Thursday, May 5, 2016

Timberwolf Trail - Week 33 - 2015-16 Edition

Mother Nature won't make up her mind. This week's forest day was just over 40 degrees when factoring in the wind chill. Tomorrow, it is forecasted to hit the lower 80's. Luckily, we are ready to learn no matter what Mother Nature throws our way.

We were pleasantly surprised as we trekked to our oak tree classroom. Our classroom was upgraded with a donation of super seating stumps that the class thoroughly enjoyed. Additionally, our natural play area now has many more building branches and tree cookies.

Today was Bug Day! With our classroom caterpillars fattening up for their metamorphosis, we reviewed the butterfly life cycle with our actions and song before broadening our focus to the wonderful and wide world of insects. Besides reading a book called What is an Insect?, we viewed the world with our own compound eyes before learning more about how insects use theirs.

Then, it was off to the woods to go on a bug hunt. Given a partner, a creature collector, and a challenge, students ventured off to find and catch insects. When we brought them together, we found a variety of bugs and other bug-like creatures. While more of our creatures were  not truly bugs, the actual process of searching, collecting, and debating "bug or not a bug" offered the students new perspectives and ideas about insects. We definitely have some budding entomologists.

After hoping to find bugs, we hoped to not find any with a tick check before moving on to the open field adjacent to the woods for some Hawks & Mice action played by reviewing syllables, sight words, and math problems.

Then, staying in the field, we did more math work by being given a problem and collecting dandelions to show the answer. After collecting a nice stash of dandelions, we problem-solved to "use dandelions to write sight words. It was fun to see students try different ways (writing with the actual flower, using full pulled plants to form letters, or using the stem as a pencil)

After lunch and specials, we headed tot the natural play area for an engaging and addictive round of Stick Champions, a  simple and exciting way to practice counting strategies.

During the following natural play time, I came across this patch of garlic mustard, something that sprung ups seemingly overnight. Using my kids competitive spirit to my advantage, we made a lesson and a game out of it.  Once we had some play time. we came over to check out the plants, discussed invasives and reviewed parts of a plant. Once we go to the point that roots use water and nutrients from the soil and that these invasive plants were "stealing" these ingredients from our native plants, it was time to turn the learning into some active service.

Showing the class the process of pulling plants near the base to attempt to get the roots out, it was game time. While I normally try to avoid super competitive activities, having kids "race" to get the most roots pulled was fine for me (and the land).

Another exciting development is a few awesome that high school students have begun to join us on our forest days to get footage and interviews for an upcoming forest kindergarten documentary.

If getting filmed wasn't exciting enough, the most exciting part of the day might have been on the walk back to the school. Just outside our classroom near our bird feeders, we noticed two very small chicks. With Mama killdeer nearby shrieking nearby, we didn't get too close. The kids are really enjoying seeing different birds. Our bird species tally is at currently at 11.

Hard to believe we are entering the last few weeks of forest kindergarten! I am so excited to see where we have gone this year. I am putting together a photobook for the families and I am amazed at how much we have dine.  I will make sure we do as much as we can in these final few weeks.

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