The Forest Classroom with Our Young Naturalists

“Without continuous hands-on experience, it is impossible for children to acquire a deep intuitive understanding of the natural world that is the foundation of sustainable development…A critical aspect of the present-day crisis in education is that children are becoming separated from daily experience of the natural world, especially in larger cities.” 

~ Robin C. Moore and Herb H. Wong, Natural Learning, Creating Environments for Rediscovering Nature’s Way of Teaching

“Let Nature be your teacher.”

~William Wordsworth

“Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings.”

~John Muir


What is a forest-school-style learning environment?

Forest school is a teaching and learning approach that emphasizes outdoor learning, rather than a specific place. Forest schools in other countries have become more about how children use a unique space to develop social and personal skills, rather than a dedicated trip to a natural outdoor space. It is being held up as a valuable method of teaching, a place to continue learning and to imbed work that connects to the indoor classroom. 

My goal is to provide outdoor learning experiences for our Young Steam Inventors that support the whole child,  building self-esteem, confidence and independence. Children need space, and spaces that provide the freedom and opportunity for them to learn at their own pace:  exploring, collecting, discovering, asking questions, analyzing, and problem solving.

Teachers, education experts and child psychologists worldwide are alarmed that children are losing touch with the natural environment as they spend much more time indoors and playing with electronic devices. Current research is showing that children are increasingly addicted to electronics and screen time, and that this has led to an increase in isolation, aggressive behavior, and difficulty sleeping, among other things. 

Likewise, allowing children to be outdoors and connect with nature has many crucial positive health benefits, including an enhanced imagination, an increased attention span, better focus, and less aggressive behavior. Being outside helps children develop a love and respect for nature. (The Ten Benefits of playing in nature)

K0/K1/K2 Young Naturalists go Bird Watching

Last week we went bird watching in the back parking lot of the school. We started with a silent minute of standing and observing. Then we began our walk. We stopped every so often to listen and look.  The young naturalists made lots of observations, as well as gave answers to their classmates’ questions:

Here are some of the observations and questions our young naturalists came up with:

  • “How big is that bird? It looks like it weighs like 50 hamburgers!!!”
  • “What is that bird?” 
  • “It’s a seagull !” says another young naturalist.
  • “Is the bill really that small on the little bird? How can it hold a big worm?” 
  • “It’s because it has a strong beak.”
  • “How does a bird fly?”
  • “God made him do it.”
  • “We counted three birds. One brown bird. Ms. Alicia what is the name of that bird?”
  • “It’s a falcon” I say. 
  • “There are two seagulls flying way up high in the sky. I can see them with my binoculars!” 
  • “I noticed that they can make a lot of noise trying to talk to each other. When do they listen if they’re always chirping.”
  • “Some of the birds are making nests in the trees and in peoples houses.” 
  • “Remember we read that not all birds make nests in trees.”
  • “They’re smart because they don’t want to be cold.”
  • “I see a blue bird. “
  • “It’s a blue bird because my Mom told me that before.”
  • “Some of the birds are flying into the garbage to get food. That’s why we shouldn’t pick the berries. They need their food and not our food.”


Engineering Design Challenge

Our young STEAM inventors were challenged to design and build a bird nest from the natural materials they collected!

Check out this article about birdwatching by Jason Ward, an African American birder from the South Bronx.  He also has his own Youtube channel called Birds of North America, including a whole episode on teaching kids how to use binoculars.  Check out this Youtube episode about birdwatching in Central Park, NY

Grade 1 Young Steam Inventors: FOSS Unit on Air and Weather

Our grade 1 studies of “Air and Weather” continued this month, with explorations of flight and airplane design.  Young Steam Inventors had to step into the shoes of an engineer in order to put together their own airplane.  They had to look at a blueprint, read directions, look at a picture and follow all five construction steps just like engineers do.  They had to figure out how to detach and reattach two pieces of the airplane in order to put the propeller onto the front of the plane, and then test the propeller to see if it was going to move in a circular motion.  This was important to get right because otherwise the plane wouldn’t fly. This was a challenging activity, and all of the Young Steam Inventors worked hard and were resilient. They worked in pairs and in threes to help each other.   

Here is what our Grade 1 Young Steam Inventors want you to know about what they have been learning about flight and airplanes this past week:

  • “We designed airplanes and tested them outside and inside.”
  • “We had to figure out how to construct them and see if they would fly with or without the propeller.”
  • “It was fun flying airplanes in the school cafeteria! Some of the planes went into the kitchen and some got stuck on the lights.”
  • “We had to draw and write in our journals about what we noticed and observed, and what questions we had .”
  • “Ms. Alicia read the story about the Tuskegee Airman. They were Black men who flew airplanes during the war.”
  • “The Tuskegee Airmen were brave and not always treated fairly because of the color of their skin. They were great pilots.”
  • “We liked that story!”
  • “We are going to read about Bessie Coleman the first Black woman pilot and Amelia Earhart the first white woman pilot.”
  • “Just like the first woman pilots who walked in space last week or two weeks ago I think.”
  • “We talked about how the air can be different in different places in the P3 playground. We flew our planes to different places to test it out.”
  • “We flew our planes in different places in the cafeteria. We noticed the airplanes did more loops in the cafeteria. We think because the air was not as windy inside. But the planes flew higher because there was more wind blowing.”
  • “Next week we are going to start making weather calendars. That’s gonna be fun.”


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