Today I tried something new. We usually get all dressed to go outside and play in the field, but today, I tried something new. It wasn’t a big change. It wasn’t awe inspiring or even all that brilliant. However, I tried this new thing, and it had results. You may think these results are not huge, but in my mind, they are BIG.
You see, we get dressed into our wellies and slickers, or our winter coats and our mitts (depending on the weather, and we go outside. We try to stop at “our” tree and look to see what it’s doing to get ready for winter (I’ll talk about those observations later). But today, we started at the carpet in our classroom and I asked a very basic question to these 4 and 5 year olds. I asked, “What’s your plan for outside?”
Instantly, hands shot up. (Yes, they have figured that out on their own) “I’m going to look for bugs and see if they are underground!” C said. “Ooh, lets see if they are getting ready to hibernate!” O mentioned. (Guess what we are exploring about for science). “Leaves! I want to find more leaves!” Y remarked excitedly.
Some of the munchkins just wanted to roll down the hills and that was just fine. That was their plan. Roll and run and see how rolling works. One wanted to hunt for earthworms, because he loves earthworms and wants to show his friends. A rallying cry of “Freeze Tag!” was called by a gaggle of boys.
I realized in that moment that I had underestimated these small geniuses again. We hadn’t ever verbalized our ideas for outside explorations, yet they were teeming with ideas of what to do and look for. They were thinking. Really thinking and figuring it out in their heads with their prior knowledge of our outdoor space. Imagine if I asked that before “centers” time or when they came inside every day. Oh, the possibilities in the planning mind of a 4 or 5 year old.
For the first time since we started going outside, these people didn’t wrestle and rough house. They could have. It’s the time they are allowed to. But today, they searched. We found dry sap on a tree, discovered a tree had been cut down and looked at the rings in the trunk. We used the trunk as a stage to sing our new favourite song, Oh Canada. Icy chunks of dirt were discovered by an area we have never explored before, and we looked at the layers in these “mudsicles”. Geese flying overhead had us looking at the shapes they created and the circles they flew in while they started to land. Spiders were disturbed in their nooks and crannies as we hunted for bugs and earthworms. Grass stains were numerous and muddy hands became the norm during our time. R even climbed the highest she ever had in the fork tree. The leaves on our tree have all fallen off and there was great concern that it had died, until NMR remembered the word “dormant” and convinced others the tree was just getting ready for a long winter sleep.
I learned today that these kids of mine have plans. Plans that I can help them with if I simply ask. I need to ask. I need to put the day plan aside more often and just ask these kids, “what’s your plan?”
As an aside, you may be wondering how this relates to my Technology Project. I am focusing on helping other teachers in urban areas access nature in the concrete jungle. This will tie in when we start using our iPads and Cameras to document what we are observing, doing some scavenger hunts while online and more. It will all tie together.
Trust me. I have a plan.