Another year begins at Fresh Air Learning, with the most glorious and sun-filled Fall we could ask for. We've been spending a lot of time building relationships of trust, joy and humour with children, as some are entering their first structured program of their lives. As I look towards developing an emergent curriculum for each class, I consider three primary streams of inspiration when choosing activities, materials, and locations to visit in the program. These include: 1) The children's interests, 2) the forest, and the lessons and gifts it is offering in the moment, and 3) the skills and resources present within our teaching team. In this blog post I'll share a small anecdote from each of these three streams of inspiration to give an idea of how I create a responsive curriculum, using what we have as much as possible and listening to each other and the forest.
One day recently we brought out some pieces of plain cotton fabric to see what sort of dress up the material may inspire. We first introduced it to a rather quiet group just beginning to come together. To our surprise, after the first child wrapped a piece of purple fabric around her body, an exuberant and fiery game of "dragons" erupted within the group. Quite urgently, most of the children wanted to join in the game, choosing their own fabric to wrap themselves up in. Several days of excited chasing, catching, and exploring games ensued. Recently we've been curious about adding more layers to the dragon play, and so invited children to bring some stones from home to make "dragon eggs." We provided the markers, and a large group of children spend 20 minutes making their own collection of dragon eggs. This brought out new aspects of their game involving family, protection, and mothering. They seemed to have a lot of fun making them too!
Lessons from the forest:
Another group has become very interested in woodpeckers. There is a pileated woodpecker who can often be found pecking away at a few trees near our meeting spot. They check every week for signs of the woodpecker. We've pressed our ears to the tree as the brazen woodpecker pecks away. We've examine the chips at the base of the tree, marvelling at their size and the different colours and textures present in the wood. We've been noticing more woodpecker trees as we spend more time in the forest. We've also enjoyed learning about the different types of woodpeckers in the forest through some woodpecker playing cards.
Our monday afternoon class has become very engaged in a great little swing Jocelyn made between two trees, lining up and waiting for their turn for quite a while. This class seems to collectively crave movement, especially movement up and around trees. Jocelyn responded to this desire by co-creating a very bouncy, responsive swing out of an old bike tube and some of our ropes, in collaboration with several other children. This group can't seem to get enough swinging and climbing!
Through all our eagerness to introduce activities responsive to children's interests, this year I have really been struck by the enormity and richness of starting something new like Fresh Air Learning. On our very first day of classes, I watched a three year old hug his parents goodbye, and then slowly, cautiously, with wonder in his eyes, follow a group of children and adults new to him, into the woods and on to an as yet unknown adventures. The courage children (and parents!) demonstrate by stepping into this thing called Forest School is impressing upon me deeply this year. I am filled with awe and appreciation towards families for beginning this year-long journey with us, and I am grateful towards the forest and all its beings for teaching us so much and bringing such beauty into our every day lives.