Clapping and cheers rang out around the playground. "You did it! You got that jump!" This week’s big development on the playground was an obstacle course for horses. The teachers had been talking about encouraging some new games and activities on the playground. While we were talking about it, the students took matters into their own hands, and devised these beautiful courses, where they take turns running and jumping. They searched for materials in our garage and around the playground, using hula hoops, jump ropes, cones, and more. They modified the course for different levels, making sure that younger children and smaller children still had appropriate challenges. They organized lines and turn taking. I heard kids processing their emotions as they tried to convince themselves or others to try a difficult jump. We patched up the occasional scraped hand or knee, but mostly we just watched and joined in the cheers.
All of this was a beautiful example of the benefits of free play and how it builds executive function. This is a set of mental skills that help you get things done. You set a goal then do the things to make it happen: plan and organize, remember details, maintain focus, regulate emotions, and self-monitor. We give kids the time and space to set goals and make them happen whether they are creating a memoir in writing workshop or making an obstacle course for horses.
Last week took our African studies full swing in preschool and included lots of neat things! We’ve been learning about the different countries and animals in Africa through folk stories native to them. On Tuesday, Grandma Barb came to read to us as she does every week, but this week was special—she brought a few items from Africa with her for us to explore! It was a fun and memorable time of learning with hands-on relics.
We’ve been really enjoying all of the new plant growth that’s happened, and dandelions are being used every day in many different ways. I’ve seen the yellow flowers rubbed on the skin to color it, bouquets have been picked, pieces taken inside the classroom to examine under the magnifying glass, and several of the kids have been working on learning to make dandelion chains! It’s a great way to learn about plant anatomy, life cycles, and to practice fine motor skills.
The children were in their second week of their studies of China. This week, we practiced taking notes while watching two videos. One video was about urban families and the other video was about rural families. We noted that both the rural and the urban schools were much, much bigger than Country Classroom. We talked about how the kids wore uniforms, walked in rows and did daily exercises in unison. We wondered at how different their lives were, while noticing all the things that we all have in common.
When we teach social studies, we work to teach the skills necessary to be good students along with interesting content. This was the first time that most of the students had ever tried to “take notes” while watching or listening to information. They did well! For some of our students, the notes were just a name or a picture. Others wrote quite a lot. All of them shared important facts that stood out to them as they watched and listened.