We're diving into spring and we are loving all of the sunshine! The world is in bloom and we are watching our classroom changing all around us. Despite a surprise week or two in the seventies, it's still early in the season and we're never too far from the water—and the breeze that comes with it. The weather stays pretty cool, so make sure you're layering up for class. It's easier for us to peel layers off when it gets too hot than it is to warm up with layers once we've gotten too cold.
We spent the last few weeks thinking about our senses and how we use them to perceive the world around us: seeing, touching, hearing, smelling. (We're not working on taste so much, given the environment!) We are trying to get away from simply identifying the things we see, and instead using our other senses to describe them. If you'd like to try a little at-home enrichment, try picking a random object from around your yard or home and putting it in a bag. Then ask your child to close their eyes and stick their hands inside the bag. The goal isn't to guess what is in the bag, so much as it is to describe what they feel when they touch it or smell when they hold their nose over it. Give it a try! The things your child says may surprise you!
First Day at the Beach
We had our inaugural trip the beach—the first of many to come! We are so fortunate to have this little slice of Washington: a washed pebble shore complete with clay caves, logs and roots for climbing, and a sandy beach at the end.
We stayed pretty unstructured for the day in favor of letting the children explore. There was some very fun (and very supervised) risky play when a few of the kids decided to climb the roots of a fallen tree on the beach and scrambled up a cliffside That kind of play is so important in helping children to just be in their bodies and to learn how to make safe choices in the future. It also teaches them to be courageous and builds self-confidence when they realize that "yes, I CAN do this!"
We did some "sink or float" experiments over the edge of the pier. This highly-scientific game involves picking up some objects from the beach (make sure they are natural elements and not trash, for instance), guessing whether we think they will sink or float and why we think so, and then throwing them over the edge of the pier to see if they will float. One kid found a giant piece of driftwood that all the children thought would sink because of its sheer size, and to everyone's surprise and delight, it floated!
We used a rope and pale to "fish" over the side of the pier during high tide. We didn't actually catch anything, but it was thrilling to watch them pulling up buckets of water and then using the buckets to create some more mud!
At the end of the day, we collected some clay from some of the clay caves and used them in our nature journals for an extra special souvenir of the day.
I have to say, the kids surprised all of us with how well they listened. We were very anxious that we might have some scuba divers in the class, but everyone exercised some really excellent self-restraint, and for the most part, we stayed pretty dry.
It was so great to get away from our usual classroom environment for the day, and we were thrilled with how well they have listened. We hope to make a twice-monthly visit to the beach.
Our Community Member
This month, we had a visit from our very first guest teacher: Cindy Van Winkle, who is a member of our Blind community here in Kitsap. As we mentioned above, we have spent a lot of time thinking about our senses this month, and Cindy was instrumental in setting us down that path.
We started the day in our circle. Cindy asked all of the children to go around the circle and tell her their names and ages so that she could get a sense of who they were (and where they were). Once they had introduced themselves, she introduced herself to them and explained a little about what it means to be blind.
Next, she read a book out loud to the children—"The Pout Pout Fish" by Deborah Diesen, a book some of the kids were already familiar with. But the remarkable thing to see was that she was reading by using her fingers—reading Braille! When she finished the book she explained what Braille was: a form of writing using raised letters so that blind people can feel the words. The illustrations were also raised and when the book was done, she invited them to come up and feel them. The children thought this was pretty amazing and several even tried feeling the pictures and letters with their eyes closed so that they could share Cindy's experience of the world.
Next, Cindy introduced the kids to her Seeing Eye Dog, Balsa, and taught the children how to approach a working dog that they want to touch. First and foremost, ask the blind or assisted person if you can pet their dog. That person may say no, and if they do, that's okay! BUT they may say yes! If they do say yes, the blind or assisted will likely give instructions on how to pet their dog, but mostly you want to remember to be gentle and pat the dog on the head. This isn't a dog who is going to play or fetch a stick. But some gentle love is perfectly appropriate. Most of the children put this into practice and took turns going up to Cindy and asking if they could pet Balsa.
The children had a great Q&A with her afterward. Some key questions included: "Does your blindness make your other senses into superpowers? Like can you hear REALLY REALLY good?" (No.) "Is your daughter blind, too?" (No.) "When your eyes are open, what do they see?" This was a tricky one, but the short answer is: nothing. No light. No fuzzy figures. Nothing. But it is important to remember that not every blind person is blind the same way.
We ended our time together by playing one of our favorite games: "Fox Feet." Cindy sat in the middle of a circle and held a stick. The kids took turns creeping up to her in an effort to take the stick away. If she heard them, she'd point at them and then it would be the next child's turn to try! We've played this game many times since Cindy's visit to us, and it's great fun! Feel free to try it at home!
Coming up in April:
This month we will be welcoming Kirstin Mueller, the Children's Librarian at the Downtown Bremerton location. Kirstin is gifted with making story time an interactive and sensory rich experience for kids. She makes a story come alive. She comes April 3rd and I have told her we are learning about worms, to which she asked permission to bring gummy worms, and oodles of books to fill their heads with information on worms!
More Days at the Beach!
Remember that drop-off and pick-ups are at the beach. This time I have found the days and times for low tide that fall on our school days, even though the kids enjoyed high tide for "fishing" purposes.
Welcome to the Barnacles and Bees team at Illahee, Odin! We are so excited to have Samuel and Megan, and their little one Aspen joining our community; I know all those families dropping off and picking with join me and the other mentors in making them feel welcome.
** Don't forget: if you want to follow all the pictures that are being taken during class follow the link sent to your emails. Feel free to leave comments, and to upload pictures that you take at home of YOUR kiddos continuing their outdoor education at your home, we would love to see how they are getting on.
Mark your Calendar!
Spring Nature Art Workshop
Barnacles & Bees is partnering with Amber from The Makery to offer this 90 min Family Art & Sensory Nature workshop. We will have 10 simple projects that provide open-ended art and sensory experiences using nature as the inspiration and medium, and kids will wander independently to what interests them! This workshop is best for ages 18 months to 5 year olds.
When: Friday, April 5
Time: 2pm - 3:30 PM
Where: Smith Nature Play Park, 1261-1299 Park Ave, Bremerton, WA 98337
Group size: 20 kids
Regular price: $12 per child
Discounted price for Barnacles & Bees family: $8 per child
Earth Day Work Day and Soiree
When: Saturday, April 20
Time: 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM at Stephenson Canyon, and 4 PM to 6 PM at Crane's Castle Brewery for refreshment
Where to park and Meet: Beside the greenhouse off of Birch Street at 1:30
This is a chance to build community and to practice conservancy as a team in one of our What: county's hidden gems. We invite you to join us after for refreshment at the family-friendly brewery Crane's Castle to enjoy each other's company and to talk about the Kitsap Great Give that is taking place Tuesday, April 23rd
Location: Stephenson Canyon (2800 Birch St, Bremerton, WA 98310) and following at Crane's Castle (1550 NE Riddell Rd #180, Bremerton, WA 98310)
2019/2020 Fall enrollment
Pre-enrollment for Barnacles & Bees Families: April 1-30, 2019
Nature immersion Open House at Illahee State Park: May 5, 2019
Open enrollment for everyone: May 1-31, 2019