One of the gifts of being a teacher in a Quaker, progressive education school such as Friends School of Minnesota is to have the freedom to shape learning and curriculum with the student’s interests and needs in mind. Teachers use their creativity, instinct and intuition, reflection, and knowledge of their student’s interests to create and facilitate learning. Ideas for study can come from many directions and guide learning that is joyous, vital, and has a deep investment from students.

When I returned last fall from the 2015 Progressive Education Network Conference in Brooklyn, I told the students about some of what I learned about Forest School education, where students their age spend their time learning exclusively outdoors. This sparked great interest and many questions that led to the idea of trying to have our own Forest School Day (although we have a building). Many ideas were floated and considerations made before we all settled on an all day field trip to Minnehaha Falls.

In the planning stages I asked the students what we should bring and wrote down their suggestions: “comfortable shoes, layers of clothes for winter weather, water bottles, backpacks, a lunch.” Then one little boy raised his hand and said, “ If it’s going to be cold, we should make hot soup.” This proved to be a popular idea and we decided to get broth chop vegetables, and make a soup to bring in case we got too cold. We were ready!

Chopping veggies for hot soup.
Chopping veggies for hot soup. Goggles work well for onions!

The November day came and it was a perfect Forest School Day weather–cold and crisp, but not too cold for hiking. We had a fabulous trip hiking the creek, marveling at the falls, and bonding as a class in a beautiful, gem of a park, nestled by the Mississippi river.

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When we returned we collected ideas and images for the following class poem:

Field Trip Poem by the Mississippi class

We climbed down a steep hill

 Listened to the roaring water

 Threw sticks in the water

 Saw a cave with roots inside

 Saw wet logs in the creek

 An ice tree by the waterfall

 Small bridges, large bridges

 One hundred and eight stairs

 Petted Teagan the dog and his friend Kona the dog

We tried to hike all the way

to the Mississippi River

but got hungry

So we ate hot soup

So good, so warm

This poem captures the trip in many ways and came from the students’ joyous experiences.

During the days following this trip, students created word lists for a chart: river, creek, ice tree, Mississippi River, waterfall. They drew and wrote in their journals new words and images from the trip. They recreated bridges, rivers, and forests in the dramatic play area. The room was full of their experience.

Kindergarteners compiled words from their experience.
Kindergarteners compiled word lists from their experience.

 

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Kindergarteners made journal entries about our Forest School Day.

 

Building bridges
Recreating bridges back in the classroom.

 

MInnehaha Creek
Minnehaha Creek

We are ready to plan the next Forest day trip!

–Marshall Anderson, Friends School of Minnesota kindergarten teacher