One of my favorite things in Kindergarten is to watch the natural treasures amass on a small table in the studio that we refer to as the Nature Table. As the year begins, there are only a few provocations that indicate the intention of the table. We do not unveil the table to the students with any fanfare. Slowly, word spreads that the table is called the Nature Table and any riches found in the garden or forest may reside there.
Each day, after the children leave, I take a moment to look at the table and see what small trinket was noticed and plucked from its environment to reside on the table. There are treasures that reflect the seasons as well as the latest commodity. Feathers, acorns or perhaps rocks with gems are often deemed valuable.
Collecting involves the art of discriminating and discerning differences and similarities. The skill of observing is activated as the seekers build a comradery in their shared pursuit.
Ultimately, there is a deep respect for the treasures unearthed and the natural world that generates such beauty.
The kindergarten continues to steward the natural environment and animals that call our campus and forest home. The Kindergarten reached out to the Garden room after discovering another dead bird. Together they wrangled with decisions regarding the birds they found deceased on campus. It was a serious discussion with a debate regarding the after life of animals.
What does happen to these creatures and animals when they are no longer alive?
Pippin joined us in February to make a few bird houses to be placed at our bird sanctuary. We intend to hang our bird houses near the sanctuary with the hope that a few birds might move in and make the houses their own spaces.
We began to think about the natural home of a bird. We discovered that there is great variety in the materials used, the shape of the houses and the method in which they are made. We tried to think the way a bird might think and look for appealing materials, consider how these materials are brought to the location of the nest and then the method by which the materials are used to form a nest. The children considered the need for warmth since one of the main objectives of a nest is to cradle an egg and eventually a baby bird.
We used clay and other materials to create nests that we would want to live in if we were a birds. It seems that many of the children would like to be hummingbirds. They made nests that were small and soft and warm. We practiced the act of using our wings and rumps to press the materials together in the formation of a nest.
We also decided to check out our school garden with Pippin. As caretakers of the creatures, animals and insects on our campus we thought it would be important to nurture the garden. We learned that at one point the animals on our campus thought that the school garden was created exclusively for them and so Pippin had to put up a fence to remind them that at least a part of the garden was reserved for our school.
In our current culture, we as adults are very focused on the education and development of our youngest citizens.
As adults we so often exert control, implement activities and consider how to measure a child's understanding and mastery of the curriculum.
Mary and I feel strongly that the Kindergarten children have an innate love for the natural world. The most important thing that we can provide is freedom and time to follow their instincts and passions.