We had a few particularly wet fall storms last year, the kind that light up the darkening sky and send thunder rumbles across the Lower Mainland. These are followed by wet west coast winter weather. From scary storms and long grey days, however, wonderful opportunities emerge – like puddles! Our playground sometimes develops a particularly large one at the back end, and the children find many good uses for it during our extend outdoor play. They like to scoop water out of it, and swish sticks through it, but I think they mostly enjoy the feel of wading through it.
One incident from our puddle play sticks in my mind. Some class parents had kindly donated some rain gear, including boots, for communal use by anyone who had forgotten to bring his or her own. One day, a student had no boots and hadn’t taken one of the spares, and before I could grab a pair for her, her feet were already quite wet. The student – we’ll call her Alice – decided not to join her friends in the puddle any longer, but another girl poured bowlfuls of water onto a dry corner of the playground so Alice could still play in the “puddle” and not get wet. Wonderful inclusion and problem solving at work!
The the students’ joy while playing in puddles is a strong argument for including natural features, such as logs, boulders, stumps, and water, into our school playgrounds, and I hope that planning councils will take this into consideration more often. Besides, as one savvy adult pointed out, the teacher (that’s me) was probably just as happy as the children to be wading through the puddle in gumboots. There’s nothing like a good mud puddle to bring out the kid in us.
“Teacher, take a picture of this!”
Last week we had a day of sun after a week of drenching rain. Dry weather at this time of year must be taken advantage of in this temperate rainforest climate, so out the window went my original lesson plan about the letter i, and out the door went the kindergarten class. The object of our outdoor lesson was to describe the seasonal changes to the oak tree outside our window. Students looked at leaves that had fallen on the ground, and noticed that many were still on the tree. Armed with magnifying glasses, they looked closely at the brown leaves on the ground, and the bark on the tree. We continued looking at the leaves and went on to draw them on our clipboards. The students’ enthusiasm in drawing their leaves was thrilling.
A small group noticed an insect on the tree, and gathered around to take a look until it fell (or leapt!) off the tree and disappeared in a pile of leaves. Later in the day, we found a moment to squeeze in the Letter of the Week lesson, practicing the sounds the letter i makes, and thinking of words that start with i. When one boy asked, “What’s an insect?” we neatly linked our lesson to the morning’s outdoor explorations.
So what do I think students learned during our spontaneous outdoor exploration? As always, the learning is shared, and I am probably as excited as they are. As the students learned about oak leaves, I discovered their observation skills and ability to problem solve. Some students traced leaves to get an accurate shape, and many noticed the fine lines, spots and variations in colour in the leaves. They now frequently reference the oak tree in our conversations about trees, animals, and leaves. They can identify an oak leaf by its shape. Ultimately, I hope that as they connected with the creatures and natural environment in their neighbourhood they developed their sense of place and of wonder of the natural world.