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Front Image: 

Annie is standing on a tree and Peyton is climbing up the log and they are both looking at a bird.

In Kindergarten,we often say that a child has entered the "Reading Zone" or the "Writing Zone." These are words that we adopted from Nancy Atwell. Children are in the zone if they are engaged in their reading or writing and are no longer aware of their surroundings. We have all had this experience...leaving the present moment to be an armchair traveler.

On Friday afternoons, we create the same culture of quiet engagement and thoughtful reflection. Each child selects a piece of paper and his/her tool of choice; crayons, Sharpies, colored pencils, thinking pens and pastels. We ask the children to represent their morning experiences in the forest.

Later, we sit as a class and notice the work of the artists. We realize that each sketch has a unique perspective. One artist caught the wind as it blew through the trees in the Forest. The bridge crossing the stream was the focal point for another group of children. Small but significant details are often pointed out. We notice the suddenly blooming daffodils and large swooping birds that grace our campus.

There are things to learn in the forest, but each Friday as we walk paths that are now well worn, pass familiar trees and return to places that beckon us as a nest might a bird, we begin to realize that our heart is filled with a peace that is rare.

(To read more about the work of the Kindergarten class, follow Mary's blog, Gleanings.)

"This is a picture of me standing in the forest by the creek. My friends are on the bridge. We hear the wind in the trees."

"This is the bridge down in the forest."

"We are at our winter place in the forest, and I am balancing on the log."

"I am walking through the tunnel and I hear echoes ."

"The bridge is down by the water next to the fort and a large climbing rock."

About the Author: 

Mary grew up inspired to teach by her family of educators. In addition to teaching for over ten years at the lower school level, she spent several years implementing a state Instructional Support Team initiative designed to enhance teachers’ skills in the application of best practice. The initiative sought to provide instructional support through collaboration, problem-solving, and the utilization of data for classroom and school decisions. Subsequently she continued her work with the Instructional Support Team initiative as a Virginia Department of Education consultant, visiting sites across the state, developing curriculum, training teachers to facilitate local teams, and working to develop assessment and validation tools to evaluate progress at each site. Mary holds a Master’s degree in reading from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Mary has been teaching Sabot at Stony Point since 2006. "It is a joy to be present with children as they take ownership for their learning in the midst of a collaborative and creative environment." Mary has had an instrumental role in the curriculum development for the Lower School. She was one of several professionals researching, writing and supporting the literacy curriculum and Sabot's progressive student assessment report.