There is a chill in the air this morning, a distinct feeling of fall in the crisp breeze whispering in through the open classroom window. It is the time of the year when we begrudgingly say goodbye to bare feet and bundle up in our warm sweaters; we practice the buttons and zippers on our coats and make sure our cubbies are stocked with extra socks and mittens.
As summer fades and begins to make way for autumn Mother Nature paints our learning with a brush of orange and red and brown. The children will soon begin to notice the beautiful leaves scattered on the ground like confetti and I wonder, will we sort them or gather them in to piles for jumping?
The rhythm of the seasons ignites the children’s interests with its myriad of changes and materials; it is a more rich curriculum than any you could plan or buy.
In the spring the children noticed all of the plants bursting to life and they were filled with questions! How did seeds sprout? What do plants need to grow? So we planted a garden, sprouted seeds in cups and sketched the roots, we made prints on fabric and the natural dyes from dandelions, we read stories and made discoveries together.
There were little birds in nests and tiny baby creatures scampering about during our forest trips and we were filled with wonder. We researched how birds hatch, what types of homes little creatures make, and documented our discoveries in drawings.
Water was our focus in the balmy months of summer; the cool stream in the woods became a welcome escape from the heat. We watched the gentle current guide little ships of wood and leaves, laughing as we chased them, our feet displacing the water and making big splashes as we ran through the shallow brook.
We used our tattered wilderness guide book to identify different plants and tiny beasts we found in the wilderness. We practiced pronouncing the big Latin names of species of trees as we climbed and explored together in the depths of the forest.
Then, one day, like magic there is a sudden frostiness in the air that feels like autumn and the leaves begin to change; green fades and orange and red takes its place in the towering trees. We find acorns and pinecones at our feet as the plants prepare to settle to sleep beneath a blanket of snow.
Winter brings with it frozen adventures as we explore in the beautiful sparkling snow and climb the branches of bare trees. We will wonder how the little creatures store food in the winter and talk excitedly about the animals that slumber through the cold months. The children will direct their learning, guided by their discoveries in this lovely icy wonderland, and every learning journey (even the familiar ones) will bring with them something new and wonderful.
Mother Nature is a creative and patient teacher, always carefully preparing the outdoor environment with rich and inviting materials for little hands to discover.
When we allow the pleasant cadence of the natural world to guide our curriculum, and give children the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in outdoor play, the opportunities for learning are endless!