“Look a slug! I found one too. Let’s count them! WOW! We found 6 slugs.” Learning comes alive in our forest classroom–literally, the slugs moved on their ten frame cards and even left their yellow slug slime behind. West Side Christian School continues to grow ways to connect the benefits students gain through the integration of our outdoor learning spaces. This year, we’ve been piloting an integrated forest school component with our kindergarten students’ daily learning experiences.
We’re excited to share the news that daily the West Side Christian kindergarten students enjoy learning while immersed in God’s creation. Their “classroom without walls” creates the space for these young learners to grow. Picture kindergarten students learning in a classroom full of towering trees, falling leaves, whirling wind and even deer that run past. Parents often ask students about their school day…“Last week, my son told me that they had a visitor during outdoor learning, and I had to guess who it was. Turns out it was a deer. He thought that was the coolest thing.”
Every day outside is different – the weather is always changing, we observe new creatures and plants, and students constantly discover new materials in the outdoor classroom. Right now they’re very curious about the sticky light green cone-shaped parts at the end of some aspen branches. One day the question came to mind, “What makes the leaves change color?” In this space, young engineers have the opportunity to create toys with found objects, young authors experience little adventures with their imaginations, and scientists make new discoveries about the amazing world that God spoke into existence. Being outside ignites a unique excitement and curiosity in these young learners that cannot be replicated in the classroom.
Mrs. Delia Roberts, WSCS Kindergarten teacher, shared, “Learning in class is one thing, but going outside and experiencing it is another. Their learning becomes real to them.” In class, the letter D was introduced. Outside the students discovered among the forest floor filled with fallen leaves were upper and lowercase “D’s” and “B’s.” The students found their letters then ran to show us. Once they identified their upper and lowercase letters they were rewarded with a tool to help them DIG into the dirt. The students gain so much more than identifying their letters. The students enjoyed their dirt discoveries and wanted to read more books about dirt and even a Dirt Boy. One parent shared, “My son loves being outside and getting dirty. He enjoys finding things in nature and then writing and drawing about what he sees.”
We asked parents to share their thoughts about our developing forest kindergarten:
As we’re developing this program, we’ll have more stories to share. It’s exciting to tell the story of how God is at work among us as He reveals His glory through this MARVELOUS learning space.