What a year! In many ways, the woods was what kept us all sane during this pandemic. It was where we could play the most freely, be the most comfortable with mask breaks, and of course discover all of the surprises that each new season brings. Without the woods, it would have been much harder for all of the kids to connect with each other the way that they did. We have an incredibly tight kindergarten community, which makes it hard to say goodbye. This year will be one that none of us will ever forget!
Please take your families and friends to our outdoor classroom this summer and enjoy it together. You can tell your kids that they can add to the forts or build new ones, but please do not take any down. We can all be stewards: if you see anything concerning or a mess, take care of it the best you can. Let me know if there is anything big. (And invasive plant experts, if you see honeysuckle or rosa multiflora, which I know is out there, feel free to get rid of it any way you would like! You know who you are!)
We have been having so much fun in the woods this May, almost too much fun to take pictures! We have had rain, hot sun, blustery wind, and everything in between. One day we took a long hike on the Red Rose Preserve Trails. We have continued studying trees and small plants as everything turns green. On the rainy day, we looked under logs for salamanders and found about five– and even Mrs. Johnson held one! And our writing is getting easier and easier to read. Check it out!
We had an amazing Woods Wednesday today– with a “squeaky bird” that we all heard at Sit Spots (aka, a woodpecker!); a very involved tree study with botanists measuring, inspecting, and collecting; and another delicious picnic lunch. But I’ll highlight our new play kitchen which we took full advantage of today! We absolutely loved it. An especial hit were chocolate chip cookies (also known as pine cones). Everyone tried them and everyone loved them.
Thank you families who donated old and used kitchen supplies! We got a lot and we are all set.
This week, we moved to Woods Wednesdays which fits better with our new spring schedule. This means that we now have time for a favorite forest routine– Forest Journals! This year’s forest kids have never done them before, but they are well-seasoned writers who took to the idea quickly.
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!