Inspiration for children’s thinking and creativity can be found in many places. Following the interests of children and developing possibilities for learning, research or teamwork can come from a song, an interaction with nature or even the observation of a current event.
This year’s Younger Group (YG) class dove into all types of learning inspired by the 2014 Winter Olympics. It was a type of special occasion that this teacher could predict as an inspirational possibility, yet not know the full direction the children would take until their excitement jump started the momentum that would direct their learning.
It was February, a weekend had passed and the opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics had been viewed by most of the YG children at home. When we entered the school day, there were exclamations of,
“Did you see the snowboarders?!”
“Did you see the American flag?!”
“Did you see the Olympic rings?!”
I always start the year finding out what the children want to learn and wish to accomplish during the course of the school year, so I can plan lessons around their ideas and incorporate them into the flow of our school days.
I love doing this because it gives us unlimited possibilities. Responses often include things like learn geometry, learn new unicycling tricks, learn about countries, learn to play the ukulele, learn to cook; responses are as individual as the children. It is so interesting to find out what the children want to learn and discover and such useful information for planning a rich and eventful school year. I also have many ideas for the Older Group (OG), as do Sally, Bill, Brian, and this year Dennis as well. Looking back over this past year, it is amazing what a vast amount of things we have experienced, learned, and accomplished, having tremendous fun while we did. When Antioch School children come home and report that they played all day, in a sense they have. When everyone is involved in the planning, when we play with concepts, laugh and cry over good books, play music, hike, learn, explore math, reflect in nature, are fully engaged, and approach learning with joy and enthusiasm, it could be described as play.
In addition to the many daily opportunities for outside play, most of the children at the Antioch School go on a weekly hike in Glen Helen, the 1000-acre nature preserve across the street from our school. Our hikes are made up of walking, exploring, playing games, observation and self-expression through writing and drawing.
On Monday, April 11, 2016, Chris Graves and Cara Owsley, from the Cincinnati Enquirer, visited The Antioch School to report on Forest kindergarten. The two reporters spent a very cold, very wet morning following and interviewing the kindergartners on their walked through Glen Helen and back to camp. Afterwards, the journalists spent time at the school talking with the teachers and staff. The complete story can be read here. As can be seen above, there was also a short video made by Cara Owsley.Update: The story published by the Cincinnati Enquirer has been picked up by the Associated Press (AP) and has been distributed to new organizations across the United States, including The Washington Times.
This year a forest kindergarten is underway at The Antioch School. At the beginning of every week, the kindergarteners will spend half a day outside in their classroom in the woods. Their teacher, Lindie, says that her goal is to spend more time outside and allow the children to not only create their own classroom, but everything that goes in it as long as it comes from the outdoors. So far, the forest kindergarten has been a great success, with the children wanting to spend more time in their outdoor classroom than originally planned.
If you would like to learn what some other schools are doing with forest kindergartens, watch the above movie trailer from "School's Out: Lessons From a Forest Kindergarten," a 36 minute documentary directed by Lisa Molomot. The film follows students in an outdoor forest kindergarten in Switzerland and compares their day to a typical American kindergarten in New Haven Connecticut. If you would like more information, check out this article on KQED's web site, Let 'Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play in Kindergarten or this article from Wikipedia.
Matt Cline, from Cline Cinematography, put together this wonderful movie about The Antioch School. The movie was first shown at the 2014 Silent Auction. A big thanks goes out to Matt for his hard work at creating this movie as well as many of the photographs used on this site.