September 24, 2018

Happy fall, forest families!

The forest is putting on a wonderful display of falling leaves for us. One of the best things about allowing kids to spend lots of time in one natural environment that is close to their home is that they get to watch that place change with the seasons. At Contrast Farm, the wind whooshes through the trees and the kids have noticed that they can listen for that sound and anticipate a gust of wind. The gusts were met with lots of laughter and games: some of the kids screamed with joy as leaves rained down into our snack picnic, while others pretended to be turtles and tucked into their shells. We noticed the colors of the leaves had changed from green to shades of brown and yellow. Some have stripes from the veins in the leaves being darker, and some are spotted. No matter the color, they are FUN! The kids worked together to create leaf piles, or to fill a bucket with leaves. Then they took turns dumping the leaf bucket on their heads.

 The kids helped each other fill the bucket and then took turns dumping in on their heads.

The kids helped each other fill the bucket and then took turns dumping in on their heads.

 Joyful play is so important! The kids got a healthy dose of joy thanks to our friendly trees dropping their leaves on us.

Joyful play is so important! The kids got a healthy dose of joy thanks to our friendly trees dropping their leaves on us.


Another activity that our kids are enjoying is building bridges over the tiny ditch that runs alongside the dirt road. They are using lots of pre-mathematical skills and concepts, such as estimation and measurement. In order to create a bridge that works, they must examine the size of the ditch, visit the wood pile and find a board that is the right length and decide if it is strong enough to hold them as they cross. Sometimes they discover a board is too heavy and a friend will offer to help them carry it. It is truly amazing to watch their teamwork and problem-solving. Once the children decide the bridges are complete, the enjoy testing them out by running across. If something isn’t quite right, they try out a new design. Demolishing a bridge can also be great fun…then you can build it again!


 Pretending to fish off a finished bridge

Pretending to fish off a finished bridge

Our bridge materials gave rise to a new experience in our Monday group this week: levers and fulcra! This idea was born when one of the boards was halfway on the path and halfway in an indentation. The kids quickly saw the possibilities and began to balance and try to seesaw with each other. Next, they created difference types of fulcra using thin wood scraps, rocks, roots, and holes. Two different experiments unfolded simultaneously: one group of kids was launching dirt clods by using their levers as catapults. The other group was trying to figure out a way to balance one adult and three kids on different sides of the lever. This led to a discussion (kid initiated!) about how to tell who has heaviest using the lever as a balance. This all happened naturally, and now these kids have internalized physics concepts that are difficult to explain. Our young physicists got a whole lot of science in the forest! My sneaky-stealthy teacher wish is that the same scenario will unfold in the Friday group!


 The kids wondered if it was magic that made the lever lift them up and down when the forces on the sides changed.

The kids wondered if it was magic that made the lever lift them up and down when the forces on the sides changed.

 Catapulting pieces of mulch and lumps of mud was great fun! The kids noticed that the force of their jump or stomp made the object fly higher or lower. Some noticed that the size of the fulcrum also changed their results!

Catapulting pieces of mulch and lumps of mud was great fun! The kids noticed that the force of their jump or stomp made the object fly higher or lower. Some noticed that the size of the fulcrum also changed their results!

In addition to our physics experiments, there have been other opportunities for the kids to problem-solve. The Monday afternoon crew was in for a surprise when one of the crawdad buckets became airborne in the wind and blew clear across the pond to the opposite side. The children were absolutely riveted trying to figure out a way to rescue the bucket—their suggestions included having the swimming farm dog fetch it, taking the paddle boat across the pond (don’t worry…the suggestions were gently tempered by a more cautious adult), and finding hidden paths to the far side through the cattails. At press time, the bucket was still enjoying its vacation to the east shore. Perhaps the wind will shift it back our way, or perhaps the swimming dog will oblige our wish!

 Setting some of our crawdad friends free.

Setting some of our crawdad friends free.


We continue to enjoy fishing for crawdads (aka mud bugs/crawfish/crayfish/fresh water lobsters) and observing them up close and in the pond. So far, we have learned quite a lot about them! The kids could probably tell you they have pinchers and antennae. They also can swim backward. Most of all, the kids seem fascinated by the variety of sizes we have found. Some are about the size of a 4 year-old’s foot, while others are as tiny as grasshoppers. The large ones are more elusive, so we haven’t netted one yet.


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Every now and then, a less welcome picnic guest will arrive during snack or lunch time. This week we had a brief visit with a curious yellowjacket who must have been attracted by the yummy food smells wafting through the woods. Luckily, one of the kids shouted “Go away, yogurtjacket!” The insect left immediately—perhaps a bit insulted at its new name!

 There isn’t much you can do indoors that you can’t do outdoors! We even have early literacy going on in the forest. The kids enjoyed making stop signs one morning using wood scraps and charcoal. The tricky part was attaching the sign to a post.

There isn’t much you can do indoors that you can’t do outdoors! We even have early literacy going on in the forest. The kids enjoyed making stop signs one morning using wood scraps and charcoal. The tricky part was attaching the sign to a post.

 The kids were so impressed when one friend wrote his name on this stump that they all added theirs.

The kids were so impressed when one friend wrote his name on this stump that they all added theirs.

 

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Have a peaceful week!