Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Red Path

Crisp autumn leaves
Rustle softly
Then blow away.
- Japanese  haiku - 

This was the last visit to the outdoor classroom in which there were some leaves still hanging on the branches of the trees. We would return the following Friday for our Forest Friday session to a very different looking forest. However, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful Autumn morning during this visit. The children were eager to explore the red leaves that coated the forest floor in a crimson blanket.

We begin many of our Forest Friday sessions sitting on the wooden benches quietly. This pause before we enter the outdoor classroom allows some time for the children to observe and listen to their surroundings. It also gives me an opportunity to give any instructions or lead a brief discussion with the children's of their previous explorations before sending them off to explore.

The outdoor learning classroom has a beautiful native perennial garden surrounded by stones. Behind this area is our forest of trees with native shrubs as well. In the spring we look forward to the rebirth of our native plant species and observing their growth. 

To understand the focus of the children's work on this day we must reflect back to their earlier ideas which I have outlined in my previous series of blog posts which focus on our leaf inquiry. During which the children had studied the land art of Andy Goldsworthy. So it was of no surprise to me that they carried on arranging and creating land art with the crimson red autumn leaves on this day. It all began with a single red line started by one child. Soon many children were sharing ideas and collaborating on how to design the red path of leaves. 

The children gathered leaves for the red path.

Problem Solving at it's best! 
The children soon discovered it was easier to move the leaves with their feet. They used their feet to pull the leaves into a line creating their path. 

Following the path!

At the end of the path of leaves the children created a loop and cleared the centre of their design revealing a circle on the forest floor.

The path was rich with a variety of textures and shapes of leaves. The children shared their observations with educators and each other as they collected the leaves. 

Many of the children also focused their attention to the forest floor. They used sticks to create lines on the earth's dirt canvas. We observed the children reaching out to use their hands to connect physically with the earth and the soil. 

Once the red path was complete the children were interested in the large leathery brown leaves discovered in the forest along with the red leaves. Many of the children collected bouquets of leaves.

This tree was of particular interest to the children. It's branches were decorated with a most interesting discovery. They children thought they looked like Christmas ornaments and wondered what these spherical shaped things might be. It led to an investigation that we only recently answered almost three months later. 

I printed out a photo of the round seed pod that the children were so curious about. I placed the photo next to the tree field guide and several children researched some possibilities for which type of tree they came from. The children also wondered what they were and why they were hanging from the tree. The photo above documents their first hypothesis. I will share what we just recently discovered in another blog post that highlights our most recent visit to the outdoor classroom. So stay tuned if you are curious about our discovery too!!!

Looking closely at the leaves led the children to notice that the leaves were not the same as before. They pointed out to us the many tears and holes in the leaves. Some children wondered who was eating the leaves. Other children offered theories about how the leaves dry up and turn brown in the Autumn.

 During play block the children continued to use the texts placed throughout the classroom learning invitations to identify and learn about the leaves they brought to the classroom. Many of the leaves were from their own outdoor spaces at home. The other leaves were collected during their time outside at recess and our visits to the outdoor classroom. At the end of our inquiry I saved the leaves in a large tote as they had dried so beautifully. I am so thankful that I did as the children just this week used the dried leaves as a reference when researching the mysterious spherical shapes that I mentioned previously. I find that the children often return to their early explorations to extend their learning. For this reason our classroom walls and shelves hold many items collected by the children during our inquiries. They serve not only as evidence of our inquiry work but also as bridges to consolidate previous ideas with new thinking. 

Finding beauty in the leaves and observing the changes in their colours was a strong focus for many of the children. 

This loose parts tray of natural items was used many times by the children to convey their thinking. To make their ideas visible and to share the respect they gave to the leaves they so treasured.

How glorious it was to capture the children's joy on this beautiful day. They ended their visit to the outdoor classroom by shaking their leave bouquets in the Autumn breeze. Can you hear the rustling of Autumn's crisp leaves? This visit to the outdoor classroom brought our senses to life!

"I loved autumn, the one
season of the year that God
seemed to have put there just 
for the beauty of it."

Lee Maynard