Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Timberwolf Trail - Week 8 - 2015-16 Edition

We kicked off our forest kindergarten day by going to a place we hadn't been before. Before trekking on our usual trail, we stopped by the back tree line and looked at the deciduous forest behind us. Using an amazing book, The Gift of the Tree, by Alvin Tresselt, we learned about the life of a tree and how even the most powerful and towering oak tree can eventually come down. That being said, even though it wasn't the skyscraping tree it once was, it still served an important and crucial role in the life of a healthy forest.  Of course, we couldn't just talk about fallen trees in the forest. We needed to explore them! Before we headed among the trees, we of course had to grab a pile of newly fallen leaves and throw them up in the air. We didn't want to wast such an amazing autumn day!
The trek was a bit more treacherous than our usual pathway. Risk is important and we all took our time and were careful as we explored this new area. We saw and inspected fallen limbs, took a closer look at stumps, and even found some giant puffball mushrooms.

After meandering through the woods, we headed back to the trail and stopped between two oak trees. We were very familiar with one to the trees as it served as our main outdoor learning area. Still, the other would be the focus of our next lesson. Though merely 100 feet or less away from our oak classroom, this other tree was often overlooked. After inspecting it, we found that it was missing its top and that the top had fallen, the top was caught among lower branches, and it was now full of dead branches and leaves. I asked the students what might have caused this part of the tree to fall. After brainstorming and deciding against beavers, lightning, and lumberjacks,we came to the conclusion that this tree may have been damaged by wind. The kids were amazed that though part of this tree was no longer alive, much of the rest of the tree was still loaded with acorns and deep green leaves.
After our oak tree inspection, we headed to the classroom oak and worked on collecting nature items for our exquisite nature vests made from paper bags from local grocery stores. After trial and error with tape, glue, and rubber cement, we were able to start adding nature to our vest in the form of acorns, stick, leaves, feather, and even a walnut or two. I can't wait to see what else we can add to these amazingly creative collections.

During natural play, we were able to use our long paper roll telescopes to see the land from a new perspective.

We moved on from natural play time to go inspect a very large fallen tree. Based on what we had discussed in our readings and our science chats, it was exciting to see what the students could point out about the tree. It is hard to remember all that they discussed but by while trying to ask the right questions, we made some very important discoveries. The students figured out bugs and fungus were primarily helping turn this once sturdy tree into soft, dusty pieces. We found grass growing out of the tree and eventually came to the conclusion that because the tree was slanted and this is where the tree formed a bowl shape this is where rainwater and dirt must have collected, making it easy for something to grow.

Upon further inspection, we noticed holes in the tree mainly at the base. The kids guessed this is where the chipmunks lived. When I asked why, they brainstormed and came up with some reasons why this would be a good animal habitat. They mentioned that the chipmunk could store food there and that the chipmunk could hide from other animals and protect itself from the rain and weather.

In the afternoon, not only did we mention a number of woolly bears, something that has become a daily occurrence, but we worked on the tricky teens. Connected with an activity I previously taught indoors using unifix cubes to connect and create teen numbers, I decided to use nature to teach this time around. With sticks representing ten and acorns being ones, we worked on place value and teen number creation before calling it a day.
I am so blessed and honored to be able to take these kids outside and learn from them. Trust me, they are teaching me more than I could ever teach them.

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