©Erin Kenny 2013
November was warm enough that we had several barefoot days in the forest. There was also a lot of wind, leading to daily accumulations of fir needles and small branches on the forest floor. We experienced many days of fog this month which led to opportunities to discuss what fog is. The children have noticed that the light in the forest is changing and the mornings are darker. This has been a great lead-in to talk about how the days are shorter now as we approach the winter solstice.
We had our seasonal share of rain this month, with a couple of pouring down rainy days. One of the most frequently asked questions I get from American parents is: “What do you do with the kids when it’s raining?” This is such an adult perspective and reminds me of a quote I just read: “You know you have left childhood when you begin to see a puddle as an obstacle rather than an opportunity”. In my experience, children are not bothered by rain at all as long as they are appropriately dressed!
Due to the increased rainfall, we have seen some of the highest levels in our seasonal mud puddle and there has been lots of water play. The children LOVE to play in the puddle and many of them like to not only stomp in it but also sit or lie in the muddy water! We have noticed lots of debris on the surface of the water: leaves, branches and fir needles due to the windiness of the season. This gave us the opportunity to talk about wind and what it is, as we see its results. The children enjoy raking an area of the forest to bare dirt and then checking it out the next day to see what debris has fallen overnight from the canopy. Later in the month, as there was less debris on the puddle surface, the children started commenting on how they could see reflections of the trees and sky in the puddle. Several times this month the kids got out the measuring stick (a forest stick painted with bands of color) to check on the depth of the puddle.
The children have often noticed that there are many different kinds of mud, each with its own texture and smell. There was a lot of mud face painting this month; the children take their time mixing up buckets of mud and water to a specific consistency for the face paint. There was also a lot of cake mixing and baking this month.
The children have observed that climbing is trickier when the forest is wet. The branches are more slippery and children need to be more cautious while climbing. This led to an interesting child-led discussion about how water can be slippery and how it can also be sticky. The children experimented with touching their finger to the water and then to some fir needles and noticed that the needles stuck to their damp finger.
The children have been very industrious this month, transporting big sticks to make various things such as a forest house, a train and a forest see-saw. Moving big sticks is a great opportunity for the kids to practice their teamwork, cooperation and communication skills. It also gives us a chance to remind the kids about a couple of our rules about big sticks, such as “Big sticks in big spaces” and “Point your stick to the ground when carrying it”.
Since the forest is so damp, the children have found a lot of what we call “chicken wood”. This is the very soft decayed wood of the alder tree. It becomes so soft as it decomposes that we can literally squeeze water out of handfuls of the wood. It makes great imaginary chicken burritos when “served” rolled up in a salal leaf!
On several days this month, the kids were playing around with sound. First they noticed that when a stick breaks, it makes a sound. Then they experimented with a leaf, some moss and a fir cone. They discovered that sure enough, everything makes a sound when it breaks.
The children have engaged in deep imagination play this month, forming cohesive groups within each class. Imaginative play has centered around gingerbread cookie kids who keep running away; cheetahs, bunnies, mice, and “feisty” animals; pretending to write notes on leaves with huckleberry twig pens; pretend campouts; and several parties at the “unicorn place”.
The chillier temperatures this month have meant the teachers have had to work more with keeping the children warm. Besides the occasional barefoot child, most everyone is bundled up these days in their Cedarsong required winter clothing. When kids complain of being cold, we ask: “What are some of the things you can do if you feel cold?” We prompt them to think of things like: putting on another layer of clothing, running around, dancing and hopping. Although having a campfire might seem like a good strategy, I have actually found that it is not since it causes the kids to sit still in one place. It is much better to get those kids moving! That being said, we did have several camp fires this month and got a chance to roast salal leaves over the flames.
It is interesting that at least once a day a child will voluntarily lie still on the forest floor and gaze up at the forest canopy. Generally, they lie motionless and appear to be in quiet meditation. This kind of stillness is not usually an option in an indoor chaotic preschool. Modern children are so over-scheduled, and stressed as a result, that this type of activity is wonderful for re-setting their inner calm.
This month’s foraging selection includes alder catkins, forest candy (doug fir buds), madrona berries and huckleberries. Our Forest Tea blend this month mostly consists of huckleberry leaves and berries, red cedar branch tips, madrona bark, salal leaves and hazelnut leaves,
Quote of the month: A 5 year old said “This apple seed tastes like a millipede smells”. Uncanny, because both apple seeds and millipedes have a minute amount of cyanide which gives them a very particular (and therefore similar) smell! And by the way, it is perfectly safe to eat apple seeds; the amount of cyanide is negligible. http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/apples.asp.