Updated: Jan 5, 2021
Thanksgiving break marks the transition between fall is ending and winter beginning. After some time off, children may fall out of the rhythm of the day and need some time reorienting to the classroom. For some children it only takes days to fall back into the rhythm of the day, and for others it can take months. These little ones are just beginning to learn what it means to be in their bodies. During adjustment periods in daily schedules, it is important to create an environment that is open to authentic exploration of movement, emotions, intuition, indoor and outdoor play, (no matter the weather), relationships and expression and identification of wants/needs. At the same time, winter themes and activities can be designed to mindfully engage students in literacy and language development, math, science, and problem solving. Both personal and academic development are important, and can be done simultaneously.
December themes are in line with ecological rhythms of nature during this time. Daylight becomes shorter, animals go into hibernation, and cycles slow down. Our activities focus on cultural holidays and traditions, prominent animals, and slowing ourselves down to find the light within.
The first week back is really about re-establishing safety. When children feel safe and secure in their environment, only then do they feel free to be curious and involved in learning. Academic curriculum goals may need to be placed secondary to establishing this sense of security. To aid this process, establish times to connect with class pets, free play to connect with other students, name games, and child-led games. If there are class pets, the kids love feeding them as much as they love eating! We once had a class pet turtle named Tully who loved worms! We take him out of the cage, grab a worm from our compost bin, and watch nature take its course.
When it rains or snows (as expected), parents and children are encouraged to bring appropriate gear as we explore our environment in different weather. Puddle jumping, water and mud play, sledding, building snowman, and throwing snowballs connect children with their environment. It's not every day they are able to experience weather, especially in traditional schools, so we encourage clean hands getting dirty! (Despite popular belief, intentional exposure to elements does boost the immune system)
Our day always begins by joining together in circle. This is where we say hello to each other in song and give each child a chance to share a story or a body movement. The rhythm of circle time is consistent over time. The only things that change are seasonal themes that impact our activities and songs. Take a peek at some of our songs here.
The topics for week one are introducing:
- Songs about hibernating creatures like bears and changing rainy weather
- Incorporating how we are experiencing less daylight and temperature drops
In areas where it is still warm enough to grow crops, measuring seedlings planted in November and observing soil health are a main focus. Soil is healthiest when it has layers, just like our own bodies. First soil is laid, then compost is turned into the soil, and finally a cover crop or hay is placed on top to keep all the nutrients in. By December, natural processes have begun to take place in the soil, so we took the kids out to get their hands dirty by:
Checking in on our worm bin. Our worm bin is made of food scraps, compost, and wet newspaper. We lift a layer of the worm bin and see not only are the worms happy and moving around, but they have multiplied! Speaking of worms, they are an important part of soil health because they assist in aerating the soil. Aeration allows plants to better absorb water and stretch out their roots.
Worm hunting. Head out to the garden, pull away some cover crop, and stick your hands in the soil to go worm hunting. Sure enough, they are in there!
Observing growth: Crops planted in September/November should have started to sprout. Take rulers or a tape measure outside to measure how tall crops have become. Continue to track, measure, and make observations weekly.
Another complimentary activity is the tracking and measuring of our bodies so children can see that they are growing just as the plants are! The microcosm reflects the macrocosm, the part reflects the whole, as above so below, you get the point. Check out this link for more info on measuring activities!
Remember the magic of winter. Experiencing and exploring the changes of winter is exploring the earth and life itself as it changes. Reflect, come together for warmth and in love, and move forth in freedom.