CDC Outdoor Blog
Inspired by our All Center Intention in 2015 about the outdoors and the author Ann Pelo’s intimate journaling in her book, The Goodness of Rain; the CDC staff is beginning an outdoor blog. It is our hope that the blog will be an avenue to bridge the experiences we have as individual classrooms in the outdoors with those of the entire CDC community, making those outdoor experiences more visible and tangible for everyone.
As we embark on this journey we wonder:
How would the sharing of our experiences in the form of a blog personalize and make intimate each child’s time in the outdoors?
How could a blog about our time together in the outdoors connect and strengthen the work happening in the outdoors throughout the entire school community?
We made it outside!
It happened during a time when we were phasing in new children into our classroom community. We were getting to know one another, building secure relationships, figuring out feeding/sleeping routines and overall getting used to a new sense of normal, inside the classroom that is. Then...it snuck up on me, the outdoors had taken a back seat to our other important curriculum.
We had become settled but it slowly became obvious that something was missing from our days.
It called to me and I longed to be outside with my group of children. It was then I decided, "We are going to make it outside today!" Sometimes this feels like a harder task to achieve with little ones, but we set our sights on the back yard, and it was within our reach!
Though our time was shorter, it was glorious! The outdoors met us with wet grass, muddy boots and cozy slings! It felt like an achievement, an honor, to once again BE OUTSIDE.
Another thing was then decided, we will continue to GO outside together!
Hildie & Allister, thank you for embracing the outdoors in the cozy sling with me. These were joyful moments!
-Megan (Infant/Toddler B Teacher)
Friday, 4 December 2015
Wind and rain. Gray clouds and puddles. Ice, frost, and the sensation of air so cold, it burns the skin.
As an adult, it is so easy to recognize the inherent discomfort of being cold and wet, and feeling as if the sun has been distant for too long a stretch of time. Maybe these are instinctual sensations based on the realities of our roaming ancestors who needed dry, warm shelter and sunlight to survive long winters past.
Thankfully, we have children to show us a different understanding of what the realities of weather can be. They can show us how to exist, and even frolic, in the midst of rain and wind and ice.
This week I stood with children and watched as pebbles bounced off a pond’s icy surface, tapping away rather than splashing and disappearing beneath a liquid surface. I saw leaves and pinecones frozen in place, and marveled with the children at the silent stillness of a cold, winter world.
This week I also stood with children and watched as the wind came gushing through like a river, freeing every leaf in sight and sending them showering downward in the loveliest orange-gold-crimson confetti that humans could ever imagine. The children lifted their hands and faces and cheered and danced, and how could I not cheer and dance with them? It was raining and cold, and yet we were celebrating rather than cursing the weather. Can we do more of this? Can we keep this spirit alive for generations to come? Can we gift it to children more often? Can we accept it when it is gifted to us?
If we ask ourselves the same question children ask all the time, the response may be: Why not?
Jenna (Transition A teacher)
October 30, 2015
"Can I swim in this puddle?"
For Jack it was such a light and simple question based on a desire to explore and play. Within the first seconds as Jack asked this question, the group of four children staring longing at me, I couldnt not think of anything but, how wonderful it was that I had the realtionship with them and they the puddle, to ask such an intimate question. Intimate in the way that it meant they might get really wet and really uncomfortable. Intimate in the way that evoked feelings of great joy and anticipation, intimate in the way that told me about his curiosity, and intimate in the way that I full heartedly wanted to learn what swimming in a pudde meant. So today we went swimming.
It was wet.
It was a little cold.
It was crunchy (the rocks) .
It was silly.
It was messy.
It was loud.
It was slow and methodical.
It was fascinating.
It was hard work.
It was wonderful.
Thanks Jack, for teaching me a new way to swim :)
Wednesday, September 30th 2015
What is this place? - Jack
Today we went on a collection walk and discovered the many treasures of fall... acorns, leaves, pinecones and pokeyballs (chestnuts). The children were eager to collect and they filled their bags to the rim with nature treasures. We are thinking together as a center about:
How do children come to know a place?
What do first encounters in a new place look and feel like?
What places in the outdoors will this group of children connect with?
Jack reminds me as he asks his question, What is this place? that even though I have visited the Pokeyball tree a thousand times, for them it may be their very first encounter. Keeping my mind and heart open to what this unique group of children will bring to the experience is something I am striving for. Today they brought with them a desire of exploration and an excitement for collecting! We look forward to revisiting this special space again soon.
Thursday, July 23rd 2015
Do less, observe more, enjoy most. - Magda Gerber
Today we adventured into the field to pick blackberries and to our surprise came upon a pile of hay. "It's a humongous nest!" Tasanee said as she and the other children began to walk, jump, lay in and enjoy the massive amount of hay that was before us. Henry found great joy in picking up and throwing the hay; first by himself and then others just had to join in because he was having so much fun. As they explored the hay it felt like they could have stayed there for hours, just experiencing it - no expectations, no goals... just pure joy in the outdoors! As we walked away to head back to school for lunch the group reflected about their time with the hay and many asked if we could just stay a little longer (we had already done that a few times :) or to go back again soon. After returning to school the children shared,
"That was so fun!"
"I love being in the hay."
"What a spectacular adventure."
Friday, June 12th 2015
The joy that filled the air as we took a Flower walk for Megan today (her bday and last day) was immeasurable. When we reached the path the children immediately began searching for flowers and gifting them to their friend for her special day. The blue skies set the stage for a beautiful walk as we trekked into the field of daisies. Getting the opportunity to spend our last day together with Megan in the outdoors and doing something she loved truly filled my heart with all of the love that our community has grown to have for one another. I don't think there was a better way to celebrate this special day. In Ann Pelo's book The Goodness of Rain she shares Kathleen Dean Moore's thoughts about the ethical repercussions of wonder, of compassion and of love:
To love - a person and a place - means at least this:
1. To want to be near it, physically.
2. To want to know everything about it
3. To rejoice in the fact of it.
4. To fear its loss, and grieve for its injuries
5. To protect it
6. To be transformed in its presence
7. To want to be joined with it, taken in by it, lost in it.
8. To want the best for it.
10. To love a person or a place is to take responsibility for its well-being.
Today I feel like number 7 resonates most for me. To be joined by Megan and lost in Nature with her & her peers by my side was more than I could have ever asked for out of a Friday morning walk! Thank you - Amanda
Today, as we visit one of our beloved outdoor spaces, the meadow, new relationships are established. While our time in the space this year has largely been marked by time spent with siblings in Transition B, a general focus on sharing space, materials, and ideas with others has also surfaced. Today, I watch as the space allows Reeya to use her passion for sticks to connect with others.
A pile of sticks gathers on our blanket as the older children work to build a "campfire." Reeya eyes the collection. Amanda sees her interest and offers one to Reeya. Reeya accepts the offer with a smile and a conversation begins. She lifts the stick towards Amanda and then taps it on the blanket. Amanda notices her process and picks another stick up. She holds it close to Reeya's and the two tap their sticks together. As they continue, Tess and Brayden notice. They pick up their own sticks and more tapping ensues.
It was such a gift to witness the joy and connection that blossomed from such a simple, yet beautiful material. Thank you Reeya and Amanda for letting me watch your story unfold!
Corrinn (an Infant/Toddler B teacher)
Monday May 4, 2015
A place to crawl. A place to run. A place to roll. A place to be still. A place to research. A place to be together. The "tall tall grass" is a place we love. It holds both the familiar and surprise. Today we shared in the surprise of rolling in the grass. When you were tired, the tall stems created a soft place to rest. As we rested in the grass you remarked, "It tickles - let's do it again!" So we did! The "tall tall grass" is a place we know!
I love learning in the outdoors with you!
Tuesday April 28th 2015
"I found the secret path, its soooo cool! Come this way guys, its the secret way! This is so fun!"
- Harry says as he leads the class on a Waterfall hike
Harry's enthusiasm for the outdoors today was invigorating. As a fellow explorer I was eager and excited to have him as a leader and guide along the trail. I followed behind with some awareness of where I was and what to expect, but with a complete willingness to find something new...something secret as Harry found for his first time, what a gift it is to experience and treasure something for the first time - so fresh and mysterious!
Thanks for the wonderful hike everyone! I look forward to adventuring with you again soon :)
Friday April 17, 2015
This morning we set out on a group walk with the intent to search for circles (a big curriculum idea in our classroom). As I watched the children exploring in the sun and the tall grass, I noticed how fearlessly they explored the outdoors and how easy it was for the children to give themselves over to this place and enjoy the feel of the grass and branches on their skin. They gave themselves over to the outdoors as if it was an old friend.
"Young children may be better positioned for witness, for looking and listening and noticing, than we adults - more adept at giving over to an encounter with something wonderous" -Ann Pelo, The Goodness of Rain
My hope is that each of them keep this love of the outdoors and ease of exploring with them as they grow.
Love, Jessica (Transition B teacher)
Tuesday March 31, 2015
Dear Brayden, Ella, Ryland and Veena
May you always be a friend to nature, and all of its tiny details and creatures. . .
"Hey a ladybug!" - Brayden
"Oh Wow!! Can we see him?" - Ryland
"I think he likes us!! He is so cute" - Brayden
"I see him too?" - Ella
"I think I like him, but I won't get too close!" -Veena
"I think he is a baby, where are his mom and dad?" - Ryland
"Maybe he not have one, can we take him back to school with us? He be our friend!" - Brayden
"I think he would like that." - Ryland
Love Ashley, Transition B Teacher
Monday March 23rd, 2015
"Children's worlds are small, detailed places - the crack in the sidewalk receives their full attention, as does the earthworm flipping over and over on the pavement after rainfall. Children give themselves over to a place: they poke sticks into slivers of dirt in the pavement, they float leaves in the curbside run-off, they dig holes in the flowerboxes that flank a shop doorway. They have access to elements of the natural world that many adults don't acknowledge." -The Goodness of Rain by Ann Pelo
I have been thinking about this quote often over the past week as I reflect on the documentation from the children's recent time outside. It has been a week of changing weather, warm and sunny with bursts of rain. The children have been visiting wide open spaces - the forest, the meadow and our own school yard. All places they know well and have visted often since the school year started. But, when I look back at these new pictures I notice a change. Spaces that once invited the children to run far, to distance themselves from the teacher and bravely discover new trees, creeks and tall grasses, now seem to be drawing the children in, slowing them down. I am reminded of the book, Zoom by Istvan Banyai. The children have known these spaces from a zoomed out perspective, and now they are zooming in, discovering new details in once familiar landscapes. A drop of rain. A single flower. A blowing leaf.
I wonder what the children will discover through this new perspective!
-Dawn (Infant Toddler B)
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Today we explored the forest. As we followed Transition B into a new space called "the cave" you showed me what you know about caring for someone else. Isaac went into the cave, he got stuck, fell down and needed help. You heard his voice, ran to him and offerred him your hand. It was in this moment I knew Isaac was happy that you were there to help. He took your hand and smiled. You led him back to the path. It was later that Isaac once again entered the cave, walked through and made it out to the other side. I wonder, if you chose not to help him during his time of need, would he have tried going through the cave again? Thank you for reminding me, showing me and caring for another friend in so many different ways. I love exploring the inside of the forest with you.
Love, Megan (Toddler A Teacher)
Thursday, March 19th, 20125
In an effort to continue supporting the children's current interest in birds and the calls that they make, our whole group gathered this morning for a community meeting (one where the whole group is present) and revisited a conversation that a few children recently had about bird conversations. In preparation for our community walk (a walk where the whole class participates), we invited children to think about the following question:
How do you know that the birds are having a conversation with us?
What I heard as I was listening to the children during the walk:
Caden: Sarah, when we go on an adventure, I always see new things.
Rocky: I think I'm having a bird conversation right now with a bird in the forest.
Walker: A robin bird is talking!
Rocky: I saw a bird fly over us!
A conversation unfolds as Eliana and JP study a bird guide book together...
JP: I'm studying on bluebirds right now. Wait a second. This is the beatifulest thing I ever saw.
Eliana: It's called a red breasted robin.
Ava R.: Some of the kids said it was a cheetah egg.
Sarah Z (Preschool A Teacher)
March 19th 2015
Observing your play on the Big Yard earlier this week was very special. To see how you so carefully collected tiny pieces of moss and offered them to the mouse gave me perspective of our play yard that I had never had before. One that inspired me to find the unfound and too look at the smallest parts of our yard. You are so kind and creative and to think that the mouse that lives on our tunnel may be hungry. I have passed the little mouse hundreds of times and feeding him is something that never crossed my mind. "Do you want to feed him this time?" You asked me. Your invitation to feed him made my heart smile! What a gift it is to be welcomed into your play that began as so private and your ideas belonging on to you, until you opened the doors and let me in to your world of outdoor play. I am grateful to have shared the experience with you. I wonder, do you think the mouse is hungry today?
Amanda (Transition B Teacher)
Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
"Imagine a world in which all children grow up with a deep understanding of the world around them. Where obesity is reduced through nature play. Where anti-depressants and pharmaceuticals are prescribed less and nature is prescribed more. Where every school has a natural play space. Where children experience the joy of being in nature before they learn of its loss, where they can lie in the grass on a hillside for hours and watch clouds become the faces of the future. Where every child and every adult has a human RIGHT to a conection in the natural world, and shares the responsibility for caring for it."
-Richard Louv, founding chairman, Children & Nature Network, is author of 'Last Child in the Woods' and 'The Nature Principle', from which these words are drawn.
Please join me along with the lovely Ali Murphy (Preschool B) and Amanda Armitage (Transition B) tomorrow, March 19th, for another parent enrichment series entitled “Reclaiming Outdoor Play”. We will meet from 8:30-9:30 in the MSS. Hope to see you there!
Sarah (Preschool A Teacher)
Monday, March 16, 2015
"We're going to the campus because I love it!" - Jenna
I love it too! For me the campus is a place of history, memory, and many logged miles! I have spent 9 years walking the same paths, countless seasons watching the same trees, and watched 100's of children grow to love this place! Still each time I walk the path - I love it a little more!
This morning our classroom was most excited by the gift of the wind. Along the path were fallen buds full of blossoming flowers that the wind blew down. We took time to look at the flowers and then decided it was important to draw what we saw. The group sat together making careful marks in their journal capturing their new discovery! It is these moments of shared experience that create a shared understanding and shared love. As we continue to learn together about the campus I will think of the words of Ann Pelo:
"The only instruction for how to be in a place with a child, it seems to me, is to be whole heartedly, attentively, genuinely present. Which means sometimes, conversation and sometimes, quiet. Sometimes, naming, sometimes, marveling. Being present, together, all the time, in generous and interested relationship with each other and with a place." - Ann Pelo
Christen (Toddler A Teacher)
Friday, March 13th, 2015
Today was our first whole-group trip to Lower Memorial Park. The children had many guesses about what we would see on our hike, and we glimpsed a bird of prey circling above the trees as we approached. It cried out, sending its voice all the way to our ears. Oliver thought it was a hawk.
We entered the forest with anticipation. Lucas said, “It’s spooky in here… I see a steepy road.”
Indeed, there were many steep "roads", little hills and slopes to navigate within the forest. We marched up and scuttled down the gravel paths, finding many discoveries along the way. From boulders and long branches to banana slugs and snails, the children were fascinated by the life and wonder of the forest. We even had a chance to stop by the river and watch some people fishing.
There were many places in which old, tired trees had collapsed on their sides. The children were drawn to these trees, touching them and leaning against them, stroking the moss that grew on the crumbling bark. At one tree, Andrew said, “The tree fall down. It need a chewy.” Ava murmured, “It’s sad.” “Keepin’ the tree company,” added Hunter, patting the trunk.
The fallen trees began to attract the children as we rounded each bend in the path. It was as if we were searching for more and more of them. One lay on an even patch of soil, nestled amongst boulders and heavy growth, and it looked stable enough to climb on. The children flocked to it, scrambling onto it and straddling the trunk like a saddle.
One of the smaller children, Tessa, tried to pull herself up but just couldn't do it. Teacher Sarah asked a child standing next to Tessa if he could help her, but he said, "No." Meanwhile, Ava was sitting at the very front of the tree, and she heard what was going on. She considered the situation, slid down from the trunk, and walked over to Tessa, taking her hand. The girls worked together, pulling and pushing and wriggling, and finally Tessa heaved herself up onto the tree.
This moment of silent collaboration was full of unspoken agreements: Ava agreeing to take on part of the task, Tessa agreeing to work with her, and both girls agreeing to trust one another in the precarious nature of this physical challenge. Tessa didn't verbally thank Ava for helping her, but the shared experience bound them together for a wordless moment of mutual understanding. There was no need for affirmation. Helping Tessa was Ava's reward in itself.
How many exchanges like these occur every day? How often do we acknowledge them, or even notice them? What can we learn from children as they listen to one another's needs in ways that require no audible dialogue or spoken "thank you"?
The forest seems to embrace us in ways that invite us to listen and hear. We know that our examination of listening can only deepen on days like these in places like the forest.
Jenna (Transition A Teacher)
Tuesday March 10, 2015
Today as a class we ventured to the Big Forest (Lower Memorial Park). With its large trees and winding paths, this place has become a well known and loved adventure. As we moved along through our walk excitedly noticing squirrels, the river and a variety of bugs I noticied the slow pace of Silas and Ella as we walked. Not wanting to stiffle their experience with comments about walking pace, I just enjoyed it with them. THis made us lag far behind the rest of the group but no one cared. Occasionally our friends would call for us, and we would answer, then continue moving along. Our pace was decided by our feet and eyes. Our feet were constantly tackling new terrain, stepping, squishing and tripping along the path. Our eyes forever distracted by the new life and excitement spring was bringing to "our Big Forest."
Of course I eventually got a ways ahead of the two. When I turned around to look, I looked right past them at first, but I heard them. I traced back over the space and found them bunkered down in a "bush" (tall grass). When they caught my eye they smiled and laughed, "We are in a bush!!" Silas yelled to me. He then looked back to Ella and they explored the bush together, their only communication being laughter and looks back and forth to one another. They sat for a long time, indulging in the experience the tall grass offered them. It was exciting for me to cherish the moment with them as I watched. I couldnt help but think that I myself really wanted to lie in tall grass.
Thanks for the moment Silas and Ella, Love Ashley (Transition B Teacher)