Fiddleheads Forest School: Spring Dispatch from the Forest Grove

April 2nd, 2014 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Discussing the importance of earthworms and what they do.

The word spring comes from the old English springen, meaning “to leap, burst forth, fly up; spread, to grow.” This is a marvelous description of what we’ve been seeing happen to the minds, hearts, and bodies of students in the forest grove these past few weeks. The new growth in the forest has paralleled a very different sort of growth among the children’s minds. There is a certain level of attunement to one’s surroundings that we have been encountering with the children on an increasing regular basis.

“Teacher Sarah! Teacher Kit!”- We’ll see a head peek up as a child shouts with exuberance: “I noticed something!” Often it is somObservation recordingething related to a concept we’ve been discussing- buds on trees or mushrooms in grass- but more and more the children are engaging with their environment on a very particular level. They are learning to see things that most of us do not get the time or perceptual experience needed in order to perceive. They are becoming expert observers, small naturalists in the making. Few of us have the opportunity to reach this point at any point in our lives, so it is exciting to see it come to fruition among minds still so full of possibility.

And speaking of minds, the children have been learning quite a bit about their brains lately. In addition to Joanne Deak’s excellent book “The Fantastic Elastic Brain”, students in the forest grove have been examining a model of the brain, and discussing the way they’ve “stretched” their brain on a daily basis. They giggle about the word “hippocampus” and point out the cerebellum on a pretzel bitten carefully into the shape of a brain at snack. Most importantly, there is excitement at the idea that they can shape their own brain by learning new things. Whenever we hear a child exclaim- “I made a mistake- but that’s ok because mistakes are the best way to learn!” our hearts leap with joy. This knowledge is often what gives them the confidence to confront a problem or admit a poor choice so that they can resolve a conflict with a friend or work to succeed at an activity in which they’d struggled at first.

In the natural sciences, children have been using their observational skills to explain the changes they’re observing in the grove as well as the surrounding environment. Learning about the parts of the bean was like a ticket into a secret world- one where eacIMG_9429h seed holds the possibility of tiny life within it. Many children have been going home and opening up their beans or peas at dinner to display the first leaves and tiny radicle hidden within! They’ve been collecting big leaf maple sprouts around the classroom and watching as the seed coats peel away and the new leaves burst forth. Tending to our tiny garden of baby maples in the fairy village has been all the more impressive in that we can compare this miniscule plants to the giant big leaf maple above that produced them.

We have also been learning about the parts of the plant. We examined ornamental strawberry plants, from root to leaf before planting them in the entrance to the forest grove. Children carefully dug holes for the roots, placed the plants, then covered and made protective barriers for the young shoots. Next, we read a book about the parts of the plant that allowed us to see each part individually as well as in relation to the rest of the plant through a series of overlays that combine to show all the separate plant parts. This has allowed us to discuss the plant life cycle as a whole and learn about how flowers swell and change to produce fruits, which provide protection and a method of disseminating new seeds. In the coming weeks we will learn more about these when we explore the parts of the flower, the process of pollination, and the parts of the fruit.

AHolding a new maple sprout before plantings we look toward the last 3 months of school, we are excited to continue building on our knowledge of our surroundings. The warmer weather offers new possibilities for learning activities, and children are excited to be able to sit and do new sorts of work involving extended concentration. After we finish up our botany unit, we’ll begin learning about the cardinal directions and maps, using our skills to assist us as we explore new and different areas of the arboretum. With so much to see and do, the possibilities for learning are endless!

Author: Kit Harrington, Fiddleheads Forest School Director and Lead Teacher

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“Wanna Touch the Sap with Me?” A Parent’s Perspective

November 18th, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

By guest blogger Karah Pino

“Wanna touch the sap with me?”

This is the question posed by my 3-year-old every Tuesday and Thursday morning when he gets to Fiddleheads Forest School in the Washington Park Arboretum. It is his first stop before each class and he excitedly invites me or anyone else who is around to join him. The sap he is investigating comes from an extraordinary source, just outside of Forest Grove, the preschool center. A tall ponderosa pine tree whose bark has bubbled and buckled from some kind of fungus beneath the surface creates constant streams of sap pouring down in a slow-moving waterfall from 20 feet up its trunk. The sap is moving so slowly we have found spider webs build in the crevices of the bark with a lone drip suspended in the silk.

I encourage Alvin to dust his hands in dirt before touching the sap to make it easier to remove later, but he doesn’t always remember. That’s ok with me, though, because the fragrant scent of pine sap reminds me of my own childhood in New Mexico, playing in the pine trees and junipers. It also reminds me of why I started looking for an outdoor preschool two years ago to give my son the opportunities I had to explore nature free from the ever-present boundaries and dangers of the urban environment we are surrounded by in so much of Seattle.

IMG_7995When I discovered that Fiddleheads was expanding to a full year preschool located in the middle of the Arboretum, I felt as if the universe had bent around to fulfill this dream! I knew it was perfect when I discovered that forest grove is just across from the ancient Sequoia grove I loved to visit as an undergrad at the University of Washington when I lived near the Arboretum. The colors of autumn have been incredible to view each week driving to the school and the wide variety of leaves, berries, nuts and seed pods seems unending. After drop off or before pick up, I make some time for myself to enjoy the smells, sounds, sights and sightings alongside my child, so we can share the magic of the of the forest together. (I’m sure I saw a coyote tail bouncing in the brush one day!)

Occasionally, I will hear the sounds of little voices adventuring along as I am on my own walk and feel their excitement and wonder well up inside of me. I love to watch from afar as they gather sticks to build a “fire” or leaves to pile up and roll in and I inwardly thank all the forces, voices and advocates who came together to create this fantastic program.

Although my favorite sequoia grove is protected by a fence now to protect the fragile roots, their giant trunks and strong presence are a perfect example of why the Arboretum is such a treasure for Seattlites of all ages and I hope there will be many more classes of preschoolers and homeschoolers and every other age of schoolers out in appreciation all year round in this wonderous place!

(Karah Pino, MAcOM is the delighted parent of a Fiddlehead’s Forest student, the social media coordinator for the Women of Wisdom Foundation and she manages the blog Unwind your Mind and Get Creative!

 

 

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October Dispatches From the Fiddleheads Forest School

October 30th, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

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What is it about the autumn that generates so much nostalgia? A season evoking such emotion somehow always manages to pass in a blur. It marks the end of lackadaisical afternoons and the start of the annual decent into the cooler, more introspective months.  The way I see it, fall is the natural steward of the New Year. We begin afresh: in school, in season, in time. Fall is about possibility, and that being given, there is no lovelier place to be than surrounded by preschoolers.

EzraThese past weeks in the Forest Grove have been filled with observations of our changing surroundings.  Children this age are just beginning to have an awareness of the passage of time, and autumn therefore provides the perfect canvas for that initial introduction. We literally see the passage of time echoed in the ever sooner sunsets, the coming of the rain showers, and most particularly, in the changing and falling of the leaves and the mushrooms that burst through them on the forest floor. Contrary to life in a traditional classroom, in the forest school the change in seasons literally alters our landscape. Bug HuntTaking the time to draw attention to these changes and allowing the children the opportunity to explore and experience them first hand encourages the development of a heightened ability to discriminate the subtle nuances of the environment, and is therefore a very important part of our curriculum indeed. When we bury ourselves in giant maple leaves, or collect seedpods with different size tongs, or compare and contrast mushrooms, or close our eyes and listening to the new sounds of migrating birds, or choose a specific tree to visit weekly, we are ensuring that these changes do not pass unnoticed.

In addition to the science of our IMG_7586surroundings, children in the forest school have been learning to discriminate feelings, thoughts and the social and emotional need of individuals as well as of a group. We have begun using “The Incredible Flexible You!” social thinking curriculum to better understand why we choose to act in certain ways, and how that impacts those around us. I never cease to delight in the expression of independence and pride on the face of a child who for the first time verbalizes a feeling and then is able to follow that up with an explanation of “why I feel that way.”

These thoughts and ideas are powerful, not only for children but for adults as well. Sarah and I have learned at least as much about social interaction as the children have- there is so much to know! Remy makes nature stickersRecently, we have read the books “Thinking Thoughts and Feeling Feelings,” and “The Group Plan,” and have incorporated activities in regard to these topics into our daily lesson plans. Here in the forest grove, we can already see the impact it is having on the children, who ask to hear the stories again and again and who have begun using their hand to demonstrate a “thought bubble” whenever they discuss a thought they’ve had.

In the Magnolia class we’ve seen an incredible group dynamic develop. The children take on large-scale projects together and successfully navigate complex imaginative games. It is exciting to experience the change that has occurred as these preschoolers become increasingly less reliant on us and more reliant on one-another. There is a sense of independence, responsibility, and pride among all of the students, and it is reflected in the way they interact. They shout out roles and tasks and pass them back and forth, taking turns without needing to be asked. They incorporate new members into the play as they arrive. photo7They take time to solve conflicts and listen to one another’s words. These are self-confident, self-directed kids, and they go out of their way to help one another problem solve and achieve success. In so doing, they are able to take on new and greater challenges, and take full advantage of the educational experiences available to them. As a teacher, it is absolutely thrilling to stand back and observe each morning as everyone greets one another with a hug or a smile and then get right to work- these kids don’t need to be told what the important work of the day is- they are creating it themselves.

The Cedar class has been taking advantage of all the outdoor classroom has to offer. They really want to know everything about their classroom and how to engage with it. We go on spider-web hunts and are astounded at how many are to be found high in the cedar trees above us. We learn that Native Americans used cedars to make shelter, fishing gear, and even clothing, and then we fashion braided bracelets from long cedar “ropes.” We collect a menagerie of mushrooms by the nurse log and make spore prints with them, discussing the how and why of the images left behind. We work together to fill a basket with heavy stones, use our combined power to heft it upundefined high, check to make sure that the “danger zone” is clear, then laugh and clap as it comes thundering down to the ground with a satisfying “thunk.” On a walk we find a print in the ground and throw out suggestions as to what it might be- a lion? a dog? a coyote? -We decide that it probably isn’t a lion and continue on, hunting for more clues as though they were our prey. In the mud pit we’re moving our bodies to accommodate one-another, making space while making mud-cakes. We join together to roll a large log up a hill, then collapse exhausted on the ground. We build fairy houses and furniture for our fort. We use binoculars to spy into the trees and search for birds, discovering a chickadee nest outside the classroom boundaries. We sing songs as a group and take turns singing songs for one another. We are learning and growing by the minute.

WalkingDespite the speed with which the autumn blazes past, we have accomplished much these past weeks in the forest grove, and have loved every second of it. The funny thing I’ve come to realize about this quirky season is that indeed, time passes quickly, but if you take the time to really stop and appreciate them, the moments within seem to last forever.
Warmly,

Kit Harrington and Sarah Heller

 

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Introducing our Summer Garden Guides

April 23rd, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

These enthusiastic, thoughtful and genuine folks are our Garden Guides for the UW Botanic Gardens Summer Camp at the Arboretum. They are charged with creating fun, educational, nature-based experiences for our campers. They have our 230 acre nature oasis to work with, their own experience and excitement to bring to the table, and a host of materials and curriculum to support their endeavors. Together we will build connection, community and nature awareness as we discover the wonders of the Arboretum. Each guide is paired with a high school student in our Junior Garden Guide program. We still have a few spots left in summer camp, come join us for a week of adventure!

 

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Brian Marienfeld, Summer Garden Guide

My name is Brian and I am blessed to have had an amazing journey in my life, from working for a wilderness therapy organization to getting my Masters at the University of Washington and IslandWood.  I am passionate about working with kids outdoors, hiking across this country, soul music, making pizza, and building strong caring communities to mention a few.  I fell in love with Washington many years ago and am so grateful for this opportunity to help others connect to this incredible place.  I look forward to bringing care and energy to my students and to the Arboretum community.

 

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Tara Nichol, Summer Garden Guide

Tara was born in Seattle and grew up exploring the beautiful Northwest forests, coasts, lakes and rivers during her childhood. Tara graduated in 2007 with a BA in Environmental Education from Fairhaven College in Bellingham, WA. She has worked in Outdoor Education for eight years leading backpacking trips, sailing, and teaching about local ecology.  Tara is trained as a Waldorf teacher, and loves the awe and beauty that outdoor experiences give to young people. She enjoys hiking, biking, singing and creating art.

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStephanie Zanati, Summer Garden Guide

My name is Stephanie and I am thrilled to be a part of the UWBG Education Team this summer! I was born and raised in New York City, but I have spent the last 7 years teaching outdoors in many diverse landscapes across the country. I moved to the Puget Sound 2 years ago to continue to pursue my passion for education through the graduate program at Islandwood on Bainbridge Island. I have spent this last year teaching fourth grade in Seattle Public Schools and I am really excited to be returning to my roots in the outdoor classroom! When I am not teaching, I can usually be found biking, birding, or farming. I am looking forward to exploring and making lots of discoveries in the Arboretum this summer with your child!

 

Sarah1Sarah Heller, Camp Director

Sarah is a life long Seattle resident with deep northwest roots from her childhood years of playing outside and a strong interest in all things nature. She developed and piloted summer camp at the Arboretum three years ago and has since grown the program into what it is today – 7 weeks of outdoor, nature-based fun in the heart of Seattle. Sarah keeps herself busy by developing new programs and building community at the Arboretum. On the weekends Sarah can be found climbing, hiking, scrambling and backpacking in the mountains. Sarah is looking forward to connecting with returning families and meeting all the ones!

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Fiddleheads Forest School: A Nature Preschool at the UW Botanic Gardens

March 22nd, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

In September, the UW Botanic Gardens will open an outdoor, nature-based preschool. The Fiddlehead Forest School is a play-based, exploratory and outdoor program that creates opportunities for children to develop meaningful and caring relationships with one another and the natural world.

GRAND OPENING SEPTEMBER 2013

Fiddleheads Forest School: A Nature Preschool at the UW Botanic Gardens

Take a mSH_fiddleheadphotooment to envision a three year old. This person is probably full of energy and exuding curiosity. Their hands are on everything, tuning into the world with their senses. Their excitement, energy and curiosity are contagious. This small human is developing on a massive scale. They are creating neural connections faster than at any other point in their development. They are learning about the world, and their curiosity knows no bounds. They are also learning about themselves and how to interact with other humans.

Now envision a preschool with those energetic, curious three-year-olds at the UWBG Washington Park Arboretum. Those small, curious hands look for bugs in the leaf litter of our forested areas. Their eyes and ears are fine-tuned by looking and listening for birds in our wetlands, their noses by smelling flowers in our Winter Garden, their taste buds by tasting ripe huckleberries in the Woodland Garden and their imaginations by laying in the grass along Azalea Way looking for cloud shapes.SSHChildleaves

The Fiddleheads Forest School believes in supporting the growth of the whole child through attention to their social and emotional development, self-regulation and physical development.

This is a 10-month preschool with two class options, M/W/F or Tu/Th from 9am-12pm. See the information packet and application on our website.

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Earth Day at the Arboretum

March 21st, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Join Wilderness Awareness School on April 20th from 10am-1pm at the Washington Park Arboretum for a free, fun-filled afternoon of nature connection activities to celebrate Earth Day. Bring yourself, your buddies and the whole family for nature games that will expand your senses and enrich a deeper connection to the earth.

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UW Botanic Gardens Spring Break and Summer Camps

February 19th, 2013 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

It’s that time of year again when we pull out our calendars and begin to think about summer plans. Consider signing your child up to play and learn outside all summer! We are offering seven weeks of outdoor, nature-based summer camps at the Washington Park Arboretum. New themes have been added like Wetland Rangers and Northwest Naturalists, and kept some of our favorites like Woodland Wonders and Art in the Park.

We are also offering a spring break camp in conjunction with the Seattle Public Schools spring break week. What better way to spend a week in April than exploring our 230 acres of natural wonderland in the heart of Seattle? Spring break is supposed to be a *break* so we plan to play games, go on hikes and adventures through the nooks and crannies of the Arboretum, and tackle projects like building a fort, creating Andy Goldsworthy inspired art and exploring the uses of our native plants.

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Interested in working at our summer camp? Apply to be a Summer Garden Guide!

We also have volunteer opportunities for high school students! Check out our Junior Garden Guide position and application.

 

 

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Leaves, Paint Swatches and Nature Connection: A Student Perspective

December 18th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Written by Mackenzie Urquhart, UW Service Learning Student

I had so much fun participating in the Fiddleheads Program these past couple of months. Through out the sessions we play games, explore, do arts and crafts, and teach the kids about their surroundings.  What is special about this program is the kids get to interact with the nature they are learning about directly instead of reading it from a textbook or in a classroom.

On our first walk through the Arboretum we taught the kids about fall and how the environment changes during that time period.  We explored how the leaves change colors and how the leaves eventually fall off the trees.  The kids were able to see the changes happening with their own eyes.  Through out the walk we gave them each a brown bag and they were to fill it with the leaves that fell off the trees.  At the end of the walk we reminded them why they fell off the trees and had them each do a leaf rubbing so they could take it home and have it be a reminder of what happens during fall.  All through out the walk the kids were asking questions, interacting with nature, feeling the leaves, and touching the trees.

One of my favorite games we played with the kids was called the color game.  Sarah and I each gave the kids a paint swatch and they were to find a plant, animal or anything in nature that was the same color.  This was a unique and fun way to get the kids to explore nature.  The kids were running all around and would show us what they found that matched their paint swatch.  If they didn’t know what the species or plant was we would tell them and have them share it with the other kids so they could all learn about each others.

Another game the kids loved was called the matching game.  Sarah and I laid out a bunch of leaves two of each kind and had the kids play a matching game and at the end we would have them guess what the name of the leaf was.  Then we would circle as a group and talk about each leaf and point out what the tree looked like that the leaf came from. In that kind of setting the kids are able to learn about the environment in a fun and stress free environment.  They retain the information better and see how humans and other species directly impact the environment.   Each session has an overall theme so the kids are constantly learning about different issues and topics related to nature.

Check out the Fiddlehead Forest School website for more information and to register for classes.

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Fall Scavenger Hunt at the Arboretum – Fruits & Nuts

November 16th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director


Our Fruits & Nuts scavenger hunt highlights some often missed collections and specimens that are particularly interesting for their persistent seeds. From crabapples and roses to ashes and oaks this scavenger hunt has something for everyone! Birds are active on trees with brightly colored fruit so keep your eye out for some feathered companions along your way. Complete the scavenger hunt and you can collect a small, seasonal prize.

Grab your friends and family, print your clue sheet or pick one up at the Graham Visitor Center and come explore some fall highlights. Follow the white painted cones to find the clues.

The scavenger hunt will be available on Tuesday 11/20 and run through Sunday 12/9. You can pick up a clue sheet at the Graham Visitor center, which is open from 10am-4pm 7 days a week .

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Where does the scavenger hunt begin?

A: At the strawberry tree directly in front of the big greenhouse (dark evergreen leaves and bright red fruits). Exit the east side of the visitor center (back towards parking lot), walk to the parking lot and turn right. Walk towards the greenhouse the tree will be on your right.

Q: What is the scavenger hunt about?

A: The scavenger hunt highlights fruits and nuts that are on display at this time of year. It is a loop exploring a variety of collections and specimens that have unique or unusual fruits and nuts.

Q: Who is the scavenger hunt for?

A: The scavenger hunt is designed for families, but anyone can do it. There are purple painted tree cones along the way to help people navigate. There are also written directions on the clue sheet.

Q: I’m interested in doing this at a future time/date. Can I get the clue sheet online?

A: Yes, you can get it at the link below. Also, you can pick up and drop off clue sheets outside the visitor center when it is closed – there will be a sign with folders attached to it.

Clue sheet for fall scavenger hunt

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Fall Flight: Migratory Birds – Family Ecology Tour 11/3 cancelled

October 24th, 2012 by Sarah Heller, Community Programs Coordinator & Fiddleheads Forest School Director

Where are all the birds going? Birds spend the summer here and fly south for the winter. Others use our urban oasis as a stopping place on their way south. We’ll discover which birds are here to stay and which are on their way out or on their way through. Why do birds fly so far every year? What is their journey like? Together we’ll explore and discover the wonders of these winged adventurers.

Fall Flight – Migratory Birds for 6-12 year olds, 10am-12pm on November 3rd – Cancelled

All Family Ecology Tours include hands-on activities, games, and exploration for families with kids ages 6-12. Cost is $8/person, pre-register online or by phone, (206) 221-6427. Meet at the Graham Visitor Center and dress for the weather, we’ll be out rain or shine!

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