Category Archives: nests

Nature as a Teaching Partner

Posted March 18, 2015

by Sarah Sivright


Nature is an amazing teaching partner for many reasons. It provides opportunities for just about everything—math, science, art, beauty, literature, imagination, pretend play, large and fine motor movement, friendship, cooperation, problem-solving, building, observation, stewardship—the list seems to have no end. One of the best parts, and the first reason the outdoor world is such an effective partner, is that children don’t need convincing or cajoling to join up. They can’t wait to get out there and see what’s waiting.

And when the seasons start to change, a lot is waiting. There is literally excitement in the air. As the temperatures warm, snow and ice melt, sap runs, insects appear, smells seep out of the warming ground, puddles appear, and, of course, glorious mud. Today we went to “The Swamp,” a small wetland area across Allen Way, the road in front of Inver Glen. On Wednesdays, we have a longer stretch of outdoor playtime for this trek (it feels like the other end of the world to a three year-old). A narrow spit of land stretches between two small ponds. One pond is filled with young willows and grasses, and both will be filled with frogs in a few weeks. The peninsula holds intriguing burrows and tracks, and the first couple years it sheltered a nesting Canada Goose pair. At the other end of the land is a small woods with pine trees, where we find deer tracks and scat. From the tip of the spit of land to the opposite shore (five feet) are several bridges made of long branches and found planks. These transform into space ships, the Billy Goat Gruff bridge, pirate ships, horses, etc. A culvert pokes out from the bank along Allen way, with ice or running water adding to the excitement. The banks on either side are steep and a wonderful climbing and sliding challenge. The culvert spills into a pool in the spring, and then dries up for different play.

Watching the play that takes place in this magical world is revealing. With a sufficient and stimulating area to explore and no shortage of materials to use, behavioral issues and conflict we might otherwise see are absent. The pace of play is leisurely and uninterrupted, with teachers nearby to share discoveries or join in the play or just watch with pleasure. No environment needed to be set up, materials purchased, activities planned—a gift, pure and simple.

Art Camp 2014 – Birds!!!

Posted August 7, 2014

Birds were the focus of this year’s two week art camp.  From the variety of bird books and field guides in the classroom, each child chose a special bird to study and draw.  Both in the studio and in the classroom, children set to work, using markers, crayons, oil pastels, colored pencils and watercolors to represent their birds.  As the drawings and paintings accumulated, the children were able to observe their birds more closely, and notice details they had missed in their earlier attempts.

During the two weeks, we also read bird books every day, with a special focus on the first great bird artist, John James Audubon.  We learned about his love of the outdoors and his ability to watch birds closely and quietly, so he could learn their habits.  He also had a BIG QUESTION:  Where do birds go in the fall and do they ever come back to the same nest?  The children know the answer and how Audubon discovered it – just ask them!

The final week of camp was busy with creating life-sized studies of the children’s birds, and building nests to fill with the appropriate eggs.  Our classroom nest specimens were examined to see what materials would be needed.  After the raw materials were collected and the nests constructed – using clay for the mud- the children researched their bird’s particular egg to see how to paint them just the right colors.

The culminating event was an art show and reception, with lovely invitations created by the children and delivered to their families and the seniors of Inver Glen Senior Living.  The children, dressed in their finest, stood proudly by their artwork to welcome the art patrons and answer questions. Their efforts were enthusiastically celebrated, and we are very grateful for the school community’s support of these young artists!