What a difference a month makes! The children have grown comfortable with our forest school routines and procedures and now truly take ownership of our special space. The forest has also transitioned this month from a place holding on to the last bits of summer into a truly autumn scene full of colorful leaves, seeds, chipmunks, and chilly temperatures. And of course, lots of rain! Watching the children experience this transformation in the forest has been magical.
Our observation skills are being honed as the children continue with their “Sit Spot” routines and learn to closely examine the life all around us. We have spotted red-tailed hawks, chipmunks, daddy long legs, centipedes, millipedes, woodpeckers, minnows, water gliders and crayfish at the river. We often notice the color of the sky.
Nature art continues to be a favorite. One theme has been leaf art. Some of the most popular ones this month included leaf cutting with scissors, leaf collages, leaf sewing, painting leaves, decorating our new loom with leaves, and leaf rubbings. Throughout the month, we created different kinds of mud faces, or mud people as well. It’s amazing to see children find everything they need to create beautiful art just lying around the forest floor. Acorns or sweet gum balls become eyes, pinecones become mouths, and sticks become arms and legs! We also did a large collaborative mud painting on a large sheet hanging from trees. We have brought new art materials into play – such as chalk markers, paints and hole punches.
We continue to explore pretend scenarios as well. Our big main camp fort is a bear trap or a house or boat!. The large fallen tree is almost always a train. The children are really using their imaginations as they use the forest resources of sticks (tools), mud (gas) and leaves (train tickets) as a part of their pretend play.
Mud play has definitely increased this month now that we’ve had a lot of rainy weather. The middle of main camp has essentially become a mud pit, and children are engaging in digging, filling, dumping, flinging, and painting mud. They spent some time this month noticing how the consistency of the mud changes depending on the amount of rain we’ve had. One day, the children labeled the dirt chocolate chip mud and noticed how it was so deep it could hold a stick upright. This kind of sensory play is so natural yet so beneficial to their ability to engage in inquiry.
As the rain returned to the forest, so have a number of different mushrooms, molds and slimes! We go on mushroom hunts together, looking at all the logs and previous mushroom sites and taking short walks together slightly beyond the boundaries of Main Camp. Most of the growth is small, even tiny, so we have learned to take our time to look really closely to find the ephemeral growths. We look at the shapes and the colors and the feel – it’s okay to touch any mushroom, but we never ingest wild ones because we are not mushroom experts. One cool growth the children can already identify is Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold. Not a fungus at all (they’re amoebozoans!), they are bright orange-pink blobs that ooze when you pop them – a very satisfying activity. Using a mushroom book for reference has been a fun way to find a number of types each fungi might be. We look at the shapes, gills, size, and colors to decide if it might be this one or that! As the children have branched out and wandered a bit from camp to hunt for mushrooms and other growth, we have begun to study more about the fallen limbs and logs on which we typically find the fungi.
Along with this discovery slightly behind the boundaries of Main Camp, was a particular collection of fallen trees that are great for climbing. The children are naturally inclined to want to get UP. The teachers stand nearby to monitor for safety but let the children use all of their muscles to make it up. Not only are they building muscle strength, they are building confidence and thinking deeply as they problem-solve how to get past that other person on the log or simply how to get down. As we let them feel a little frustrated perhaps, they persevere and work it out eventually–and are stronger for it in more ways than one.
With our utility ropes, we created a pulley system by hanging a line between two trees. We threw ropes attached to buckets over the line, filled the buckets with rocks or sticks or other natural treasures, and pulled! The children were delighted to watch their buckets go up and down, over and over again. We also used utility rope to make a ropes course around a group of trees and to make tree swings. The children practiced using their core strength to support them as they maneuvered around the rope.
Our book focus this month has been a few books on mindfulness such as The Mindful Dragon, When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry and I am Peace, which focus on being present and using nature as a tool to find calm when needed.
The children are also developing a community of sharing. There have been discussions about the sharing of resources. Most children know they should share resources. But what exactly does that mean? One child offered, “Use it once, then give it someone who hasn’t used it!” Right on. Of course, there are many ways to share and the children are also sharing in many games of Eagle Eye, taking turns being the eagle who finds the children from their eagle’s nest. Being in community teaches so many wonderful things.
We learned a new song about how we are connected with the earth that Teacher Anneliese found.
Sing it at home:
Put your roots down, put your feet on the ground, you can hear the Earth sing if you listen x2
‘Cause the sound of the river as it moves across the stones
Is the same sound as the blood in your body as it moves across your bones.
Are you list’nin’?
Are you list’nin’?
Warmly, The SMNS Teaching Team
- Everyone is doing a good job dressing for the weather each day. A few reminders:
- Check the SMNS clothing requirement sheet when in doubt
- More layers is better than fewer
- 3 pairs of gloves in cold and / or rainy weather
- Start wearing neck warmers in addition to hats & gloves/ mittens
- Pick up some hand warmers. Costco has reasonable ones.
- In glove/mitten weather, consider packing snacks that are glove/mitten friendly. Ideas are apples, cheese, soups, etc. Things that can be picked up more easily.
- Registration for our Caregiver & Child Classes (ages 2-5) and Afternoon Drop Off Classes (ages 5-9) will post today online at southmountainnatureschool.com.
- Thanksgiving break will be November 26 & 27th
- Continue to do tick checks even in cold weather