Exploring the woods near their school taught the children about taking risks and helping others.
Many teachers have understood the value of learning from nature. The great educator George Washington Carver once said, "If a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God." The children in our child development center learned more than they ever expected from the bountiful woodlands near their school.
A beautiful wooded area borders our child development center. The woods are open and inviting, with many paths to follow, hills to climb, and little brush. The children were always thrilled to take nature walks in what came to be known as the "old woods."
One day the children noticed another wooded area on the other side of the center, and so they called it the "new woods." They were very curious about the area, but the new woods did not have a path. It lacked a clear entrance, and there was more brush and fallen trees. After several adults cleared away some of the brush, however, the children eagerly embarked upon their first visit and were immediately chock-full of questions and observations, wanting to show the adults what they had discovered. Their excitement and enthusiasm helped the teachers see all the possibilities for exploration and inspired them to spend even more time in the woods. Thus the woods became an integral part of the classroom.
The children took walks in the woods frequently, playing on logs and in creek beds. They conducted scientific inquiries, took risks, and indulged in much dramatic play. At the beginning of the project, the preschoolers took photos, sketched pictures, and collected artifacts while in the woods. Later on, the class set up easels and painted in the woods. The children took walks with local experts and made predictions and observations. They also wrote stories, created nature collages, and made clay representations of things they had seen in the woods. For the culmination of the project, they assembled an informational book about all the things they had learned in the woods.
When the weather was bad, the children created clay representations of what they wanted to remember about playing in the woods.
The topic of woods was highly integrative with the Ohio Early Learning Content Standards in English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies; with the Creative Curriculum goals in the physical, social-emotional, and cognitive domains; and with the Head Start Learning Outcomes. The children's activities easily flowed from their fascination with the woods. They fulfilled literacy requirements by reading books about the woods and representing their experiences through various art media and play. The preschoolers addressed mathematical standards by taking surveys and making predictions. They used critical thinking and problem solving to create woodland collages.
Of course, the topic of woods provided a myriad of opportunities for scientific content, especially zoological and botanical. The children investigated leaves, barks, and bugs. They explored the natural world and learned about the common needs of living things. The preschoolers also explored their immediate community and the broader community in which they lived. They studied the environment and the impact on it made by human beings. The children fulfilled social studies content standards by working cooperatively and collaborating on many activities.