he one I need to be. More importantly, I am becoming the teacher my kids need me to be.

Over the last few years, I have been fortunate enough be a presenter at various conferences, speaking on topics including play, service learning, and nature-infused education. One of my presentations digs deeper into my philosophy: the 4 P's.

Play-based learning focuses on play. Students learn so much from play. In fact, play is work. Unfortunately, it isn't often seen that way by the decision-makers and academic pressures trickle further and further into early childhood education, often replacing much needed play time with more academic-based activities.

Personalized learning allows for more opportunities for emergent learning, where student interest guides the curriculum. When students are allowed to learn more about their interests, they tend to be motivated and inspired to show great effort and in turn, show greater growth.

Place-based learning focuses on students learning about the world and community around them. This applies to our indoor and outdoor classroom. Through service learning, students get hands on experience with the nature "in their own backyard" and become immersed in their own community.

Project-based learning involves curricular-integrated activities and lesson across subjects aimed at an essential question.

I have been immersed in my 4 P's, working to create project-based learning (PBL) units that allow for applications of play, place-based, and personalized learning opportunities. However, as I worked on the finishing touches of my latest unit, I discovered a fifth P: picture books.

Now this may seem biased because I do write picture books and aim to be a published picture book author someday, but as I did my lesson and unit planning, there was one constant throughout. The constant was wonderful literature experiences though applying and utilizing picture books.

I think I can officially say my new philosophy involves 5 P's.

Now back to the unit planning and picture book writing.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Not Tyke Hike (Tyke Hike #48)

Though the government shutdown may have forced a cancellation of the official Tyke Hike, it certainly couldn't keep people off the trail on a wonderfully warm winter morning.

About twenty people trekked on the slushy ups and downs of the Ice Age Trail's Loew Lake Segment.

With stops at the "canoe tree" and at the frozen Oconomowoc River, the hikers enjoyed the wonders of nature, even the mud.

Of course, natural play was involved. :)

Hopefully, the shutdown will be over and the Tyke Hiking can resume on February 24th at the Hartland Library.