Over the course of the past two months, our class has grown a deep attachment to a magical spot in the woods that we refer to as “Our Special Spot”. During their time there, students have used their imaginations to create and participate in a wide range of games, stories, and make-believe activities. On one occasion, many children created houses, identifying rotten logs as “beds” and used a hollowed-out log for a canoe. On another day, students fought off imaginary GIANT tarantulas. During this play children have turned sticks into, guns, swords, spoons, traps, shovels, drills, and magic wands. This core, unstructured imaginative play helps children create their own fun by using their imaginations, which leads them to be smarter, better problem solvers with more of an ability to think “outside of the box”.
During our exploration of the “Special Spot”, children have made books including elaborately drawn maps. The children have also collaboratively recreated the “Special Spot” using their clay sculptures. You may have seen this in the hallway outside of our classroom. For meetings, we have also re-enacted dramatic rescues using action blocks and on the story blanket. We have also continued to cultivate their imagination by doing creative-thinking meetings like, “This is a stick, but it is not really a stick. It is a ______”. Lastly, we have been reading books that captivate imaginative thinking like Not a Box and Not a Stick by, Antoinette Portis.
Reflection: During this time to explore and discover, while in the natural elements of the “Special Spot”, I have seen the children explore and solve real problems. I believe that this less-structured outdoor time is essential to the development of young children. Throughout these experiences I have watched children’s pride rise as they solve “real” problems and help one another through tough situations. On numerous occasions, children have become “stuck” in mud puddles, losing shoes, and getting covered in mud. I have watched their peers rise to the occasion to help out friends in need, problem solving how to rescue friends and various articles of clothing that are stuck inches into the mud. These real situations help children build confidence to know that, not only will they be able to overcome being wet, muddy and shoeless, but that there are friends to help them through it. A positive byproduct is that they learn that it is exciting to work together to solve big problems and it feels good to give help and get help.
Einstein himself said “play is the highest form of research” and should be treated as seriously as that.
September & October 2013
Reflection: Children have a natural curiosity about other animals. The children are always looking under logs and finding salamanders, digging for worms, and playing with ants. Many children are “hands on” and want to explore these creatures by holding, touching, looking, talking to them, and even placing them into families. Pond life is no exception. Children have a great interest in seeing how animals grow, change and develop. For example, one day, Marshall saw the tadpoles after a long weekend and responded to their growth by saying, “Whoa, they are huge!”.
Having tadpoles in our classroom allowed the children to have first-hand experience of observing the magical transformation from frogspawn to small tadpole to a tadpole with hind legs! The children have enjoyed observing and drawing the different stages and learning about distinctive features like the gills.
The children were also excited to recreate the story of The Very Hungry Tadpole (a story that I wrote, strongly based off of the story The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Many children were interested in the different aspects of creating productions using body socks, a light projector, and a light table. Some of the different roles that the children had the opportunity to try included: set crew, narrators, videographers, lighting, actors, and light table masters. After creating the shows, which the children recorded on my iPad, the children loved to watch them- listening to their voices, watching themselves act and enjoying the show! Through these activities, the children became more comfortable with the story, retelling it over and over and experiencing it through different avenues.
Just like the The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Hungry Tadpole is a good book for developing literacy skills for preschool age children. It’s repetitive nature lends itself as a confidence builder for children interested in “reading” it to others as well as acting it out. The story’s simple plot is predictable in nature and the children are able to tell the story by looking at the pictures (an important pre-reading skill.) This is empowering and gives children the confidence to be the narrator to shows, building their desire to read and to be active participants in storytelling. To me, the fundamental aspects of education are the joy of learning and being active in the process of discovery. If children are having fun and their interests are fueling the curriculum, then they will continue to look at education as interesting, rewarding, and engaging. They will also be intrinsically motivated to continue the process throughout their lives.
For our culminating activity, we took the children on a walking field trip to Cory Stephenson’s pond, where children got first hand experience seeing a frog habitat as well as experiencing the joy of catching and feeling frogs and tadpoles.
My name is Rachel Foley and I live in Warren with my husband, Luke, our 3 year old daughter, Nora, our 1 year old son, Tobin, and a black lab named Dozer. We have been in the Valley for the past 7 years and absolutely love the great community and tremendous beauty of this area. Prior to taking the position at Fayston, I was a teacher and assistant director at Spring Hill School in Waitsfield. I have also worked with children of all ages in numerous other capacities including summer camps, environmental education centers, and 1.5 years in the deserts of Utah, where I worked with at-risk teens in a wilderness therapy company. I am originally from Pittsburgh, but feel like I have really found my place here in the Mad River Valley.