Magical learning from nature
What may be an annoying and invasive weed to some, to others, and certainly to Little Stars, is a magical experience and learning opportunity. From collecting the flowering dandelions to compare in a competition to see who has the longest, to blowing a dandelion clock and counting our wishes, these weeds are proof that everything and everybody has its beauty and potential to give joy and a little bit of magic.
There be dragons!!
If you went out in the woods this week you would have needed our mighty dragon slayers to protect you! Our passion with mythical and magical creatures happened to fit nicely with the story of St George and the Dragon to mark the Patron Saint’s day. The Shooting Stars have been captivated with our many different tales of dragons: dragons who are scared of mice, dragons who would rather play the dainty piano, those who are both defeated and helped by fearless Princesses in their quests (see Shooting Stars page). And so we took to the woods to create dragons from clay as well as to lay traps for those that flew in. Imaginations were flying too as they thought of and sourced different materials to cover the traps, made arrows and signs for the dragons to follow, but also we saw the compassion of those children who wanted to save the not so scary dragons from the traps.
What if I fall? But what if you fly?
It’s a slightly corny and over used phrase but the meaning and philosophy behind it is good. Why see things from the ground when you can take a whole new perspective of the world from up a tree? To climb a tree isn’t on the EYFS early learning goals. But it should be. To climb a tree, over a log, up a slope, a bank all involves taking risk, challenge. It calls on the emotional strength of the individual, belief in oneself, the power to pick yourself up if you fall and try again, to know there is more than one way to solve the problem, that your way might be different from someone else’s, that your challenge is not that of the person next to you but the sense of achievement is just as high and just as important. To have your feet off the ground, to see things from a new angle, from a new height, to be taller than the adult beneath you, to have a new vision. Not to mention the obvious physical benefits (which includes strengthening the full muscles from the shoulder to the fingers to help with pen control). So if you want to do one thing to improve your child’s health and well being, to give them the ability to fly then go climb a tree. And don’t just take my word for it, Nursery World also agrees.
Spring Term 2020
Taking a closer look…
Sometimes we become so used to our environment and what is around us, that we forget to really look and think about features of the place in which we live. And so over the past coupe of weeks the Shooting Stars have been recording through pictures what they see on walks around the village and making maps of the area. We looked at the patterns and features of the church: in the stone work, the windows as well as the different types of houses we passed or road signs.
Walking down the lane, we stopped to think about what the trees looked like, the sounds the water or mud made and what actually happens in the scrap yard? We hope in this way that the children get to look at more than just what is in front of their eyes, or below their feet, developing new thinking and new language.
We also come across natural problem solving situations, like just how safe is this rickety bridge to cross the stream? How deep is the water? How can we reach the tyre swing? We found out the answers to all of these questions…only through trial and some slight error!
Letting nature be our teacher
Over the course of last term and now starting this one, we as a team have been discussing the format of our Nature School sessions. Firstly, and something that i have raised as a slight “niggle” of mine before, is the very nature of calling it a “school” in the first place, which comes with it ideas of formal learning. However, our focus has been to what extent we should be “planning” at all for these sessions and the validity or worth of adult led activities. Observations from staff have been that children may engage briefly in such activities but that the true and most worthwhile learning and valuable play has stemmed from when they either adapt the activity for themselves or indeed use the environment for their own free play and discoveries.
With this in mind it is interesting to “analyse” today’s first trip to the woods with the group of Shooting Stars:
Autumn Term 2019
Even though it’s not Halloween yet, the Rising Stars have been exploring the natural world that is right under their feet by using it as ingredients to mix into their magic potions. It encourages them to look closely at features of the environment: examining colour, texture, shape and pattern.
This term we want to use as much as possible the pure unadulterated beauty and treasures of the world around us in our nature school explorations. With this in mind we have been testing out ingredients of the hedgerows and fields as materials to use in creating pieces of art work. With the help of some double sided tape the children made their own pictures from pieces of grasses, or the last colours of the Summer. It also allowed imagination to run free, as one piece was described as ‘A violin’ (linking the long straight lines of the grass to the strings on the instrument).
As the month progressed and the flowers gave way to seeds, we used the abundance of berries in the hedegrows to smash into material and discover the different colours that blackberries produce (and it isn’t black). The children used skills in using hammers, explored ideas of force, of cause and effect, pattern and texture.
Probably my favourite season for being out in the woods and fields, Autumn gives so many opportunities for the children to be immersed in changes of the season: being able to see, to feel, to taste, to smell features of Autumn. We have made a start in the first week back: tasting blackberries, touching prickly cases of conkers, feeling the rain and the weather getting cooler (warming ourselves by the fire that we can also use to warm ourselves by toasting marshmallows over).