"Come forth into the light of things. Let Nature be your teacher." ~ William Wordsworth
I wrote recently about emergent curriculum, and how we follow the interests that emerge from the group. We also follow the prompts that arrive to us, unsummoned, from the natural world that we observe weekly. Exploration, questioning, and learning emerge from observing seasonal changes and having daily discoveries.
Sometimes our half-day adventures at forest school mean encountering one Teacher after another. One day last week, we started by observing the tree swallows as they swooped and dove around the meadow, tweeting sweet sounds, hunting for food. Sarah talked about "aerial foragers" and we discussed aerodynamics. How do things fly? Bird, planes, bees, butterflies, seeds?
Cleaning out a tree swallow nesting box, we found a nest and a dead baby bird from last year. We think it was a baby house wren based on the look of the nest - it was a double decker, with tree swallow nesting materials on the bottom and house wren materials on top. But maybe it was a tree swallow baby. What kind of bird was it? Why did the baby bird die? Where do baby birds go when they die? Could it come back to life? Why are some nests used by house wrens? What happens to the tree swallows when the wrens move in?
We encountered a mystery at the pond: 5 dead painted turtles, freshly killed, only their heads eaten. What happened there? Did they get caught by a predator? Maybe they came out of the pond and couldn't find their way back! When did this happen - when they were sleepy and coming out of hibernation? Why were just their heads nibbled? Who would just want to nibble turtle heads?
Back at the wood duck pond, a new area for many, we listened to wood frogs and spring peepers calling. We found and dissected an owl pellet, found a big deer toilet, and lots of woodpecker cavities. Who will nest there this spring? Why do the deer like to dump in that particular spot? Is there a screech owl nesting nearby? What did that owl eat?
Many group members grew their interest in primitive technologies by gathering materials and making their own brooms, which they used to sweep the forest.
We saw our first garter snake and first painted turtles (live) of this spring season.
How much can you fit into one morning in the forest? How many things can you wonder about? There so much to discover with Nature as our Teacher!
"You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you."
~ St. Bernard of Clairvaux
by Rebecca Seiling
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Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play