The forest must have known…it was our last day of Nature School at the Jaffa Environmental Education Centre. It was absolutely alive today. Chirping, croaking, buzzing, skittering and uncontainable kid squeals filled the illuminated forest. Animals appeared to be performing just for us. Chipmunks were brave (and quite chatty), tree frogs surprised us, salamanders introduced themselves and birds of all sorts sang from the canopy. We soaked it all in and digitally documented much of our interactions. It was a sweet, sweet day in the trees. Our word of the day was “appreciation”, and maybe, just maybe, the forest appreciated us spending five days in its space becoming stewards and being ready to share a crucial message of sustainability and conservation. Wow.
We always spend the first part of the day with our daily literacy routine and finding quiet time with our tree buddies. It was almost hard to concentrate as there was all kinds of playful commotion in the trees. The quieter we were, the louder the animals of the forest became. We knew we were in the middle of something not often experienced in a typical day.
We had a quick snack and decided to take advantage of the good luck and Dan led us on a forest hike that took us deep into the woods. Our job was to capture various sounds of the forest with our QuickVoice app. We would also take photographs so that we can later sew the sounds and images together with iMovie. We call these soundscapes, a great idea our music teacher gave me last year at a Jaffa trip. Stick rubbing, rustling leaves and other fun sounds were soon overshadowed with our recordings of live animals! We captured wood tree frogs barking like angry ducks, chipmunks chirping like birds (and coming within two metres of our recording location) and unidentified birds high in the canopy. I can’t wait for the kids to create their final soundscapes and reflect upon the awesomeness of this morning.
On the same hike we again attached macro lenses to our iPads and took more fantastic shots to fill up our ‘can you guess what this is?’ padlet. We tried looking under logs and had great success – many students were able to have friendly (but usually evasive) salamanders crawl over their hands! Dan led us a to a water source, and we were able to notice the sponginess of the soil, the smell of stink cabbage, and peppery scent of a berry on a tree nearby. It was a hike rich with life.
I wanted to spend the last part of the day being appreciative. I am so thankful that Dan and Erin considered my ideas for a week full of curriculum in the forest. I have been thinking about it for months, and it really exceeded expectations in the impact it had on these students. We used Google Slides and some creative masking (cropping in shapes) to show our hearts, stars and wishes. They needed to select a photo representing something they loved, something that was a ‘wow moment’, and a wish for Jaffa. It was a fun, wordless way to reflect on our week and demonstrate a stewardship mindset. These would make some cool bumper stickers!
Lastly, we said good-bye to the forest. I gave the students a few minutes to appreciate their tree buddy. After some good-bye hugs it was apparent that a few students were really emotionally affected by their time here. We become attached to things. This extension of our classroom is no different.
It’s going to take some time to consolidate all of our learning. There is lots to sift through and polish. Our audience needs to be authentic. We need to revisit our media throughout the year so that we can pull it into other curriculum areas. 1:1 iPads provided a gift of personalized documentation. Each kid is telling their own story this week in full colour and full sound and with ease, and obvious enjoyment. The forest / tech partnership was a great fit for us. Give us the chance and we’ll show you the impact a forest has when you get up close and personal.