The Forest of Learning

As it is with most of our adventures, it’s all hands on deck at SAC over the next 6 days as our grade 3 and grade 6 learners demonstrate their mastery of the Ontario Curriculum by completing their Provincial EQAO assessments.  This year we have a number of grade 3 students who require scribing in order for them to provide the most accurate evidence of their understanding and we want to ensure that our students have a relationship with their scribe.  One of our educators partners in a Kindergarten classroom in the morning and provides support for our grade 3s in the pm, so it makes the most sense for her to be a scribe.  Therefore, I get the opportunity to spend the morning with one of our Kindergarten classes.  Today we ventured out to our Forest of Learning for the first 50 minutes of the day.   Once I counted heads, multiple times, to ensure that all 27 of the students were safely in the gated Forest of Learning, completed a Health and Safety walk about, moving precariously fallen tree limbs and double checked with my ECE partner that the garter snake that was spotted last week had not recently emerged, I relaxed somewhat and started to engage in conversations with our students.  I was amazed at the learning activities that they were spontaneously engaged it.  It needs to be noted that Karen Vilon, our Kindergarten Outdoor Education Specialty Educator, has done an amazing job of creating such a rich, engaging and fun space ~ which continually evolves and changes.  From bubble containers on the fence, to huge magnifying glasses, to raised vegetable beds, to an outdoor kitchen set, to balances hanging in trees to multiple examples of numbers throughout the Forest, there is definitely not a lack of tools for the students to engage with.

As our time together continued, I transitioned from casual conversations to intentional observations of student learning.  I watched a small group of girls roll and then stack three rubber tires, to create a shelter from the rain. They were able to identify the tires as cylinders and note the properties of rolling and stacking.  I couldn’t help but wonder, how do we document that they’ve already mastered that concept in Kindergarten and will not need to revisit it with a paper and pencil assessment in the years to come.

In another part of the Forest, a small group of students were gathered around their campfire, pretending to drink mugs of hot chocolate (wood chips) and telling scary stories.  They were so kind to each other ~ taking turns and ensuring that everyone had an opportunity to share.  As I listened to them tell their stories, it was evident that they had mastered the concept of what makes a story scary and that a story needs to have characters and a beginning, middle and end. May we continue to provide our students with opportunities to share campfire stories for years to come as they develop more complex story lines.  The power of oral language needs to be honoured throughout our lifetime, not just in our childhood.

And, in yet another part of the Forest of Learning, students were navigating their way from stump to stump, demonstrating their mastery of balance and timing.

Our time in the Forest of Learning was all too short.

I learned more about that group of learners from watching them interact with each other in the Forest of Learning than I could have ever captured by sitting down and assessing them with a paper and pencil task.

I love days like today, when I get to become a learner.

When was the last time you were amazed by something that your students demonstrated?

Come write with me….