by Erin Ramsay, student teacher
Over the past four weeks at Forest School, I have been observing, listening and documenting student’s social interactions, learning experiences, and knowledge sharing. After writing out anecdotal observations, running audio records, and tracking records, I have connected each of the learning opportunities to overall and specific expectations from the Kindergarten Curriculum. It has been fascinating to see inquiry, play-based, outdoor education, correlate directly to these curriculum expectations. I would like to share the connections I have found during my time at Forest School.
Social and Emotional Development:
For me, the most obvious connection to the curriculum stemmed from the social development section of the curriculum document. Students are given opportunities to share their experiences, communicate with peers and educators, problem solve, and engage in deep play. Students can (1.) Identify and use social skills in play and other contexts. and (1.1) Act and talk with peers and adults by expressing and accepting positive messages.
In this image, students are working together to build a nest. Students have developed roles within their play. They are involved in gathering, building and communicating thoughts regarding the nest. A group of students picks up flowers, pine cones, sticks and pine needles to bring back to their peers, who are pulling the items together. The students are actively developing their social skills by collaboratively constructing a nest for birds.
In this image, the students are involved in climbing on the balancing log, beside the path. The log can only hold a certain number of students, but everyone would like a spot. How can all the students fit onto the log? Facilitators encourage students to 2.1 Use a variety of simple strategies to solve social problems. One student walks around the log and climbs up to be first “I was first on the log” she explains to her peers. “I’m falling” one of the student exclaims, as she holds onto the log. She observes how one of her peers holds onto the log for stability. “Don’t hold onto me” another student says as he tries to balance. The students successfully solve the problem themselves and balance independently on the log.
In this photograph, two preschool students are (3.1) developing empathy for one another and acknowledging and responding to each other’s feelings. The students are at a “movie theatre” and one of the students is returning from getting “popcorn” for the other student. The student who is sitting on the log has kicked both of her boots off while sitting on the log. “My boots fell off” she exclaims. D. walks back over towards L. and looks at her feet. “Why do you have two different socks?” he asks. “I don’t know. D., can you put my boots back on?” D. bends down and picks up one of the boots. “This foot?” he asks and L. says “Ya, thanks”, as he puts both boots back on.
During the OCDSB school visits, students gather around the campfire at the end of the day to discuss their favourite part of the day. The “magic microphone” is brought over to a student who wishes to express their thoughts. When someone is speaking, the other students listen intently and raise their hand if they would like to share something. The students are able to (1.2 ) Demonstrate the ability to take turns in activities and discussions from the social specific expectation section. The facilitator asks “What is was your favourite part of the day?” The students respond:
Student 1: “My best part is right now when I found a stump and when I saw the frog.”
Student 2: “ Today when I went exploring, I got to climb 2 trees and I got a little stuck! I found a symbol that matched a tree.”
Student 3: “I like when we were playing. I was looking for bugs.”
Students are also demonstrating emotional development by (1.2) Identifying and taking about their own interests and preferences and 1.3 Expressing their thoughts and sharing experiences.
It is a hot afternoon on May 7th, 2015. The students are using watering cans and buckets and filling them up with water. Z. is standing behind the tap and holding onto the nozzle with his right hand. He is facing students as they walk up to fill their buckets or cans. A. is standing beside the watering post holding a watering can and S. is walking along the path around the hand-washing bucket, towards the watering post. S. walks up to the watering post and places his watering can directly under the spout. S. says “ Z. can I turn it on by myself?” Z. says “Yes. Stop S., A. was here first though.” A. walks towards the watering post, as S. steps back. A. holds onto the watering can and places it under the tap. Z. turns on the water. A. says “That’s enough” and Z. turns the water off. A. walks away from the tap and S. walks towards it and places the watering can under the tap. S. says “ I can do it myself” and Z. lets go of the nozzle. S. turns on the tap using his left hand to turn the nozzle counter-clockwise, holding the watering can with his right hand. He looks into the watering can and turns the nozzle in a count-clockwise position. The water comes out faster and S. giggles and turns it clockwise, turning the tap off. S. holds onto the side handle of the watering can and walks around the hand washing bucket towards the stairs and dumps the water in front of the stairs.
In this running record, students are demonstrating self-regulation and effective communication strategies to solve social problems. They are able to (3.2) demonstrate respect and consideration for individual differences and alternative points of view from the social development section, and (2.5) interact cooperatively with others in classroom events and activities, from the emotional development section.
Communication is developed by (1.) talking, and by listening and speaking to others for a variety of purposes in a variety of contexts.
Stories are an important aspect of Forest School and students and facilitators alike, use story telling to teach one another about prior knowledge, shared experiences and learned knowledge.
On May 7, 2015, S. is standing on a fallen tree. He shares his story regarding the tree.
S. is standing on the fallen over log. “The tree is cut.” S. explains. “Why did they cut the tree?” The facilitator asks. “Because it was all sick.” S. responds. “It was all sick? What was it sick with?” The facilitator asks. “Just an animal. So little. The animal goes in it.” S. replies, holding up his fingers to show the size of the animal. “Are the animals still here?” The facilitator asks. “No. The animal goes in the tree. That’s the animal.” S. says pointing into the bush. “Oh did it fly away?” “Ya.” he responds. S. walks over to the part of the log that is still imbedded in the earth. He begins to peel back some of the bark. “The animal goes on it and gets like in the tree. It be in the tree. Then it makes the tree sick.” he says. S. holds his left hand up and turns it to the side. He moves his hand back and forth and says. “You cut. You cut it down. And then it makes sick. And it fall down because they cut it.” “They cut it because it was sick?” The facilitator asks. “Ya. The tree was all sick” S. responds.
S. is (1.5) using language in various contexts to connect new experiences with what he already knows, along with (1.9) describing personal experiences using vocabulary and details appropriate to the situation. He demonstrates the ability to (1.10) orally retell simple events and simple familiar stories in proper sequence.
Petra reads a story to students as they have a nutrition break. The students are demonstrating the Language Development Specific Expectation, (1.2) by listening and responding to others for a variety of purposes and in a variety of contexts.
At Forest School, students are engaged in hands-on experiences, using the natural world as their classroom for learning opportunities. The students investigate the environment through inquiry-based, free exploration. They observe, question, and describe the natural environment and demonstrate Overall and Specific Expectations from the Science and Technology section of the Curriculum Document.
Students are engaged in a hands-on, archeological dig to hide and find “dinosaur bones”. They dig using the shovels, pour water over the bones and into the puddles and cover the bones in mud. They are (1.) demonstrating an awareness of the natural and built environment through hands-on investigations, observations, questions and representations of their findings. They are also able to (2.) conduct simple investigations through free-exploration, focused exploration, and guided activity using inquiry skills. One student developed a presentation on dinosaurs, which led to a interest in playing with the bones.
J.says to his peers, “This is a kind of frog. A kind of frog that lives with dinosaurs, it use to live, but it died, it’s called a paleopatracus.” C. and L. are digging with shovels into the earth. M. says “Hey look a fossil” ,while pointing to a bone in the water. C. begins to dig closer to where L. is sitting. L. says “Don’t dig there!” C. says“We just need to find fossils”. M. asks “Is that a dinosaur fossil?” J.says “Whoa dinosaur fossils!” and C. says “A dinosaur fossil”.
L. explains, “Well that’s actually not a dinosaur bone.” The facilitator asks, “What type of bone do you think it is?” and L. responds“This type of bone, is a deer bone.”
The students constructed their own archeological dig and (2.2) made predictions and observations before and during their investigations regarding bones, (2.3) selected and used materials to carry out their own explorations and (2.4) communicated results and findings from individual and group investigations.
Students are (3.) demonstrating an understanding of the natural world and the need to care for and respect the environment, by building a “safe” environment for snails. (Please see A Day in the Life of a Forest School Student Blog)
During an OCDSB visit, students are asked to make a map of Forest School using natural materials and clay. One of the students explains her map to me. “There’s the thing to climb onto the tree” she says pointing to the rock in the front. “ A line to follow to the tree” she explains as she points to the small piece of wood in front of the tree. “This part is the poison ivy” she says placing a finger onto the piece of bark and “This part is the log to get onto the tree again”, she says pointing to the stick. This student is demonstrating the ability to (2.3) select and use materials to carry out their own explorations and (2.4) communicate results and findings from an individual and group investigation. She has (1.) demonstrated an awareness of the natural and built environment through hands-on investigations, observations, questions, and representations of their findings. She is able to creatively express her understanding of the environment surrounding her by using natural materials.
During my time spent at Forest School I have participated, observed and documented some extraordinary learning experiences. In reflecting upon the documentation I have gathered, I am able to connect each learning experience with specific and overall expectations and outcomes from the Kindergarten Curriculum Document. It has been an absolute pleasure to learn alongside the students and gain an insight into their thoughts, interests, and prior knowledge. I have gained so much from my experiences at Forest School and am looking forward to using inquiry-based, emergent education through-out my professional career as an educator. Thank-you for such a wonderful learning experience.