Kindergarten students explore the forest learning the plants, and animals. observations of nature and patterns form the basis of letters and numbers. Together we learn what kinds of creatures we share this planet with, and how to treat those creatures respectfully.
The early days of fall we get to know our classmates through games and student-facilitated Council Meetings. We learn how to navigate with a compass, so we won’t get lost on our quest to meet new beings. As we wander, we encounter plants, birds, and fish, using their distinguishing features, such as leaves, feathers, and scales, to engage our counting and addition brains. We journal about our adventures as well, using our communication skills to share the things we’ve seen with our families and friends back home!
Come winter, the rains settle in and our imaginations take off. We carve feathersticks to start fires in our cozy shelter, and tell stories of the very first humans to walk this earth. Cooking, preserving, sewing, and weaving, we find ourselves up to the elbows in new skills, and new connections to our shared past. Numbers appear in the stitches of a new cloak, the cups of flour in a loaf of bread, or the bundles of kindling crackling around our coals. We practice rhythm and pitch as we sing songs to lighten the work. And of course, we will keep striving to hone the compassion and efficacy of our little village in the woods.
In the Spring the young leaves and fresh tracks invite us to cycle back to the plants and mammals of the forest. With a new eye for storytelling, students are ready to track in the fullest sense, using slight shifts in footprints to tell a tale of grazing deer and stalking coyotes. Stands of wildflowers give us repeating patterns, setting a foundation for multiplication, while the shapes of leaves teach us symmetry. Water rushing through the landscape carves away at the landscape, helping us to understand subtraction. Throughout these changes, we continue writing and reading, sharing our tales and learning the tales of others.
First grade focuses on the arc of “Navigating our World” and exploring different themes that mirror the seasonal change. Each theme will flow into the next and helps establish more complex Math and Literacy tools to interpret and express it.
In the Fall We begin with navigation. We learn about the cardinal directions, how to recognize landmarks, and use a compass. We also navigate and map the sounds of the written language and introduce addition and subtraction. To help in our navigations we learn about plants and animals. By collecting, identifying, and recording plants in our forests students use their addition and subtraction skills as well as apply reading comprehension strategies relating to non-fiction text and sequencing of events. We delve into different strategies to observe and identify signs of animals, create word problems involving addition, and practice our summarizing skills. As the weather begins to change we focus our studies on adding up our harvests and measuring different sizes of fire fuel. We design shelters and fire structures, infer and predict what animal shelters might be like, and compare different strengths and weaknesses of these.
In Winter we learn about storytelling and transform into storytellers through narrative writing. We test our math skills by interpreting recipes of food to be cooked over the fire and shared. As the winter sets in we focus our skills on natural crafts. With fiber arts we work on extending the counting sequence in math. Our personal shelters and sewing skills will require us to analyze cause and effect and come to conclusions about the best way to build and craft. Our literacy focus will be on comparing and contrasting fiction and non-fiction texts as well as how to ask questions.
In Spring the changing of the seasons bring back our hibernating friends and lead to an opportunity to dig deeper into our tracking skills. With revisiting navigating and maps we learn new ways to model strategies to add with tens and ones with pacing and real-world examples. This reinforces the reading strategies of sequencing events and using context to draw conclusions. We turn into super scientists and navigate our world by conducting investigations. We also apply our observation techniques to understand cause and effect, length and time measurement, as well as, comparing and contrasting.
In addition to these overarching unit plans, students will have weekly lessons on a variety of topics including but not limited to music, bodywork, art and handcraft. We will also be taking a few educational community exploration trips to places like the fire station, animal shelter, and the theater.
Caring for the land and exploring our world become more in depth in second grade as students are more able to explore through experimentation, and practice sharing their observations with writing and stories.
Beginning in Fall , Students will take surveys of the land, learn how to care for a garden, choose a unique sit spot they can begin to form a deep relationship with, as well as work together as a community to set guidelines and expectations on how to be a strong and successful team in the coming year. As the forest changes we focus on a variety of projects, including mushroom identification and art, a vermicompost project, microbiology experiments (molds, yeast, and other fun fungi that we coexist with), fermentation, and forest ecology activities. We explore the scientific method and place an emphasis on data collection and tracking, comparison and contrast, observational analysis, and pattern recognition.
In winter we shift our gaze away from the dirt and towards the skies to focus on clouds, constellations, planets, mapping, and navigation. The students tie concepts like weather systems, the water cycle, and map-reading to a more intense focus on reading and writing folklore and mythology from around the world. We will delve into story anatomy, and students will be writing condensed myth-reports, identifying plot, summary, character profiles, conflict, etc. Students will practice the skills they need to stay warm and dry, using natural materials to craft and explore. students work together to write their own myths creating plot, characters, conflict and resolutions. Academically, we will delve deep into geometry as a way of understanding how to build shelter, use currency to barter for what we need, and how to measure and collect data. Additionally, winter is a time we will ramp up our music lessons through listening to, reading, and making music,
As Spring begins to set in, we will tie together much of what we have spent the year learning thus far. Through a variety of projects, students will have a greater understanding of Earth’s resources and changing climate. This is accompanied by recurring lessons on the Principles of Permaculture as well as service projects that aim to serve the population of a local Portland community as well as serve the land on which we learn. Our year will close with an in-depth study and celebration of plants! We dive into plant identification, botany, wild edibles, birds, bugs, and tracking. Students will spend copious time in their chosen sit spot locations, observing and documenting the natural world through the Naturalist Inventory framework, write and interpret poetry, and develop their sensory awareness skills.
In addition to these overarching unit plans, students will have weekly lessons on a variety of topics including but not limited to music, chess, permaculture, art and handcraft. We will be taking monthly educational museum trips.
In third grade students work with their hands, build a deep relationship to the land. They practice observation and then research the why’s and hows, learning to answer their own questions to gain a deeper understanding of their world.
Fall and winter of the Third Grade year are spent diving deep into creating a comprehensive journal based upon the book The Tracker by Tom Brown, Jr. Every Monday the class will begin reading one chapter from The Tracker by Tom Brown, Jr. Key elements, ideas and events from the chapter set the stage for the lesson plans, activities, and homework for that week. Tracks form the basis of skip counting and multiplication tables. Throughout the year writing will get longer as students work on their descriptions and journals. Each day students are provided with worksheets and pages to record data, sketch illustrations, and work on classwork related to the story and drawing on themes that they find in their daily travels into the forest. At the end of the year, the student’s work is collected, collated, and then spiral bound into their very own “Tracker Journal”
In spring students embark on a large-scale mapping project of BREC. Each student will be allocated a square area of a portion of our forest property. During subsequent weeks the students make a series of observations, experiments, and interactions with wildlife. The data, information, and details will then be transferred onto a 4 foot by 4 foot square of wood creating a map of their individual unit. Finally these individual units will then be gathered together to collectively create one giant map.
Daily practice to reinforce math, and reading as well as lessons in chess music and sign language round out the forest curriculum.