Autumn is in full swing and we couldn't be more thrilled for the change of season. Rain has fallen and our forest floor has gone from dry and dusty to moist and muddy! The trees are shedding their leaves and we're watching our "classrooms" transform. We've gone from days of shorts and shoes off to head to toe rain gear.
Highlights of October in Sprouting Roots have been: Finding seeds! The Sprouts had all sorts of fun collecting seeds from pods, dandelions, grasses, cones, and berries. There has been particular interest in the berries of the Madrona tree - we have a big Madrona right at Main Camp, so the ground has been covered with the bright red berries for weeks. The kids love collecting the berries, then squeezing them to reveal the seeds. We've also had a very active Forest Kitchen, which has produced many dirt-based birthday cakes and cupcakes, along with salads, rice, soup, and sushi! We've watched the children practice their leadership skills in the kitchen - directing what needs to be made, how to make it, and where it should be done.
One group of our Sprouting Roots have been frequently found beneath the picnic tables, or running from table to table - when asked what they're doing, they'll tell you they're reading and following the secret maps - which we've come to understand are the words printed on the sides of the tables! Many of their daily journals are also filled with maps, of the trails we took that day, or of other places they imagine.
We've had quite a number of very gorgeous, sunny days, which we spent running through the field, rolling down grassy hills and finding fallen dandelions. Each day also took a trip to the lake, and powered through the challenging hike there and back like it was no big deal.
Little Roots have had a very cute October, as they do every month, collecting rocks and leaves, feeling all the soft moss, finding spiderwebs invisible to any normal adult, pointing out Madrona berries, and practicing the right way to gently 'boop' a mushroom.
As we work our way from subfloor to canopy in the forest, our Forest Roots class has already made it above ground in our studies! During the month of October we studied seeds, roots, burrows, and mushrooms. Each week we've explored the park in order to locate and/or identify our topics of studies. Hiking with children has proven just what keen eyes they have, as they often find mushrooms and seeds and burrows we teachers can easily walk right by.
Wildlife sightings have included a coyote that has returned to the same spot at the park and handful of times now. We've also seen a family of deer, a buck prance through to field and one of our groups has come across a dead animal that we were not able to identify, but as you can imagine it caused a great deal of conversation and theories!
October was also the month that we introduced fire making and whittling to our classes. The children are learning how to use flint and steel to start small, contained fires in our Kelly Kettle. A task that requires focus and dexterity, which the children have been very eager to take on. Though not everyone has been successful in starting a fire, a few of the children have, which is always very exciting! Those who have yet to start a fire excitedly practice each chance they get.
Whittling began with safety rules! We have very clear guidelines and procedures to follow when one is in possession of a knife. After a month of using them, I am happy to report that the children have taken using the knives very seriously and we haven't had one incident of inappropriate use. We love giving the children responsibility and watching them thrive with it!
It is exciting to watch the children bond. Any time a classmate is absent from one of our Forest Roots classes, all of the children notice. The children have put on a dance competition, a singing competition, a mushroom show and a science show. These events have been 100% child inspired and child led. During free play we spend time quietly recording the children's interactions and observing their communication and social skills, only stepping in when they request help or it is clear they need someone to facilitate a dialogue. The children are using wonderful language to both express their needs/desires, and to be clear when they are not happy about something. It is both impressive and encouraging to hear a group of 6 year olds working through a disagreement together and coming to a compromise without the help of an adult.
I will close this entry with a poem by one of our students.
A poem by Tazio (age 6, Forest Roots)
Painting the woods,
The ground is covered in leaves,
And there's moss hanging from a tree,
And sticks are scattered every which way.
There's helicopters on the ground,
And the wind is blowing on my face,
Two wings and eyes that can see in the night.