Each week we reserve time to escape into The Forest â€“ a city park that borders our campus â€“ and each week we watch as, without a curriculum, formal lessons or assessments, children develop into natural scientists.
We provide the controlled setting: Friday mornings at The Bridge, and nature provides the variable: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. The children question, observe, hypothesize and draw conclusions from what they experience.
Teacher: "Why do the leaves fall during Fall?"
Dante: "Because the wind is really strong."
Juliette: "Theyâ€™re getting colder."
Dante: "The wind is really strong because itâ€™s cold."
Dante: "Do you know why Fall is called â€˜Fallâ€™? Because the leaves fall all the time in Fall."
Children: "Even the creek is filled with leaves!"
Teacher: "Wait stop. Look up at the leaves. Are they different colors than they were when we first started going to the Forest?"
Dante: "Yes because when itâ€™s Fall the leaves also turn different colors."
Teacher: "But why? Why do the leaves turn different colors?"
Ethan: "Itâ€™s the earthâ€™s work."
Gabriella: "I donâ€™t know, thatâ€™s just how they do it when it gets colder. And also if they turn colors, that means theyâ€™re dead."
Teacher: "Gabriella, are you saying that leaves are only alive when theyâ€™re green?"
Xander: "No, the leaves on the ground are dead."
Teacher: "So all the yellow and orange leaves on the trees are alive?"
Skylar: "First the caterpillars guard [the leaves] and then the caterpillars eat them so when [the leaves] turn brown they die."
Teacher: "Haileyâ€™s dad pointed out that this tree is still greenâ€¦why is that?"
Xander: "Itâ€™s an evergreen tree!"
Teacher: "An evergreen tree? Based on itâ€™s name, does that mean that itâ€™s always green?"
Maddie: "I think that tree is a baby tree, it just has grown, itâ€™s only starting to grow."
Max P: "My theory is that itâ€™s actually been there a long time and do you know what? Actually, we have an evergreen tree at home and I picked up some leaves and they were brown!"
Ethan: "Did you know that a forever green tree loses leaves all year long, and not just in the winter?"
Juliette: "The snakes are scared because the leaves are smushing together and making a big, big racket."
Gabriella: "And they also hibernate."
Dante: "And now the snakes are asleep cause itâ€™s Fall so now we can go in front of you because the snakes are all asleep."
Tyler: "Salamanders like the heat, but they come out when itâ€™s cold. Does that make sense?"
Teacher: "Umâ€¦no? Can you explain it a little further?"
Tyler: "The salamanders come out when itâ€™s cold but they sleep in when itâ€™s hot and then they come back out when itâ€™s cold."
Teacher: "So are you thinking that when they come out when itâ€™s cold they move around a lot to get warm?"
Max P: "They sleep under the winter when itâ€™s so cold."
Teacher: "Well what about in the Fall? Itâ€™s a little bit cold in the Fall, what do they do then?"
Max P: "They sleep under logs and kidsâ€¦and grown ups find them."
Tell usâ€¦is there a better way for children to understand the changing of the seasons? If so, we havenâ€™t yet found it.