Welcoming Autumn & News Ways of Learning
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe in the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the Earth.” – Henry David Thoreau
On September 22nd, the Northern hemisphere welcomed the first day of autumn. On this day, also known as the Autumnal Equinox, the day is equal in length to the night and we experience equilibrium, before the darkness of winter encroaches upon the light of summer days.
Autumn is regarded as the season of change, when things begin to “fall” away. Autumn is a beautiful, transitional time, where we see the transition to move inward once again to reflect on what or where we will grow, or go, next.
Because we are part of the natural world, we feel the transition of our environments within ourselves and adapt to it. We pack away our summer wardrobe and opt for the cozy fall sweaters (the ones we’ll wear while we drink our delicious, fall flavored beverages). Maybe we notice that previous attitudes, or goals, or hopes and dreams “fall” away and we are beckoned to celebrate what we have grown thus far, and just as we adapt our lives to the natural world, at Forest School we adapt our learning, by allowing our curriculum to be emergent and inspired by the natural world.
Following the seasons offers ample opportunities for learning. At Forest School, we observe and listen to the learners, as well as the natural world, to encourage and guide learning opportunities. We are inspired by the “emergent curriculum” principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Emergent curriculum is learning that stems from, and evolves based on, what is interesting, relevant and meaningful to the learners. The research-based benefits of emergent curriculum include that:
- Children’s interests serve as the basis for program development;
- Expression of individual strengths is ensured;
- Unique learning needs are supported;
- Curriculum content is an extension of home/family life;
- Increased parental involvement is encouraged and;
- Diversity is celebrated in its fullest form. (University of Toronto, Early Learning Centre)
This past week at Forest School, we let our autumn celebrations allow our learning to unfold. Learners took interest in starting their own fires and feeding them to our central fire, and tending to the central fire to make sure our celebration wouldn’t end. When it was story time, we listened to a whimsical tale about autumn adventures and everyone chimed in with their favorite fall-time activities. Our learners were delighted by roasting apples over the fire, and cultivated a sense of confidence and self-sufficiency as they carved their own wooden sticks to roast the apples upon. Over the week, carving wooden sticks for roasting apples evolved into carving “talking sticks” and “journey sticks”, and even carving “wood-cookie” necklaces.
Our core curriculum at Aishling Forest School is to let nature be the teacher and the greatest classroom of all. We, as leaders and mentors, are there to encourage and support the natural fascinations of our learners. And as always, the learners teach us what meaningful play and learning is all about.
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