When I say, “Off you go!” to the kindergarteners and they rush off down the hill into the ravine, I can’t help but think of my flock of chickens who rush out the door of their coop when I let them out in the morning. And then both, within 30 seconds, are deeply immersed in play and work of their own choosing. It’s especially true in the early spring, when every kind of tool and toy has been unlocked from the forest floor. Leaves, sticks, mud, rocks– all these “loose parts” immediately begin to move from place to place as kids begin to play.
For example, today: Aubrey was checking out the huge piles of pine cone scraps left after squirrels eat (aka “squirrel snacks”); Rowan found a six foot long, straight pole; Sadie and Corban high-tailed it for the big log and began weaving their way up the streambed, exploring; Caleb and Elliott dove into an imaginary game (which I later found out was a combination of Minecraft, Transformers, and Star Wars); Fred and Cameron found swords; Xander went back to work on a fort; and Emilia, Peregrine, and Gabe checked on their dam and began moving rocks “to get the water even higher.” Amazing.
Here are some highlights from February Forest Fridays! First, check out our super cool shades and sun hats for eating snack in the heat of the hoop house. We continue to observe the greenhouse effect there and discuss the different conditions we encounter. Last week, the sun was melting ice on the plastic and we watched water running down the walls outside!
And welcome to Our Small Ocean, or Lake Bowdoinham, as Mr. Lajoie calls it, aka the blacktop at recess. The kindergarteners had a great time exploring in the water, mining for ice chunks, smashing ice, and building with ice. Each day we eagerly study it upon arrival at school, watch how it changes throughout the day, and predict what will happen to it next. Will it freeze or stay open? Will it grow with more snow melting or will it evaporate in the sun? We love studying ice!
Today we had to keep our Forest Friday short because of the cold. We predicted that our hoophouse would both be warmer and less windy. And that was true– it was about 20 degrees above the woods temperature and the ground was hard but not completely frozen.
While we were doing Sit Spots, we heard a commotion in our ravine. It was the third graders with Ms. Caswell! They were out for a hike too.
To stay warm we mostly hiked, with a short play break. We navigated our ravine no problem. We rolled down hills instead of walking. And we chipped through thick ice and found some water in small muddy puddles.
Nothing can stop these Forest Kids– as long as they have their wool socks, long underwear, neck warmers, and joy for the woods. Oh and masks help keep you pretty warm outside too!
We were all happy to see even the tiny bit of snow that fell last night. Of course it is mostly gone now, but these Forest Kids got the most out of it. One thing we noticed was that the snow on the hoop house was a vast improvement. We still had to squint a little, but it wasn’t unbearable in there without sunglasses. We could eat snack much more comfortably! The kids explained it: “It is shady because the snow is on the roof. The sun can’t get in, so it isn’t as hot.” But some noticed, “Where the sun is on one side is a little brighter. The other side is darker.”
A worm was a second surprising discovery. The kids found it in the thin trickle of water where the mud was not frozen. It was cold, but still moving!
We had a fabulous time out in the sunny, crunchy woods. There was a trickle of water in the ravine, just enough crusty snow to play with, and sticks to gather for the fire. Ms. Karen Tilbor, a veteran Bowdoinham fire-tender, came to build and watch our fire for us. It was so cozy to have a fire at last!
This afternoon, we transitioned into some big work in Phonics and Writing. This has nothing to do with the woods, but I am proud of these kids. They taught their stuffies all that they have learned about snap words in “Word School.” It was a beautifully humming half hour!
And last, we put the final touches on our books, ranging in topic from Star Wars to pets to vacations to dragons. We created a bookstore that is open to teachers and staff next week. It is 50 cents a book! All proceeds will go to the Bowdoinham Food Pantry. These writers have worked incredibly hard the last couple of months, and now they can write a book across a few pages with labels and a sentence! You can see the books sorted by category in the colored slots across the wall. It is very exciting to be a writer whose books people may want to actually buy! With real money!