Posted by: jwhiff | December 16, 2012

Forest Inquiry with K’s

For the past month or so, I have been taking my K’s (and a handful of parents) out for walks to nature spots away from the school.  These spots are basically undeveloped lots.

IMG_1059At first, my intent was simply to get them out for a walk on these grey, rainy weeks.  By the time Friday rolls around, my K’s are often suffering from cabin fever, especially if we have had a string of “inside days” in a row.  I try to always take my K’s outside to play–especially on “inside days”–but the crazy, claustrophobic inside recesses and lunches serve to undo them anyway.  Our Friday walks are an adventuresome salve at the end of such weeks!

It is funny how quickly young children find wonderful things in places that seem ordinary.  They have marvelled at fallen trees, old broken and burnt stumps, “walls of dirt” (really the roots of fallen trees and associated dirt turned vertical), and strange holes in the ground.

And really, these things are wonderful.  Wonderful enough that I decided that they were worth exploring more deeply.

The broken and burnt stumps have been our starting place.  First, I collected their ideas on what could have happened to them.  Ideas ranged from asteroid strikes, to tornadoes, to runaway campfires.  I found books on all of their possibilities (plus a few others) and have been reading them to my K’s over the past couple of weeks.  They journal all possibilities.

I have also brought in old, rotting pieces of wood, fresh cut wood, petrified wood, burnt wood…anything to that weIMG_1066 can associate with our study.  I have made good use of the mortars and pestles, too.  They love breaking the wood apart to make “soil” with their hands and then pulverizing it with the pestles.

At first, I thought that my goal would be to slowly teach them how to recognize reasonable and realistic possibilities and to draw reasonable conclusions.  If the tree was blown over in the wind, why is there only a stump left?  If these trees were destroyed in the time of the dinosaurs, why has it not turned into dirt already or a stone fossil?  Could a tornado really happen in Vancouver?  Where do tornadoes happen?

We have discussed and explored all of these ideas, which is important.  But I realize now, that it is important to simply add to their knowledge base, and not worry so much about subtracting implausible ideas.  The sheer possibility that a hole in the ground might have been made by a meteor or a dinosaur’s foot (even though this is certainly improbable) is wonderful thinking on the part of my K’s.  Let them be divergent and creative.

And yes, add to the basket of wonderful possibilities.  Enrich now.  Subtraction will naturally come later anyway.


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