March 2020: Nature Notes - Sprouts Emergent Curriculum
Updated: Apr 15
C. Frank Andrews
Hello friends and family. I’m writing to you from home today on day 11 of self-isolation at home while reflecting on the rollercoaster ride that has been March. We started the month with coronavirus on our radar and knew we needed to make sure we were doing everything we could to help keep our kids and their families safe. We took this opportunity to redouble our focus on helping our students practice effective hand-washing techniques and proper nose-blowing hygiene. We got to spend a couple of weeks outside where we were able to watch the season shifting towards spring. The Sprouts had a chance to help Ms. Michelle prepare some of the beds in the garden and watch the baby plants in the greenhouse grow. We continued our conversations around stewardship as more unhealthy trees were felled. The Sprouts noticed that almost all of the trees covered in english ivy were down. We also noticed that some of our neighbors were burning pile of plants from their yards which segwayed into deeper conversation around stewardship. We talked about what we can do with the wood of the trees we have removed and also about the presence of invasive species in our area. As stewards it is our duty to protect the ecosystem and that means removing species that threaten the balance of our biological community. Not all non-native plants warrant removal, there are some species like chickweed that are not from the area but have successfully integrated into the ecosystem in a balanced way. But what do we do with the invasive plants after we have removed them from the forest? Should we put them in the compost? When asked what could go wrong if we did that some pointed out that their seed babies might grow in the compost or the garden and make more invasive plants. This is why people might burn some of the plants they removed from the forest or their yards.
What else can we do with the plants we removed like the large branches from the trees that were felled? Some Sprouts noticed that some of the branches could be used in pine play! Some used them to build fairy houses and super-machines. Some used the sawdust in magical potions or as rare ingredients in mud soup. The Sprouts may not have realized they were engaging in problem solving but they were actually helping the grown ups solve their problem of what to do with all of this biological material we now have on our hands.
There were a lot of days with drastic swings in weather that gave our students many opportunities to practice their decision making skills. Was this a good time to take off that rain jacket or that extra warm layer? One of the foundational pedagogies that we use at the Farmstead, Love and Logic, focuses on providing children with as many decision making opportunities as possible. As the temperature gets warmer, the risks around being wet are diminished which allows us to give the students more freedom in their choices around what types of layers to wear.
After a couple of weeks, it became clear that self-isolation was going to be inevitable. The Farmstead team brainstormed oh how we could still serve our students, their families, and the community without physically being in session. We decided to use social media and old-fashioned email to stay connected with the members of our community and share what we felt was important to keep the connection with nature as an integral part of peoples’ lives. We are doing this by sharing activities that can be done at home; both inside and out. We are sharing information on the key components of the Cedarsong Way, our forest preschool pedagogy as well as Love and Logic. We are sharing posts that help parents and children keep practicing their observation skills by making a phylogeny plot in their own yard to notice things right at home they may not have noticed before.
We at the Farmstead hope you are doing well during these trying times. Look for our postings on social media for resources and activities to help you find ways of enriching your time spent in isolation. We aren’t sure what the future will look like but know that we are here for you. Stay safe friends!