September was mostly dry and warm, with some drippy rain and foggy days. We had many barefoot kids right through the third week of September. In my experience, going barefoot is one of the most common experiences young children gravitate towards and these Forest Kindergarten children are all so thankful that they can go without shoes in the Cedarsong forest!
As the month progressed, the wet chilly weather began to set in right around the Autumnal Equinox. As it rained, our mud puddle filled rather quickly, much to the delight of all the children. We have enjoyed many instances of splashing, stomping, jumping and even sitting fully immersed in the puddle this season since it is still not very cold. We are continuing to measure the depth of our mud puddle with our painted “measuring” stick (a tall stick painted every few inches in a different color). Before we measure, we always ask the children: “What color on our measuring stick do you think the water in the puddle will reach?” to encourage their critical thinking.
This month we have engaged in a lot of deep imagination play revolving around having a pretend cook-out and camp-out. The children roast marshmallows (leaves on the end of twigs) over a bundle of sticks that they gathered. We sit on some logs around the “fire” and tell made up or real stories from our lives. At some point, the kids will often suggest setting up our “tent” and then go through the whole mime of unfolding and raising up the tent. We go into our pretend tent and lie on the forest floor gazing up at the canopy, often wondering who makes their home up in the branches. The children have also spent a good part of the month fishing in the mud puddle, with yarn tied to a stick and a leaf or cone to represent the fish.
It is interesting to observe how often the forest kindergarten children engage in some type of “busy work”. This month we watched one child scrub our sitting stumps with a scrub brush! Usually the “work” takes the form of raking, shoveling, digging, chipping wood, crushing charcoal, collecting different kinds of dirt, making mud kitchen creations, building fairy houses, pouring water, or engineering dams, to name just a few. The children become incredibly focused on their “work” and take great pride in their accomplishments.
One day some of the children decided to build a teeter totter and several of them exhibited great teamwork in setting up the logs and finding the right balance to get the seesaw motion. There was a great deal of giggling through the whole process.
Drawing and coloring with chunky chalk continues to be a popular activity. The children love to color exposed roots different colors. It gives us an opportunity to talk about roots: what they are and which roots belong to which plants. We also encourage the children to color on the bark of different trees so they can experience the different textures. This builds children’s awareness about how to identify trees by their differing barks since we can’t always see to the top to identify the leaves.
We have encountered more millipedes this fall than I have ever seen and no naturalist can seem to tell me why. The northwest native millipede variety is black with yellow or orange spots along the sides. Millipedes are slow moving and eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter. They differ from centipedes in that they will not bite if handled. Millipedes leave an interesting smell on the hands, reminiscent of cherries or almonds. We encourage the children to resist handling the millipedes, explaining that we are so big we could easily harm them even if we are careful. We demonstrate how to gently scoop the millipedes up on a leaf and put them in the habitat box we have created. This large clear plastic box has no lid so the small animals can crawl out at the end of the day. It has been a great way to introduce the children to the word and the concept of habitat. Some days we kept track of how many millipedes we found by making chalk marks on our stumps whenever we found one.
When it’s been raining the children delight in grabbing a branch and shaking it to observe the rain water fall off. They like to take turns standing under the drippy branch as another child shakes it. This leads to a discussion about why there is water on the branches (even though it is not raining at the moment). Also, this is an observation in energy transference as the branch which is grabbed affects a whole lot of the plant above it.
The kids have been making great observations about how water is actually sticky. If you dip your finger in water and then touch it to sand or dirt, the sand or dirt will stick. Also, the kids have noticed that water must be added to dirt or sand in order for it to stick together so that they can build with it. One day the children spent a long time coming up with the perfect combination to create their own “concrete” to build a bridge.
We have eaten a lot of evergreen huckleberries this month. We always encourage the children to pick the berries themselves, challenging their hand-eye coordination and strengthening their pincer grasp. We have noticed that it is a new season in the forest, both by the things we observe (falling leaves, more layers of clothing) and by the things that are missing (the birds at the snack table, the slugs, the butterflies).
On several days we made a face out of nature objects and changed the position of the mouth and eye brows to convey different emotions such as happy, mad, sad and surprised. It was amazing to see the awareness that these three to four year olds already had about how to correctly interpret emotional facial expressions.
Unique child’s perspective of the month:
Four year old to Teacher: Why is it raining?
Forest Kindergarten Teachers answers: Why do YOU think it’s raining?
Four year old responds: Because the sun is melting the clouds.
Enjoy Autumn from a child’s perspective and go outside to play even when it’s raining!
By Erin Kenny ©2013