Monday, November 25, 2013

Letting the kids drive the play

One of my real joys at teaching outdoor education to children under 5 is watching their transformation physically.  Some of the kids arrive at The Outdoor Preschool already climbers and explorers but many are new to the thrills of going deep into the woods.  As we end the first trimester of TOP we start seeing such adventuring in the kids.  Even the littlest ones are ready to go off trail and do some scrambling.

Last week I attended to a preschool conference and heard some speakers that are very cutting edge with play-based education.  I came back to The Outdoor Preschool ready to try some newly learned techniques. One was to really let the children lead the learning.  Now-this has always been my philosophy but I wondered if I could try and relax even a bit more and see where the children would lead us.

As the yellow group left circle time and we headed into the woods the hike took us by a favorite log to walk on.  As we passed the log, Clara and Adela naturally stopped and began walking and balancing on the log. I made a conscious decision not to tell the rest of the kids to STOP and wait.   As one child asked for my hand and the other said she didn't need it, I looked ahead on the trail to see how the other children dealt with this hike delay. As the two girls walked again and again on the log I quietly observed a few of the boys hanging out by a bridge-but they appeared to be just chatting away.They had stopped on their own. No one said to the girls to stop climbing and balancing.   I could see the boys gesturing towards the running water and perhaps to the horse and property next to the fence.  They didn't seem bothered or bored-just hanging with friends.

So-I kept standing near the balancing girls while they practiced - again and again and again walking the log-jumping down-climbing back up and walking again.    Their bodies were beginning to understand balancing-And they were gaining confidence in their skills.  Pretty soon-neither wanted my hands and they walked further on the log until it met another log and another.  As they naturally finished their exercise Conrad said, "Let's go this way!"  Then the whole group was ready to move on.  They were calling to each other "come on! Over here!"  Everyone joined back up and we were going off the trail, over logs and into uncharted territory.  Sometimes they helped each other get over the difficult bits.  They waited for the group patiently and exclaimed over found mushrooms and crunchy leaves.

They had become a community, a unit working together for the overall fun of the group.  What a wonderful lesson in life.  There are challenges, some waiting and hanging and some exploration.  It might be difficult and it might be scary but it might be exciting and rewarding. However it turns out-let's do it together!

PS  If you want to learn more about the invigorating speakers I heard,  try:

Teacher Tom
The Ooey Gooey Lady
Erin Kenny

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dissecting Sunflowers is cool!

For gathering time we put out some sunflowers that were drying out and getting ready to display their seeds. Some of the kids spent time picking off the smaller flowers and pulling out the seeds from the flower head.  If you get some home you can plant them now-or wait till spring.  We have been told that they can spend the winter in the ground and still sprout when the weather warms up.  Let us know if they do sprout in May or June!

It was fascinating to watch them work on their fine motor skills-pulling out the small seeds with their fingers and placing them carefully into a paper cup.  As they dissected the flowers we game names to the parts of the flowers. Disk flowers and ray flowers and seeds, stem and leaves.  We even pretended to be sunflower seeds sprouting during circle time with one hand going down into the soil and another reaching for the sun high in the sky. As we rose from our seated position to standing-pretty soon we were doing a yoga pose, tree pose-but making it into a sunflower pose with sunflowers coming out our hands.  Pretending to be part of nature is so fun.

On Tuesday the yellow group went on a long hike all around the park on a trail even I had never been on.  Logan found a cool log for us to have snack on-since he lives close by and knows all the trails well.  As we walked we counted trees - to see where we should stop next.  We found a stream and bridge that was new, a cool hollowed out log and finally the horse corral.  I asked the kids which way was the way back to lunch-and they all knew.  Smart kids!  Again, it was unanimous!

The blue group had stayed and played next to the stream the whole time we were on our big walk.  Funny, because the class before it was the opposite-the yellow group enjoyed the stream and didn't want to leave and the blue group did a big hike.  We just keep shaking it up here at TOP!

Thank you for sending your children in plenty of layers.  I had one child announce on Tuesday-"Teacher Ann-I have 3 pairs of pants on!"  I told her "So do I!"  Unfortunately I didn't have 2 pink pair and a purple pair like she did.  (wish I did!)  We will continue to take off layers or put then on as needed. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mushrooms are never green

Ok-today it was WET and COLD!  It has become that time of year where it is hard to have too many clothes on!  But the kids didn't seem to mind.  They had a blast running through the deep puddles and sweeping the water here and there. 

We decided to have circle time under the monkey tree-because it was semi-dry under there.  During circle time we talked about mushrooms.  Did you know that there aren't any green mushrooms because they don't have chlorophyll?  Luckily we had Teacher Roo,  the biologist, to explain mushrooms and fungi to us all!  We learned that mushrooms are not plants.  Also that they don't have seeds but use spores to grow new mushrooms.  We will continue to study mushrooms this fall since they are so prolific this time of year.
We also talked at circle time about splitting up the groups but then meeting at the secret spot to create a new fort.  So the blue group went off hiking-first swinging by the yellow group's pumpkin and then taking the long hike with frequent stops for mushroom sightings.
The yellow group made it as far as the stream-then spent the entire hour plus following leaves as they floated down with the current.  The kids put in small sticks and then bigger and bigger branches to see what they would do in the water.  Did they move with the water or were they too big?  Did the extra branches on the sticks make it so it couldn't go under the bridge? The TOP kids seemed fascinated by observing the path a leaf would take down the stream.  They ran along side of their leaf as it floated along in the stream-following it the 20-30 feet along the bank.
The kids worked together to move big branches and sometimes figuring out how to rescue branches that got caught under the bridge.  I mentioned that we should go catch up with the blue group but my group was having too much fun with the stream.  As it turned out, the blue group was having too much fun finding mushrooms so neither of us made it to the secret spot.  But that is the way we roll at TOP.  We follow what the kids are interested in and give small, discreet lessons on whatever they are observing.  I'm hoping that some of the kids went home and mentioned the "current" of the stream or that mushrooms are never green.

Follow the signs to the pumpkin

It was the blue groups turn to lead the yellow group to their pumpkin.  The kids were very excited to lead the way.  The yellow group gave them a head start by taking time to visit Herbert the Giant Flemish Rabbit.  We had fun petting him and watching him hide under his house. 
Then we started looking for clues to follow the other group.  There were giant arrows made by sticks and sometimes drawn into the dirt. Each time we found a clue there were squeals of excitement!

When we got to the group they were having snack under the tree next to their pumpkin who was being eaten by a slug.  Then we all played in the stream that overflows the bank. 

Some of the kids wanted to kick up the water.  It only took one suggestion that they kick away from their friends and pretty soon there were 5 kids standing next to each other and kicking away into the weeds.  There was lots of fun splashing with no fear of getting kicked.  The amount of fun these kids can have in the water is amazing!

FYI Parents!  As the weather gets wetter and colder I have a few suggestions that can help us as teachers and perhaps you as parents.

1. Please label all of your child's clothing - including their mittens, gloves, hats, backpacks, lunchboxes.  It can be hard to tell one child's items from another.  Thanks!
2. Please send extra gloves with your child as they tend to put their hands-gloves and all-right into the water and then they are cold again! Mittens can be easier to get on then gloves if their hands are wet.
3.  You may want to invest in handwarmers.  You can buy them in bulk at Costco.  We suggest opening them in the car so they are warm by the time your kids begin to get cold.  It takes about 15 minutes before they warm up.
4. It is time to put wool socks on their feet.  Many layers under jackets.  I personally wear 2 layers under my waterproof pants and I had on 3 layers under my jacket today (and I still got a little cold.  I'll wear more next week.)
5. It is very tiring to get cold.  I suggest a warm bath when they get home and some quiet time.  Not every child needs it-but your child may!  For instance, don't expect to go shopping right after preschool. That may be too much! And don't forget the change of clothes in the car.  I'd include a towel also!

We are still having a blast even if we get wet!  We try to limit the getting super wet till the end of the day so they aren't wet the entire class.

See you next week! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chestnuts to roast on an open fire?

 We began the day with a pail for each child to collect leaves.  We looked for big leaves, small leaves and medium leaves.  We also stood under a maple tree and collected yellow leaves and red leaves.   Another day with the signs of fall.  As we looked closely at the ground we were excited to find a chestnut tree at the farm. This is a sweet chestnut tree with edible nuts.  We also found a closed "burr" (the pod of the chestnut).  It was very pokey and sharp.  Someone suggested we throw it up into the air to see if we could break it open.  It took 2 tries, but it burst open-revealing the nut within.
This week TOP had two visiting teachers.  One is Nicky Mack who is a senior at UW and has applied to get her Masters in Education at UW.  She will be with us every Tuesday this session while she observes how an Outdoor Preschool teaches science. 
Nicky Donovan was with us on Thursday.  Nicky is learning about TOP and outdoor education as well.  She plans to be teaching with Tiny Treks next year at Keep It Simple Farms on Mondays/Wednesday and Fridays. 

Nicky studied zoology for her degree and then went on to train as an Occupational Therapist. After many years she followed her heart and retrained as elementary school teacher. She has spent time teaching 1st grade and 4th/5th grade in the UK. She has particularly enjoyed introducing children to the natural world and has used her background in zoology to aid her teaching.  Since moving to the US,  Nicki has taken time to settle her teenagers to US life but remains an avid walker and nature lover.   Tiny Treks is lucky to have such a talented teacher come join the Tiny Treks team!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rake, Jump and Laugh!

Some of the older kids were really determined to make big piles of leaves.

It was a beautiful fall day.  A day we don't always get  in the northwest.  The leaves were dry and crunchy and just begging to be jumped in.  We took kids's rakes ( and 2 adult rakes for the teachers) and went under some huge Big Leaf Maple trees and began to rake up piles of leaves.  Everyone helped.  I mean everyone!  The 3 year olds were working alongside of the 5 years olds!  The little ones were the first to jump into the leaves and stop raking-but I was impressed that they helped at all!  I think it helps to have size appropriate tools like we do.
Everyone helped with the raking.

 Everyone was giggling as they threw the leaves up into the air and eventually us teachers were belted with huge armloads of leaves.  All in good fun.  We had so much fun that we forgot about snack and then had to send Teacher Roo back to the picnic tables to get our lunches so we could eat lunch out in the back meadow.   We ended up making 3 big piles of leaves that kids hid in, jumped in and threw!
No one got smacked by a rake-everyone was careful.
At lunch we continued with our study of salmon.  We read the story Swimmy  by Leo Leonni and a facts book about salmon.  We also talked about seasons.  Concentrating on fall and what the changes are in fall.

We will be continuing our talks about the seasons as we observe nature change around us.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Balancing on a log

Deep in the fern wood.
This sunny day led us to a favorite fallen log.  This log is so long that the kids practiced watlking up and down it for a long time.  If you follow it to its natural end-behold!  There is another log there-so you can jump or climb onto the next log and keep going.  The younger ones wanted a hand to hold as they walked and the older ones managed just fine on their own.  We are so lucky here in the northwest that even if the kids slip off-there is usually a soft fern or leaf covered forest floor to catch their fall.  As we were up and down the log the kids got more and more comfortable with their own balancing prowess.
I must say that as a forest teacher, I don't help the kids much.  Even those who want my help by holding my hand as they climb or balance-find that I'm not much help at all.  If they resist me telling them how to climb up themselves, then they find a very limp and not strong hand at the ready.  Sometimes they try and direct me to be stronger-but instead my hand goes to the log or branch that I want them to learn to grab-and soon they are climbing and balancing all by themselves.
Our log walk dropped us off into some very high forest brush where we bushwhacked our way through in order to get back in time for our tractor ride! Thank you to Farmer Elise for giving us a fun and very bumpy ride around the park and farm.  We were up high and so we could see the apples on the tip top of the apple tree.  We saw leaves changing colors and the tractor found some deep holes to jostle us around!
Waiting to ride the Farm tractor and wagon.

Now that it is October, we are beginning to talk about pumpkins and Halloween.  Today we read a book about pumpkins and at the end of the month we will carve our own jack-o-lanterns and then hide them in the woods to watch them decompose! We won't be wearing costumes to school because of our need to wear so much clothing to TOP.  But we'll have fun talking about the season.  We also learned a pumpkin finger play today!\

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
First one said "Oh my, it's getting late!"
Second one said "There are witches in the air,"
Third one said "but we don't care!"
Fourth one said "Let's run and run and run."
Fifth one said "I'm ready for some fun!"
Ooo ooo went the wind, and out went the lights,
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scissors, String, Sticks and an old sheet

Concentrating on how to tie the string.
What do you get when you give 10 children under the age of 5 a roll of string, scissors, sticks and a sheet? I've been thinking about this class for awhile.  I wanted to see if we could build a structure or a tipi with the children or what might happen if we tried.  So into my backpack went string, scissors and an old sheet.

At circle time I showed all of the contents of the backpack to the kids.  I asked them what they thought they could do with them in the woods.  There were suggestions of "make a hammock" and "make a fort".  So then we were off to find an area in the forest.  We first explored an old tree stump that is already in the shape of a tipi.  A bunch of the kids went into it and tried it out.  But it wasn't the right size.

 During snack time on a cool log we read a fun story about kids and a wagon.  Just like the wagon we have at TOP!  The wagon became a train and a rocket ship and a truck.  We talked about how the child really used their imagination in the story The Red Wagon.

We hiked all over the park, listening to the rain pelting the leaves (but not us!) and hearing thunder in the distance.  It got really dark for a while-but since we were deep in the forest, we didn't get wet!.

We ended up in the "secret place."  Again, out of the rain.  There on the ground were all of those sticks we gathered 2 weeks ago.  I got out the string, scissors and every child got to cut a piece of string.  As I helped them to place the sticks on the tree to make a shelter-I was very curious to see how they would use the string.  Soon,  almost all of the kids were picking up sticks and tying on the string.  Some tried to tie two sticks together-but for most of the kids the fun was just in practicing wrapping the string, or trying to make a knot or even a bow for one girl who knows how to tie her shoes.

String carefully tied to sticks. 

After a good long time with the string, I got out the  sheet to hang.  But first the kids wanted to play with the sheet.  We put pinecones on the sheet and snapped them high into the air.  Then the kids went under the sheet and played under there while Irena and I made it flap up and down.  Then we hung the sheet on the tree and the kids went into their fort.  It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed watching how the children played with the think in their own environment. 

In the words of Maria Montessori , Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”

PS Thank you to Irena, Bo's mom,  for helping out today.  It was a very fun day!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"It's unanimous!"

I was sorry to have missed this fun day-the first day of October!  Luckily Teacher Roo and our guest parent, Jen Downing were there to lead the class! Thank you Jen for helping us out in a pinch.  Our other back up teachers were not available and Teacher Ann was down with the flu.  

In the future,  if you would like a chance to help out in class sometime-send me an email and we will put you on the list.  Sometimes we can't find a certified teacher to substitute and turn instead to you parents.  It can be either of you-as long as you are willing to don waterproof clothing and be ready to climb, hike and get into mud with the kids. We usually can't accommodate your younger children, so I know that can be a bummer if you would like to help but have a younger child.  If you would really like to be there sometime-we can plan a day so you can get a babysitter ahead of time.

On Tuesday the TOP kids were storm watchers.  We talked about the storm and what it effect it might have had on the park. The kids looked for downed branches and puddles and found both. At snack time we read a fun book about a witch and a storm.
Our hike took us to very good puddle all the way on the other side of Farrel-McWhirter and the kids had a blast stomping and splashing in the puddle.  Since it was a long hike there, the kids were asked to vote at each intersection of the hike.  We have a name for this kind of voting.  We call it "voting with your body."  The kids will stand next to the trail they want to take.  Sometimes we ask them to "use the map in your head" to remember which is the right way to our destination.  If everyone agrees it is "unanimous"!  We've had many children begin using this word at home.  Let me know if you are hearing it!

We also found this cool beetle.  I tried to identify it online to no avail.  Oh well-its cool anyways!

Teacher Ann will be out again on Thursday and thank you in advance to Monika, Conrad's mom for helping out Teacher Roo!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cat tails, rabbit ears and tic tac toe!

We began the day comparing cats to rabbits.  How are they the same?  How are they different?  Many kids mentioned that their tails were different; that they both have 4 legs; they are both soft.  Then we petted first Santa Fe, the farm cat and then the baby bunny (name may end up being "Oreo".  The name is still under discussion.)  We went into Herbert, the Giant  Flemish  Rabbit's pen.  We all agreed that both of the bunnies were sweet and soft. We got a close up look at their ears and tails in order to compare them with the cat.  We noticed that rabbits hopped and cats don't, except someone said that cats can jump really high. Hmmm


On our hike today we ended up in the "Secret Place."  Soon we were noticing the many sticks that were there.  A suggestion was made to make a structure.  All of the children got involved, finding sticks, putting them in a pattern (someone said it looked like tic tac toe!)  They worked together as a team and were very happy with the results.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thunder the miniature horse and some wild deer

Shhh!  I see 2 deer ahead!
Today we began with loud noises of trees being removed and chipper shredded.  As sad as it is to say goodbye to lovely trees at Farrel-McWhirter-there is a good reason.  They are about to begin work on expanding the horse pen in the barnyard -so the trees had to come down.

We had a date today with Thunder, the miniature horse. Thunder has been at Farrel-McWhirter Farm for almost 10 years and is a favorite with our very smallest riders.  We learned about his mane and tail. We got to touch and pet his soft nose and neck.  We also looked at his hooves and talked about how they were similar to our fingernails.  I suggest you reinforce this lesson by asking your child what they learned about horses today.

Since the weather remains nice, we headed out for a picnic near Juel Park.  It was a big hike for many of the kids who are new to TOP.  But we had such fun playing "Stop and Go!" along the way.  We are working on reinforcing the safety rules we have at TOP by practicing how to stop when the teacher says "Stop!"  This is a real challenge for some of the kids-Please feel free to play this game at home.  The rule is that if the child does not stop they have to come all of the way back to the person who is calling the game.

Along the way we spotted 2 deer way up the road.  We tried to sneak up closer to the deer  but they disappeared into the woods.  We are inspired to try and find them next time we hike there!

A picnic lunch!
It is always fun to have a picnic lunch on the trail.  While the weather holds, we will have as many trail picnics as we can!
New friendships are being forged!
Running through the mud and ruts along the dirt road is great!
TOP Parents: Thank you for sending your children in waterproof pants,  We certainly used them today while we ran through the new puddles and sat in the damp grass.  I would expect your children to be tired and dirty today-and every day when you pick them up. You may want to have a change of clothes and a big towel in the car so your child can change on the way home.  I also would not expect to do errands after TOP.  They may be just too tired!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mini-rex , water striders and jumping spiders-Oh My!

We had our own mini-Wild Kingdom show today when we watched as a ladybug flew straight into a web and the spider scurried down the web strand and wrapped it up for lunch like a big burrito.  We had been trying to catch the ladybug so we could all look at it but it was destined to make a tasty lunch for a spider.
The third day of The Outdoor Preschool went very smoothly as everyone begins to get used to our routine.  Kids were having fun with stamps and sorting animals, while others played Frisbee with Lochlan's dad (thanks!) or took turns in the wagon. 

We enjoyed having Teacher Kate with us today as Teacher Roo's kids are both home with a nasty flu.  Teacher Kate works part time in the indoor preschool at Farrel-McWhirter and also as a worker on the farm-so she was a wonderful person to have at TOP!  Thanks Teacher Kate!  It was fun to have you with us today!  I'm sure we will see more of Teacher Kate as the year progresses.
We sang some favorite songs for Teacher Kate:  "Way up high in the old apple tree" (technically a poem...) and along the trail we sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" as we hiked.  We also got to meet the new baby bunny at the farm.  She is a mini rex rabbit  and is one of the softest creatures on the planet!  She is only 8 weeks old.  It will be fun to watch her grow up this year.    Along our hike we found some spiders spinning their webs while we zipped along toward the overflowing stream.

One of TOP's favorite places to play is where the stream jumps it's stream bed and follows the path instead.  There we can wade and jump in the water and squish the mud.  We were grateful for a warm day as well. Everyone got a cup and spoon and many kids were making "chocolate water" or other imaginative concoctions.  We caught and observed some water striders who were busy in the water.  During lunch we put a jumping spider in the bug box so that everyone could watch it!

Thanks for sending your children prepared for the weather.  Unless it stays this warm-please send your child in their waterproof pants next week.  But make sure to put a short sleeved shirt under all of the top layers so we can take those warm layers off if we need to.

And Thanks for sending your children to TOP!  It is so fun to be with them and teach them about the wilds of the Northwest!

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Its OK to get dirty at TOP!"

TOP kids climbing in a Western Red Cedar.
It was only the 2nd day of The Outdoor Preschool and the kids were already getting more adventurous, curious and willing to take chances.  The favorite climbing tree was a happy place with many kids trying out the branches that grow close together, just asking for a small child to climb them!  The younger kids watched and learned by observing.  We will encourage them to try climbing but not before they have had a chance to learn by watching.
For some of us parents it is a hard thing to watch our child standing apart; watching but not interacting.  If you have ever taken a parent/child class with a child who doesn't want to interact, it can be very frustrating.  I know it was hard for me when my child was 3-watching all of the other children ready to jump in to class, gymnastics in our case, and my child was just waiting and observing.  At the time, before I was a preschool teacher, I wondered if it was worth the money to pay for a class that my child was obviously not ready for.  But low and behold, soon my child was on the trampoline and walking on the balance beam along with the other children.
We learn so much by watching.  Many of us learned how to cook by first watching our parents cook in the kitchen.  Many of the rules of the road we learned just by being in the car with our parents while they drove us around.  So why don't we want to let our child just watch for awhile?
At TOP we take time for everything.  A child doesn't have to speak up if they aren't ready.  They don't have to climb if they aren't ready.  Although they do have to follow all of the safety rules and keep up with the group.  Something that can be a challenge these first weeks of preschool.  We will encourage them to talk during circle time or try balancing on a tree log-but we won't insist.  Children need to be ready.
Right now many of the new kids are learning how to climb without assistance. This doesn't mean I am more than a foot away from them, but that I won't pick them up.  I will help them by mentioning branches to grab, where a foot might go or even to kneel down and let them use my knee as a stepping stool.  Yesterday, as I knelt down to help a child climb up to the "trunk" of the elephant tree-the little girl picked up her foot and showed me the bottom of her muddy boot-as if that answered it all.  Without words, she pointed to her boot.  I said  " oh -is your boot muddy?"  And she said "yes."  I told her that I didn't mind getting muddy-that is what we do at TOP.  Right behind me Conrad told her - "Its ok to get dirty at TOP.  That's what we do-right Teacher Ann?  "  "Right!" 
Finally she put her dirty boot on my knee and climbed straight up to the trunk. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Welcome back to The Outdoor Preschool!

We are blessed with warm weather this first week back at The Outdoor Preschool.  We were happy to begin our day with  a new cool ball with a wind sock that flies.  Thanks Conrad for bringing the new toy to TOP!  During circle time we all learned a new poem about an Apple Tree.

Way up high in the Old Apple Tree
Two little apples smiled at me.
I shook that tree as hard as I could.
Down came the apples.
MMMM were they good!

You can ask your child to show you the hand signs for it.  They are learning some real sign language with this poem.
After singing the TOP song we set out on our hike.  Over the stream, which was super low and up the hill, to the Elephant tree. Many of the kids wanted to climb the Elephant tree and sit on it's trunk.  We are learning how to climb with our hands and not someone picking us up.  We will also be working on that TOP is a dirty preschool!  I had one student explaining to a new student that it is ok to get dirty at this school.  In fact - we are supposed to get dirty!
We also practiced on our hike, stopping at signs, bridges and to stop if a teacher holds up her hand in a stop position.  The kids from last year were a big help in teaching the new kids the safety rules.  I don't think it will take too long for the new kids to be up to speed!

Snack was at the picnic table and we read a farm animal book and a book on Johnny Appleseed.  We'll be learning more about apples on Thursday.

Then there was still time for some play on the tire swings and a lot of the kids used their eagle eyes to look for beads in the wood chips.  (You might have gotten some beads home.) 

(If you ever have extra beads to donate to the school-we like to use them for hunting in the wood chips or sometimes in the woods.  I try and pick them up at garage sales.)

Oh too quickly it was time for lunch and to say goodbye.  All in all, it was a very good first day!  See you Thursday for another warm day!

PS Parents:  Please label clearly your child's backpack and lunchbox with your child's first name.  Also label your child's snack.  When it gets time for mittens you will want to label them as well.  A sharpie works well on a tag. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

chalk + water = paint!

Today was the next to last day of the school year.   A time to finish things and change it up and keep things the same. All of the above.  With our unusually warm weather it was time for water play.  The kids had buckets and scoopers of many different sizes and for some kids that just meant scooping water for a long time-into and out of containers.  This is a way of learning the science of measuring-age appropriately with no goal-just the brain acknowledging that there are different sizes and that means different volumes.
Some kids found out that chalk + water = paint and had fun "painting" the walkway.  We also hid rocks painted as ladybugs around the tree-which was a fun activity hiding them and then finding them-and then putting them into a nest that Teacher Roo brought in from her home.  There was also a "nest" of dinosaurs that cropped up!
Some of the kids just spent their time by the hose, filling up buckets and eventually throwing the water up into the air and having it land on them.  A self-made sprinkler system!
We broke for stories and snack.  Everyone had a lot to say about The Gruffalo-especially since the small mouse encounters an owl and a snake! Animals we have learned a lot about this year.  For lunch we pulled the wagon over to the other meadow and ate a picnic lunch under one of our favorite trees.  Everyone was keen on having the cupcakes that Matilda brought for her birthday.   Thanks for the fun book and treat Matilda!  

Every good thing must come to an end.  We are sad to end this wonderful year.  Thank you to all of the great parents who have been very supportive of us teachers and our somewhat unconventional approach.  We love what we do and are thankful that we get to work with your kids!

See you at the picnic on Thursday.  Don't miss the performance at 1020am!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Slide, Jump and Roar like a T-Rex!

We are down to the last 4 days of The Outdoor Preschool.  Wow-how this year has flown.  The kids have grown up so much and gotten so strong and confident in the woods and farm.  I am so proud of their accomplishments.  There isn't a hike in the park that is too far, too long, too difficult or too complicated that they can't figure out how to get back.

During circle time today we talked about our last days of preschool and I asked the kids to think about what were their favorite things to do at TOP.  Then I asked them to tell the group what would they like to make sure we do one more time before the end of the year.  As the kids told the group what they wanted to do - I drew in chalk on the sidewalk the different choices.  They were:

  • Go back to the dirt slide.
  • Play Owl Babies
  • Go to the tire swing
  • Play in the mud
  • Go to the stream

We voted to see which ones we would do today.  The stream and dirt slide won!  As we headed to the stream the kids seemed especially excited to go back to their favorite places.  I like it that they got to choose. 

The stream was an easy choice-close to the farm.  Soon it was time for snack. Everyone found a place on the bridge to sit and hear the fun story/song that Teacher Rhonda and Teacher Ann sang.

Little White Duck

The trail took us through the woods, past the elephant tree, across the bridge to our first vote.  We have the kids "vote with their bodies" by standing next to the trail they think will lead to our chosen destination: The dirt slide.  We had many "unanimous" votes today as the kids used "the maps in their heads" to remember where the dirt slide was.    We had to choose 4 times before the kids ran ahead to one of their favorite sliding and jumping places.

When we got there the kids eagerly lined up to slide and jump off the high stump with the help of first Teacher Ann and then Teacher Roo.  It was a good lesson in taking turns, sharing the space and not shoving through. 
Some of the kids wanted to play "Owl Babies" instead.  A favorite pretend game, especially with Teacher Rhonda.  There were owl babies, owl moms and dads and predators such as coyotes and Peregrin Falcons.  I think at the end of the play there was even a T-Rex!
On the way back for lunch-the sun came out a little bit and there was even time for some tire swing fun.    Yeah!  That was when we realized that we hit 4 out of the 5 top things to do at TOP.  Not bad!  We will be continuing to repeat our favorite hikes, activities and play these last few days. 
PS Don't forget about our fun last day of preschool with you and your child.  Bring any adult who would like to see a little of what we do at TOP.  Plus a hayride and a barbecue.  Bring a dish to share for the potluck.  You can shoot me an email if you are wondering what to bring.