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
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.