The Kindergarten-1st Grade Class Connects with Nature

At Birches, the students’ classroom expands beyond the four walls of their building. In the Kindergarten-1st Grade classroom, we spend Tuesday mornings playing in the woods and on Friday afternoons we take a more focused “Nature Walk,” slowing down to investigate our surroundings. On nice days, we often take our reading and writing workshops outside.

Nature Play on Tuesday mornings is a particularly treasured time of the week: The whole class treks out--rain or shine--to one of our many “Nature Playgrounds” in the woods. As the structure of our traditional playground gives way to the open boundaries of the woods, students become much more creative with how they use their spaces. For example, when walking by a huge fallen log, one student hops up and tries to walk across it, quickly turning the dead tree into a balance beam. Soon, more students climb up to take turns. We then discover an interesting half-rotten stump nearby that becomes a throne on which a king and his subjects begin to play a game. The first log then turns into a drum set when students discover the various sounds it makes when hit with different sticks. Nearby, several children break off and start collecting tall sticks to see if they can construct a lean-to teepee in which to play. The teachers move around, keeping everyone in sight at all times to ensure student safety. They also check in with different groups of students, lending a hand to the children’s projects or joining in the play itself. They may help build an imaginary fire to keep the teepee warm or they may join in the music-making coming from the “drum set.”

During Nature Play, students are able to play creatively, test their limits, and challenge themselves. The first time on that balance beam, the student may need to hold a teacher’s hand while she walks across. On each subsequent attempt, she gets better and better until she excitedly calls out, “Hey, look at me! I can do it by myself!” These are the moments we cherish during Nature Play. We aim to help develop students’ self-esteem and confidence, as well as their respect and love for the natural world.