One of the great opportunities of the forest school classroom is sharing the forest with so many other, smaller, beings. Observing bugs, frogs, slugs and squirrels is an opportunity to practice empathy, nurturing, and gentleness. Children exercise cognitive development by making connections between different living things, wondering about how other animals live and communicating with each other their ideas. Interactions with animals inspire interest in reading about the animals, drawing the animals and acting out the behaviors of animals. In many ways, the animals of the forest both teach us and inspire growth across all of the developmental domains.
Observing live animals:
While handling and observing animals children exercise self regulation and empathy. Closely observing these beings also develops basic scientific inquiry skills.
1. Ayelet: "Do you want to see it's eggs?" Eva (out of frame): "Yeah" Ayelet: "You need to pick it upside down, can you?" Eva: "No i can't it's too scary. Can you Ayelet?" Ayelet: "Yeah, I'm gonna put it upside down"
2. Luka holding a magnifying glass over a rollie pollie
3. Cheryl, Nathan, Mina, Luka, and Alana look at ladybugs and into the grass where many ladybugs were found.
4. Mina and Luka hold their hands still and look at ladybugs that are crawling on them.
1. Ayelet: "Do you want to see it's eggs?" Eva: "Yeah" Ayelet: "You need to pick it upside down, can you?" Eva: "No i can't it's too scary. Can you Ayelet" Ayelet: "Yeah, I'm gonna put it upside down"
2. Cade looks at a frog on a stick
3. Nicole, Ida, Aaron, and Aviv look at ground squirrels. Nicole counts "1, 2, 3 squirrels!"
4. Josie crouches and looks toward ground squirrels.
Is it an animal? Is it alive or dead?
Observing both living and dead animals offer unique opportunities to start asking big questions like, "what does it mean to be alive?", and what are the differences between living and non-living objects, living and dead creatures.
1. Ida picks up a dead crab from Laura's hand and looks at it.
2-3. Li Li picks up a dead crab from Laura's hand, looks at it, and then puts it into a bucket near Aviv.
4. Aviv picks up a dead crab from his bucket and looks at it.
Ayelet holds a creature and questions what it is.
Inspired by animals
The animals in the forest, in the books we read, and the songs we sing inspire a lot of the play we see in the forest school. Pretend play and art are two ways that children are working on building their capacity to self regulate, collaborate with others, and represent absent objects symbolically.
Children run and shout about a 'bear' in the 'cave'
Eva describes her drawing of a snail.
Kailash balances on a beam while the class sings "The Ants Go Marching"