Spring is in full bloom and the children have been filled with exuberance this month. The mild weather has caused the forest floor to warm up and dry out leading to many barefoot days this month. Going barefoot is one of the universal activities that children gravitate towards. Our Cedarsong children are lucky they get to go barefoot since it is uncommon in American culture for adults to allow children to do so. Luckily, our northwest forest floor is soft and safe and the Cedarsong way is to experience nature fully, engaging all our senses. I encourage you to find a place in nature where you feel comfortable and join your child in a barefoot adventure!
The children have been filled with imaginative ideas this month and have co-created many play scenarios including those featuring dinosaurs, fire girls, spring fairies, rainbow rose princesses and Biscuit the dog. The children have been cheetahs, tigers and bunnies. We have engaged in a lot of play focused on imaginary camp-outs at a secret place in the forest we call Squirrel Camp. There, we make a pretend fire, hunt and gather, cook our food, tell stories, put our fire out and all go to sleep on the forest floor. The play continues so that sometimes we spend 5 days camping out at that spot. The children have enjoyed more of their favored play theme involving tools and fixing broken things, using carefully chosen sticks to represent hammers, screwdrivers, and drills.
We had a lot of opportunity for puddle exploration this month. The depth and width of the puddle kept changing since the rain was more sporadic as we enter our dry season. Each time the puddle shrunk the children noticed differences in the quality, texture, consistency, color and smell of the mud contained within and wanted to explore it in a full sensory way. They waded in it, got stuck in it, collected it, painted their faces with it, made cakes with it, and made cement out of it, among other things. One child noticed that there was a difference in the surface of the water depending on whether she blew on it hard or soft. The children observed and remarked to us that colors darken when get wet. They noticed it on their chalk art drawings and also in the changing color of the soil as they dug below the surface.
This past month was an exciting time for observers of the natural world as virtually everything has finally come out of hibernation and dormancy. We have seen lots of banana slugs, the native black-with-yellow-spots millipedes, snails, bumblebees, spiders, black beetles and bee flies. Observing these insects and spiders has prompted a discussion of what they eat. The native Douglas fir squirrel has been very vocal this month, as has the pileated woodpecker. Several new birds have begun their territorial calls, including the pacific slope flycatcher, the swainson’s thrush and the yellow rumpled warbler. Add those to the varied thrush from last month, as well as the resident chickadees, spotted towhees and song sparrow, and our air is filled with a melodic symphony of natural sounds. Our amphibian friends have been represented too as we have heard the native pacific tree frog and found many salamanders. Empathy for all living beings is exemplified every day with these kids however a great example is this: Gavin said, “When I blow on this millipede it curls up”. When Teacher Kristen asked why, he replied “Because it’s scared”.
There have been new opportunities for foraging this month as the huckleberry and madrona flowers ripen. The children love to collect and eat the fallen madrona flowers and right now they are covering the ground so thick that Grant exclaimed one day: “It’s a madrona explosion today!” Most of the kids noticed that the new flower stalk on the salal is sticky. They have learned that I like to call those flowers fairy lanterns and that they are edible. We noticed that the bumblebees like these flowers and the bee flies like the huckleberry flowers. The salmonberries are forming and will ripen to a bright orange soon. Because the evergreen plants are developing their new leaves, they are shedding some old ones leading the children to observe that there are a lot of red leaves on the salal and a lot of yellow leaves on the madrona.
As the forest dries out, the children have been comparing decomposing wood from different trees and noticing that it all looks, feels and breaks apart differently depending on the tree. Since there has been less rain, we have seen more climbing and balancing this month as the slippery surfaces dry. As we often observe, the Forest Kindergarten kids exhibit lots of teamwork and cooperation while moving sticks and building various dams, bridges, fairy houses and other structures and this month was no exception.
Teamwork makes the Dream work!
By Erin Kenny ©2013