The children continue to thrive as the days shorten and the weather fluctuates. Together we have noticed the changes as the tall grass thins and leans, clearing a path to the creek that was not there before, the acorns drop, and leaves cover the forest floor. The forest smells a little more musky, and the air is sometimes chilly.
The Nature Preschool/Forest Kindergarten children have enjoyed inventing and playing variations of freeze tag, including Acorn Man, a game where they pretend they are a menacing squirrel/man combination or acorns that can run and fight back. This game was invented by the children after our opening meeting during which the children were startled by loud, mysterious thuds made by acorns falling from the nearby oak trees. Climbing up and sliding or running down the climbing slope is another activity that the both the Forest Kindergarten and Nature Explorer children have enjoyed, as well as helping to make fruit tea. They also discovered a toad living in a hole on the slope, and were thrilled to see it there on multiple days. As always, the children have been captivated by the caterpillars, especially the bright orange one they found. They were also interested in a grasshopper and have been perplexed by the many daddy long legs spiders that seem to be everywhere. Among the art activities, painting has been a very popular addition to their "play plans", individual lists of child-chosen activities that each child makes before beginning their hours long play session each day.
In addition to the STEM- related learning opportunities play in Nature provides, we have embedded literacy and language enrichment into our opening and closing meetings. The younger children dictate their play plans as we scribe for them while emphasizing and asking them for letter sounds to make the words they need on their plans, and we support the older children as they write their own. With the younger group, we have been singing and signing the letter sounds that begin their names, and with the older group, we have assessed their reading abilities and begun tutoring in reading for those that need this help. Both groups enjoy listing to, making up, and acting out oral stories and skits, answering open-ended questions as they engage in daily sociodramatic play, and interacting in small groups to converse about topics important to them.
As autumn wanes and winter moves in, we prepare for the cooler weather by dressing in layers, but we anticiptate that the many hours of active play, and occassional breaks for hot tea or cider, will keep the children comfortable and happy. We anticipate our first child-chosen inquiry-based unit to begin in November. Will they choose a forest animal, insect, tree, or plant to learn more about? We shall see!