Last year at Waseca, we began taking our elementary (6-9) class out in the woods with our Coyote mentor, Evan McGown who co-authored “Coyote Guide to Connecting to Nature”. I shared that experience with Evan and the class during our weekly “wild Wednesdays” and learned so much by watching him take the children to their edge of comfort and make them forget about their fears with games and questions that peaked their curiosity about the natural world. I watched them grow as an interdependent community as they learned to cooperate with one another. I saw children who were challenged with social and sensory integration issues indoors find their way in the larger space and shine. Our shared experiences bonded us in a way that I have never witnessed before in 28 years in the classroom.
As the elementary class embarks on their second year of “wild Wednesdays”, I am satisfying my curiosity about how to take this amazing approach to the primary class. I realized that a different plane of development would require some modifications. Many of the games the elementary children play involve directions that would baffle younger ones. I get to be a pioneer in this venture by observing and meeting their needs while stretching their comfort level and sparking their natural curiosity as well as stretching their senses. I am excited to share this journey with you in coming installments with memories and updates about the elementary class as well.
We devised a new game to address some challenges we were having and, at the same time, meet the needs they were expressing. The children had difficulty outside of the classroom raising their hands and waiting to be called upon and wanted to speak all at once. They wanted to run ahead on the path instead of waiting for the guide to lead. They had a hard time with the concept of hiding and would stand in plain view when asked to hide. (This probably has something to do with their egocentric perspective and inability to imagine someone else's view of them.) Hiding in the woods is an excellent way to have the children experience being quiet and still in the woods. After lots of experience, they will one day be able to sit quietly and wait for wildlife to appear. When we play "rabbits and foxes", you have to put up bunny ears and be silent to be chosen as a rabbit. Now, we use this as a sign to be quiet and listen.
|Silence instead of "I want a turn!"|
| The rabbits run off with a guide while|
the foxes close their eyes.
The rabbits hide with the guide in excited
anticipation as they wait
for the foxes. A biit of adrenaline accentuates the experience.
|The guide makes a crow call when the rabbits |
and the foxes take off after them!
|Caught by a fox!|