The forest is changing, it is always changing. Wind brings down leaves and branches that once hung out of reach. Rain creates streams and rivers and puddles where there was once dry earth. Frost glistens on the ground and turns to mist as the sun warms it. The sun sits lower in the sky and creates shadows and beams of light in different places every day. The children notice these changes and watch closely while we observe the children.
Emergent curriculum is a cornerstone of what we do at Fresh Air Learning. Our curriculum constantly evolves in response to the children’s changing needs and interests. In our observations, we noticed the children building houses and homes in the forest, complete with beds, TVs, showers and couches. We noticed that sticks were being used as tools to fix imaginary toilets. The children asked questions: “How do we build a couch, or a bed?” So we decided to provide the children with real tools. We gave them small hammers the perfect size for their small hands and golf tees and large nails to hammer into fallen wood. The children were delighted with these tools and we heard many exclamations: “Look what I did!”, “I’m so strong!” and “I’m so good at this!”. What a sense of accomplishment they felt as they realized what they could do. One child even built a small bench for himself. It was a rich and meaningful learning activity for the children and we are so grateful they feel free to share their interests and experiences with us.
Another change we noticed was that the children were talking about the seasonal activities that were happening in their homes, neighbourhoods and other learning environments. Some children would spontaneously burst into seasonal songs that they were learning while other children spoke about decorations in their homes. Cara and I did some creative brainstorming and decided to pull some invasive ivy from the forest and bring some jingle bells and pipe cleaners for the children to create with. We were astounded by the variety of things the children made: jingle wands, jewelry, crowns, wreaths and decorations. When children are provided with open-ended materials and shown a variety of different techniques, they have the freedom to use their own imaginations and emerging skills to transform the materials into their own unique and personal objects. We gave the children room to explore the materials, put them together, take them apart and use planning, trial and error to design their masterpieces. The children then used their works of art to make music, give gifts and decorate their world.
Our week at the farm also provided us with the opportunity to notice and play with the changes this season gifts us with, especially mud. Lots of mud! Some children regarded the mud warily, poking it with sticks and fingers, while some children jumped right in, got stuck, got unstuck and then got stuck again. While at the farm we also greeted a new baby horse, fed the ducks, geese and chickens and took care of the sheep. The children played in some of their favourite spots: the tire swing, the see saw, the rhododendron ‘jungle’, and the top of the root cellar. And we even managed to light a fire on a couple of the less soggy days. When we couldn’t light a fire, we used charcoal from the burnt wood to draw pictures on things and as impromptu face paint. During farm week, we spoke to the children about the changing season and about how cold and dark the days are getting. We talked about the different traditions and celebrations that happen in winter and about how people often light candles in their home to bring light and warmth in on the cold, dark days. Then we made candle holders out of jars and tissue paper for the children to take home. At the end of class, we gathered around the candles, lit them and sang a song about light. The children then blew out their candle and some even made a winter wish. What a gift it is to watch the children play, create and learn!
As the winter solstice approaches, we wish everyone an abundance of warmth and light and a happy, healthy new year.