by Hazel Stark
During late fall 2018, the Pre-K and Kindergarten students at Jonesport Elementary School spent an hour a week outside exploring and learning about nature during a collaborative program between Maine Outdoor School and Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE). Guided by the core question, “are humans part of nature?” students spent each week observing seasonal changes, exploring nature around their school, and making discoveries about how humans interact with the environment.
First, students worked on figuring out what nature is using sample paint chips to find all the different colors hidden in nature. One student was especially shocked by a bright fuchsia plant root emerging from the soil.
Then, students learned about the different animals--including humans--and the signs they leave behind. They hiked the school nature trail pointing out evidence of animal activity. Plastic bottles and other human litter, deer-chewed branches, snowshoe hare tracks, and other mammal scat were just some of the discoveries they made.
Realizing that the impacts humans have can be especially harmful, they spent their next Forest Friday outside being “nature stewards” by picking up all the litter they could find--modeling the positive impacts humans can have.
On their final day, students made art using natural objects they could find in the woods to share some of their favorite moments and experiences during Forest Fridays. When one student wanted to incorporate a 15-foot log into his piece of art, he asked other students to help him carry it, which they did to great effect. That kind of unstructured time in nature, where 4-6-year-olds are allowed to play with sticks and are driven by their own curiosity and imagination, is especially valuable as it develops teamwork, empathy, and resilience competencies. Despite the inherent risks in playing with sticks, no one got hurt due to their care for one another and one student reflected that she enjoyed learning about teamwork!
Learn about the experiences Jonesport 4th and 5th-graders had during Forest Fridays during early fall 2018 here.
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