Berkeley Forest School

Preschool Update: May 4-7. 2015

By Heather Taylor

We've been spending our spring at two different Berkeley parks. Each offers myriad opportunities for exploration and discoveries. Here are some of the recent happenings!

At our local park, we discovered a concrete chute that we could roll rocks and cups (whoops!) down. The children made a game of seeing whether they could hear a “splash” when the rock tumbled down. After a couple cups went into the creek we worked on using the trash cans for those instead. We explored little daisies on the lawn at the front of the park, dancing and making tiny bouquets. Some of the kids were fascinated with tromping through the ivy and finding spit bugs. I used to call them spittle bugs, but I have been corrected! The white, bubbly fluid on the plants can be easily teased apart to expose a nymph living inside.

While we were playing on Monday I thought I found a new path down to the creek, so of course the children caught me down there checking it out when they arrived on Tuesday morning! We worked on finding our footing, paying attention to the limits of our footwear, knowing when it's safe to toss rocks, and checking out landscape features. Some of the kids found a space to hide under the metal ramp leading down into the park from the street. They and the ramp users were equally as surprised and delighted at one another's presence above and below the ramp- smiles all around! Teacher Liana led an activity to make our own charcoal. The children hammered holes into cookie tin lids, gathered “cool shapes” (e.g. flowers, sticks, and leaves), shouted encouragement to the campfire to stay lit, whispered secrets into the tins, and waited patiently while the teachers tucked the tins into a campfire and watched as water steamed out the vents. In the end we got perfectly preserved carbonaceous leavings of the original items. We went on to draw with the charcoal as though it were chalk. So cool!

Wednesday brought our group to the larger regional park, where there were bad aliens to ward off near a tree with what looks like a face, and who the kids have named Mr. Nobody. Some of Mr. Nobody's sticky sap was used as glue to put up tiny "flags." A discovered a piece of metal in the tree trunk, and everyone wondered how it had gotten there. It seems as though Mr. Nobody once had a fence to contend with, and grew right around it before later falling over. Some kids taught each other how to pull out weeds, and they could see the roots when the plant was pulled out just right. A banana slug climbing up the wall was a great source of amusement as well as an opportunity to talk about how to treat animals. We could tell whether it was comfortable around us or not by whether its antennae were in or out. Around lunch time some people who run the summer camp at Meadows came around to test out their EZ-Ups. As each one was put up the Forest School kids jumped around underneath. All were greatly amused! Some of the kids got to see behind the “secret door” when the group put their equipment back; it was perfect timing because a bunch of us had just been wondering what could be in there.

We had some firewood we stashed on Wednesday, so Travis built another campfire for us Thursday morning, then we spent the rest of the day exploring around the meadow. We started out looking for gopher holes and ended up seeing a great blue heron standing nearby. As we walked on we got to see it fly past us and land on the other side of the meadow! There was a big pile of branches and the children figured out that it came from part of a broken tree that had then been cut into pieces. When we walked to the end of the meadow, C and L wondered, "What does this sign say?" when they discovered a yellow, plastic reflector on one of the poles. We talked about how some signs can say something even if they don't have any words on them, and how yellow and orange often mean "caution." We had a great discussion about why a caution sign would need to be there, and what things other colors could mean. S found a patch of dirt in the middle of the grass and turned that into a place for cooking "soup." Lots of kids formed groups and hiked around. Some came across a patch of short grass with deer poop in it. Others made up music to sing as they hiked together then fell to the ground together again and again. Others added on to the game when they joined by saying things like, "The purple makes us fall!", when they saw thistle flowers. For a calm moment we read You are Stardust by Elin Kelsey.

14th May, 2015

Heather Taylor is an experienced outdoor educator and California Master Teacher. She can be found in the Berkeley Forest School's preschool and camp programs.

All text and photographs copyright Berkeley Forest School. Illustrations copyright Steven Noble.
Any unauthorized use is prohibited.