Taking Learning Outdoors

We just had a wonderful day in kindergarten! We took our learning outdoors as we created “art from nature” inspired by Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy
On Tuesday we sent home a homework assignment that was optional. We asked the children to go on a “nature walk” (in their neighborhood or around their homes) and collect rocks, twigs, branches, leaves, pods and flowers that we would use for this project. We explained that these objects wouldn’t be returned, just used for our nature art. The kinders were so excited and brought in bagfuls of nature’s bounty. First we showed them some pictures and YouTubes of Andy Goldsworthy’s work on the SmartBoard. Then we gathered both kindergarten classes in the courtyard and showed them all they brought in and all we had collected and reused over a period of years. The woos and awes as they excitedly talked about what they would use and what they wanted to make quickly demonstrated that the day would be filled with incredible learning, discovery and pride. And the assemblages started. Some worked in pairs, some in groups of three and more. One little girl who had a difficult morning chose to work by herself. She needed this time and we gave her, her space. Her spent a good chunk of time on her creative work. She was so pleased with the results and was eager to share the “art story” with her teachers. We had a some children extend their learning about the rainforest to this art, making the Canopy and Emergent Layers of the rainforest. Some found interesting ways to connect their pieces. And they kept on working. They counted, sorted, measured lengths of branches and twigs and found what flowers and rocks would add interest to their pieces. In all this, the collaboration flourished as did their language; learning to discuss and compromise. When we saw some of the kinders wondering and getting tired, thirsty and hungry we took some time to go indoors and listen to our first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web; a traditional story read in our kindergarten program. Then we went back outside to look at each other’s pieces; carefully walking around not to disturb the assemblages. Time for lunch sitting outside and discussing the days events. A recess break to run around, play ball, use hula hoops and use those big muscles, that were a bit confined during our art work. We regrouped back in our art space to deconstruct the pieces and find different ways to use them again. Some choose to work with the same peers, others new partners. No tears, no arguments or frustrations that things were taken apart and the kinders made new “art from nature.” Clean up was amazing. We all worked together to sort and put the reusable artifacts back into designated containers. This was the most efficient group yet! Back in our rooms some went to specialists and those that stayed in the room had quiet play time; to regroup and rest. This is one if my favorite days of the year and once again demonstrates what great learning takes place in outdoor spaces. I need to see how to do more of this next year.

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