Monday, August 22, 2016

Deer Dancer: A Book Review and Resources

Deer Dancer by Mary Lyn Ray is a delightful look at the interaction and play between a young child who is in dance and a deer. You can find it read online here. It is a simple, easy to read book which would be appropriate for preschoolers or younger grade school. I really liked the movement, imagination, and the connection of dance to nature. Personally, I typically do programs on deer in the fall. I would include this quick book as part of a creative movement feature, reading the book, and then having music for a deer dance. There is a native story that this reminds me of deer dancing like this. I might also share this book as part of our exploration on deer. Here is a listing of various native stories on deer. Here is a link on a Yaqui Deer Dance as well and another with a video.

The story reads:
There’s a place I go that’s green and grass,
a place I thought that no one knew—
until the deer came.

I love that this recognizes and validates those special places for children. We tend to watch our children pretty vigilantly as a society, but allowing a nearby secret space or even just a hidden space nearby where we can hear what is going on is magical. Additionally, there is much imagery, as she is still as the grass. I really like the natural connection. 

The girl is somewhat apprehensive with her skills as a dancer; however, her confidence grew as she lifted her antlers like the deer. 

I love seeing children explore animals through play. Dance is a form of play. Here are other ideas I have pulled together to help children learn about animals through play:

Additionally, I often teach about deer in nature preschool. Here are ideas that we used to connect to deer.

General information on White Tailed Deer in Spring:

This post may contain affiliate links. I found it at the Bristol Library. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adding Plants to an Outdoor Classroom

 Plants are a great way to add color and texture in any outdoor space, including natural play spaces for children. At the recent Nature Explore/Outdoor Classroom Leadership Institute, I outlined tips for adding plants to your area in my mind.  I'll share my thoughts here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pirate Party=Loose Parts + Nature Play!

Ahoy there, matey! We had a pirate birthday party for our wee one!

Our youngest son recently turned four. To celebrate, we invited friends and family to our new house for some nature play, er, I mean, for his birthday party. We have a great space for adventures, so took some basic concepts of nature play we could easily do in our yard and wove them into a story for a bit of pirate adventure! 

I found a few decorations at Hobby Lobby, but also had the boys raid the dress up box as I knew they could find the flag, capes, and hats that would work well for the party. They also found the pirate ship and Playmobil figurines for starters and decor. 

We also pulled out some loose parts toys. This was my son's attempt at a primitive pirate ship!

The birthday boy also got some of these cool Tegu blocks for his birthday (when they were on sale!), so many planks were made for walking!

We made a "plank" to cross with milk crates and marine plywood ($2/length of this size at the local Restore). We had these all on hand. The planks were reconfigured many times and many ways! #looseparts

The younger ones loved walking the plank! I appreciate how encouraging and helpful my oldest was with his little brother. 

After walking the plank because the ship wrecked, we "swam" to the shore and then climbed the highest mountain we could find to look for a good place to build a shelter.

Alas, they found sticks, old curtains and more to build shelters!

After we found shelter, we needed to look for fresh water. We explored the water's edge, yet only found one tadpole (maybe too many people) where we pulled 14 out of the pond just a few days ago.  Of course they were released after we checked them out a bit. 

We followed the stream back into the forest, crossing the bridge, and hearing the frogs jump in!

Our next mission was to find the treasure chest! We had to climb up and down the giant logs to find them. 

Loved seeing these little ones just drawn to the logs! Some had no fear! 

We distributed the booty and then searched for more treasures! 

One treasure we found in the forest was a slimy slug! Another great thing to explore (and put back where we found it!

We had both sand and water options for more treasures! 

We washed hands and headed inside for snacks--peg legs (carrots), fish and chips (chips and goldfish crackers), banana pirates, orange boats, and gold nuggets (cheese cubes). 

The birthday boy was very proud of his banana scribbles!

The birthday boy blew out his candles and the planks became great places to sit. 

Presents were opened (lots of creative options, construction sets, loose parts toys, and more!). 

And we had more free play time! 

Keeping it real since it looks all rosy! A cover was taken off the hot tub, disturbing some wasps. Lots of stings and screams later we completely avoided that area!