February was a diverse month with elements of both winter and spring. The children were bouncing more than usual this month, as we notice happens every spring. It’s like the children’s energy shifts along with the natural world, coming out of the dormancy of winter and into the activity of spring. This month was marked by much silliness as well as elaborate imaginative play and many fine examples of teamwork and successful play negotiation. We played a lot with the theme of hunter-gatherer family sitting around pretend campfires cooking our pretend food while engaging in detailed storytelling. This activity creates wonderful group bonding.
We saw a noticeable increase in the kids running, dancing, and spontaneous singing. Many of the children are making up their own words and melodies, inspired by their forest classroom environment. A couple of new games were invented by the children this month, including forest golf, forest bowling and forest baseball.
There was quite a bit of ebb and flow to our naturally occurring and well-loved mud puddle. Several times during the month there was no water in the “puddle” when the children showed up, leading to a discussion about where the water had gone. Several of the kids answered, “It soaked down”. We wrote a song about the cycle of water (Oh the rain flows down the river, and it washes out to sea; it evaporates into the clouds and then, it rains back down on me!). Having a natural puddle gives children the opportunity to experience the rhythm and cycle of water. They are excited each morning when they show up, to guess whether there will be water in the puddle that day and if there will be more or less than last time. We often make balls out of the mud or dirt and then leave them in a special place so we can observe later in the week whether they look different. One time when we checked back, the balls looked like they had melted and the kids guessed the heavy rain had caused it.
Since we are able to study mud so closely and naturally, the children notice that there are different colors, textures and smells to the dirt and mud, and that different types are more desirable depending on the project: a mud pie uses different mud than a building project, for example. We built a few dams this month to try to contain water at various places above the mud puddle. We talked about what materials would make the dam most strong and one of the kids suggested we use the beaver dam as a model. We used mud, sticks, rocks and dry dirt and we encouraged the kids to notice the pattern we were working with. Some days our puddle was deep and the children enjoyed playing their “Sink or Float” game, in which we try to guess if an object will sink or float BEFORE we throw it in. At first the kids thought, “light things float, heavy things sink” or “small things float, big things sink” however our experimentation discovered that was not always true. Several children also mentioned that adding water makes the mud change color.
We have all noticed that there are new bird sounds in the forest this month. We are now hearing the song sparrow, nuthatch and varied thrush. The children noticed that the birds’ behavior has changed by observing that the towhee pair was no longer visiting us at snack time as they do every day. The kids speculated that they were now building a nest and being more secretive. We affirmed that we suspected their hypothesis was correct!
We also observed that the insects and other animals are coming out of hibernation. We have seen fairy bugs, millipedes, salamanders, worms, black beetles, and banana slugs. We had an opportunity to notice that our native millipede (black with yellow spots) has an interesting smell. We talked about the difference between a millipede and a centipede. We also saw lots of spider egg cases on Doug fir bark this month. We also heard the pacific tree frog quite a few times as well as the Doug fir squirrel.
We engaged in a lot of bubble blowing this month, encouraging the children to catch the bubbles or move the bubbles with their breath rather than running around trying to break them. This is another example of how Cedarsong encourages creation in nature rather than destruction. Bubble blowing is a great activity for teaching and learning which way the wind is blowing and introducing the theme of wind. It is fascinating how wind is something you cannot observe directly and can only see its effects. We like to watch the tops of the trees dance in the wind, observing that trees are more flexible than we imagine. There were several times when we laid down on the ground and watched the forest canopy.
Since there was some rain this month, we discovered several new mushrooms that we had not yet seen this school year, including a black cup fungus and the birds nest fungus (with its spore “eggs”). I encourage children to give newly found types of mushrooms their own names. I find this is a great strategy for young children remembering whether they have seen a mushroom or not. Consequently, we have a new Cedarsong named mushroom, the “princess dress mushroom”. We also saw our usual mushrooms: orange jelly, Doug fir mushrooms, turkey tail mushrooms and red-belted shelf fungus. On a couple of days we built an aquarium for “jellyfish”, also known as the orange jelly mushroom.
We have continued to chalk up the forest, creating visual treats for the eyes and great learning for the kids as they compare how different tree bark textures feel through their use of the chalk.
And just for fun, I have compiled a preliminary list of everything I have seen children pretend a stick to be. I am sure you can add to this list! How many things can a stick be? I have seen them be all of the following and more: digging tool, pogo stick, umbrella, broom, vacuum, old fashioned pen, mop, horse, tail, fire hose, crown, guitar, drumsticks, net, magic wand, woodpecker, drill, hammer, screwdriver, and a sword, a bow and a walking stick.
Quotes of the month:
“I like to lie in the bushes”. – Eli B.
“There’s trees in the puddle” – Henry
Hope you are entering spring with as much enthusiasm as the children are!
By Erin Kenny ©2013