With the advent of warmer, drier weather, we have been spending even more time outdoors than we usually do, and it has become much more feasible to bring tools for learning outside with us. Simple additions of drawing materials and measuring tools have provoked immense curiosity for the children, and have added a new dimension to our outdoor explorations. Read on to take a peak!
Colored pencils and clipboards have been used to record observations of features of the woods and meadow. However, children have also used these materials to develop ideas all their own. Last week, writing materials inspired children to write their own "reports," which evolved into map drawing, which then evolved into the creation of passports. "What's a passport?" one child asked. "A passport is what you use when you need it," another replied. As there still seems to be a lot of space for curiosity and learning about passports, adding materials for investigating and creating passports to our indoor space will be a next step for learning. When we follow children's questions and curiosities, rich, authentic literacy learning about the world emerges.
The addition of rulers and measuring tapes has led to discussions about size and units of measurement. "You're 55 tall!" one child exclaimed, while running a tape measure along my back. Children initiated the ideas of measuring rocks, sticks, and the circumference of trees.
Math and literacy understandings go hand in hand with scientific questions and deductive reasoning. One of our children asked that we make another visit to the pond, since we hadn't been there since March. He wanted to look for the turtle nests that he remembered discovering last spring. We didn't find turtle eggs that time, but we did have the chance to be led on an adventure by one of our six-year-olds, and to pretend to be tigers, and try to catch butterflies by "planting" a flower in a handful of dirt. Did it work? Not this time...further experiments await...
On another walk, we discovered tracks next to the pond, and children discussed what might have made them. "I think they're deer tracks!" "No, they're wolf tracks." "They look like duck tracks." "No, they're not wolf tracks. They're too small." "I see the part that looks like a hoof." "No, I see a hole that looks like a wolf claw." "What made the hole? Maybe it was an ant." "Maybe it was a worm." "No, a worm is too small."
But perhaps the most valuable aspect of all is the experience of joy. Listening for bird songs, chasing butterflies, trying to make friends with turtles...these threads weave the fabric of our days. We couldn't be luckier!