We have a dream... that more children in the KW area would be outdoors, learning about nature on a regular basis.
So for the past 4 weeks, I worked with one kindergarten class and one Grade 1/2 class at Riverside Public School in Elmira. They are lucky to have a forest and creek within easy walking distance from their school.
On our "Forest Fridays", each class spent about 1.5 hours in this forested area for 4 weeks. It was amazing to see all of the changes we observed in that time. The forest went from bare trees to full foliage - spring really sprang! The children's clothing and the weather patterns went like this:
week 1: snowpants, hats and mitts (cool, 5 degrees or so, still a tiny bit of snow on the ground in pockets of the forest)
week 2: spring jackets (warm, 15 degrees or so)
week 3: shorts and t-shirts (hot, 28 degrees and humid)
week 4: spring jackets and umbrellas (cloudy and a sprinkle of rain, 13 degrees or so)
We started week 1 with an inquiry into homes. Each class read A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman. Such a great, classic book!
After gathering in the forest, we did an activity from the Into Nature guide called "Memory Sticks." It's sort of like a scavenger hunt where children decide what to find - what interests them, what they wonder about. In no time at all, their sticks were filled with woodland treasures. This helped them explore the space and see small details that they were curious about.
Then we came back to the idea of homes. What is the forest a home for? I introduced the groups to some forest gnomes who were looking for some woodland homes. Here are some of them, waiting for their homes to be built:
We talked about what homes are for, and what homes could include. Then the children were off, choosing a spot, then starting construction. There were a variety of gnome homes created: some in treehouses, some in hollow logs, some with elaborate canopies of leaves. Some children worked in groups, and some by themselves. It was wonderful to see the variety of creations. One gnome had a chest for his collectibles. Another gnome had a basement for his secrets. Many gnomes had beds, pillows, and blankets. Several had chefs who made salads for them to eat. These gnomes were very well cared for!
Other weeks included some art activities. We made friends with some trees in our area of the forest, and brought out their "personalitrees" with clay.
We discovered some forest neighbours along the way:
Another art project one week was "hapa zome", or the art of hammering the heck out of flowers and leaves and using their natural pigments to make prints on the fabric.
Each week, our 1.5 hours went way too quickly. Here's a peek into some other activities we experienced:
Thanks, Riverside, for a great Forest Friday experience!
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Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play