Three in the Trees

The midway point of our Forest School week has arrived.  I look back at what we’ve already accomplished and absorbed and I know there is so much more to fit in before the end of the week.  This week serves as a huge springboard for ongoing discussions about stewardship and creating empathy in these young global citizens.  The teacher in me wants to check off the ‘complete’ box on the list of curriculum expectations we are dancing with this week.  The realist in me knows that this experience is about inquiry, observation, wonder, evidence collection and appreciation.  The “tasks” will be polished, practiced and published once we are back in our classroom next week.  Enjoy the ride, Mr. D, because once back in the classroom, you know you’ll be yearning to create experiences that simply can’t compete with the natural fascination humans have with our physical world.

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Today we again revisited our tree buddies. Completing non-fiction booksnaps with science texts on their iPads is a peaceful way to begin our time in the forest, and we’ll continue to start our days this way.  Also, my students are completing a daily selfie mindfulness project this year, just so they are thinking about emotions and maybe identifying factors that impact them every day.  Taking these selfies with their tree buddies is cool – maybe having their special place in the forest will let them think about their identity in a new way (e.g., protector, scientist, steward, conservationist, questioner).  As we settle into routine here, I’m curious as to what our conversations at the end of the week about our daily selfies might reveal.

We had a special visit from Erin Mutch, the Thames Valley EnviroSci Coordinator responsible for creating and providing this Forest Week pilot with Dan Arppe from Jaffa (we’re the first-ever class to give this a go!).  It was great timing as she brought clip-on macro lenses for our iPads.  These lenses allow you to get extremely close to the subject and magnifies the image to show incredible detail.  Dan taught us about the invasive species at Jaffa (e.g., garlic mustard plant, emerald ash borers, even earth worms!) and we took a long hike to discover and photograph some of these species in the forest.  With the macro lenses, students were beyond excited to share their amazing shots.  What exactly does a super-close-up of a slug’s back look like? Moss? Soil? Incredible. Squeals of excitement! Thanks for thinking of us, Erin!

We also eye-bombed the invasive species. Using our chatterpix app, we made these plants ‘talk’ and try to explain or defend themselves!  If you need an invasive species detective, come talk to us!

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In the afternoon we walked deep into the woods, off trail.  I have this great History of Aylmer text, and it speaks to the original two settlers of the Aylmer area, over 200 years ago.  The forest was described as “untamed”.  From our perch in the thick of the woods, we visualized ourselves as early settlers.  What would make us stay in this part of North America (Upper Canada)? We then went on a photo scavenger hunt for hints of ways we could sustain ourselves.  Water? Shelter? Food sources? Decent soil? It was really interesting watching the students try to source what they think would be food with which they would be able to sustain themselves. Hopefully the activity let them take a new perspective and maybe build an appreciation for the luxuries modern living provides us.

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We ended this absolutely gorgeous fall day with a ‘green’ challenge. In partners, the grade 3’s created a playday activity with only found items from the forest.  The ideas were great!  Forest mini-put with a chestnut and chipmunk holes. An obstacle course. Super hide and seek. Scavenger hunts. Jumping contests.  The next step is take the photos from the planning process and create a complete rule book for each game.

I’m curious to see how many yawns I see tomorrow morning.  We’ve been working hard so far this week!  I am so thankful for this opportunity.  The parents I speak to concur! I can’t wait to show them our finished products.

Tomorrow – virtual reality time. Let’s do this!

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