Before spring break, I joked with my colleagues that once school resumed, my class would either be doing the assessments inside or "doing our thing" outside. But was it really a joke?
One of our slogans used to be "we end each day with natural play." We tweaked it this week to "we start and end each day with natural play." So far this week, as soon as morning announcements were completed it was outside for a few minutes of natural play before phonics and writing.
A nature kindergarten program in a public school is unique. One of the things people ask me is how I manage to reach the curricular requirements and handle time management while spending so much time away from traditional instruction. To me, the answer is getting easier and easier. These students are naturally inclined to play and discover. By observing them and applying simple techniques into my instruction, I am finding it exciting and rejuvenating to connect the curriculum to our experiences in nature.
For example, this week we are working on opinion writing. I acquired a bird feeder photo booth over spring break. Basically, this is a special feeder with a camera attached that snaps photos of birds that enjoy the feed. Rather than just place it anywhere, we reviewed the wants and needs of animals and I had the class scout the land and eventually use a simple sheet to write where they would put the feeder. More importantly, they had to back up their decision with at least two reasons to make our opinions "strong." We will then use a shepherd's crook to have each child place their feeder for a day or to as we analyze the results and enjoy the pictures until summer break.
Secondly, we have been looking at cause and effect in reading. Connecting this concept to plan needs and our look at invasive species, we have searched for and worked to remove garlic mustard. All the while, we have discussed how we are using cause and effect in a real world application. Because we remove the garlic mustard, we are allowing more native plants to grow.
It was exciting to see how happy the students got when they correctly identified the garlic mustard,. Plus, seeing how the last few weeks of sunny, warmer weather have allowed this plant to grow quite rapidly, we searched and found the "jackpot spot," where garlic mustard was taking over. the kids were so excited because this plant was a lot easier to pull when it was taller.
Of course, every trip outside ends with a tick check.