Reading Aloud Outside + Wise Child Learning Resumes!

After a very long hiatus, this website and blog is “live” again. Welcome!

A little garden reading.

Today I watched an interview at the Early Years Summit 2018: Outdoor Learning and Play with Juliet Robertson, an educational consultant in Scotland specializing in this very topic. Browsing her website, I discovered several posts devoted to reading books outside. As someone who has loved reading all my life (as a kid I’d check out a stack of books from the library and read through them all by the time they were due in two weeks — often rereading my favorites), and, as a teacher who experiences firsthand the learning and growth that happens when we are outside with anything we do, I am passionate about sharing books and story with kids while in nature.

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, or caring adult who enjoys sharing magical time with children, maybe these ideas will inspire you to read aloud to kids outside.

Juliet’s blog post:

Reading Books Outdoors

And here is my response to that post: “One of my favorite memories of my elementary school years was when our teacher took us to the nearby park and read to us books like Where the Red Fern Grows.”

That walk out of the school yard and all of us gathered in the shade of a painted concrete castle and my teacher weeping as she read aloud the very sad part of the book truly takes me to a place and time where I loved my teacher (I didn’t always), loved my classmates (ditto), and loved the lazy timeless listening to an amazing story.

A Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies poem with the flower itself.

I also wrote:

“As a homeschooling mom, I regularly packed a basket with a book, snacks, things we were exploring with our curriculum, and my daughters and I went outside to learn, work, and play. We always read aloud outdoors: anything from Harry Potter to favorite picture books to the Little House novels and more.” Read a post here from a blog I kept when I was a homeschooling mom in the suburbs.

“As an early learning teacher at a school on a farm I bring books outside and read books to the kids that tie in with what we’re doing on the farm and what’s happening in nature. What I read aloud usually ends up in our play and discovery time. Ex. I read the Herb Fairies book about the Chickweed Fairy, and then we ended up foraging for Chickweed and other wild and planted edibles, and making remedies. So much fun!”

The point I want to make is this: sharing time in nature brings about meaningful and deep connection, a love for each other and by extension, about what we enjoy together that is part of that connection. (I’ll write more about this in future blog posts). When we share what we love with those who we love or at least deeply appreciate, we all blossom. When we engage in learning or exploration that excites and share that, again: we all are nourished. When nature is part of our world, when we are engaged in and with nature, all our senses our activated and pathways form or deepen. We are human beings designed to be nourished, challenged, and to grow within the world of nature, and nature has plenty to say and enliven in us when we bring what we love (back) into it. Our imaginations, creativity, and intellect find fuel and “fire” in ways that build, strengthen, and expand us.

I hope these snippets inspire you to carry your reading and other connective time outdoors!

Heartstone kids enjoy Herb Fairies Book 1 – the Chickweed Fairy, in the company of Chickweed itself!

Do You Dare To Pick Nettles?

Yesterday I listened to a sample class of Jennifer Louden’s Teach Now program. One of theTakeaway ideas is to: “Grab your students attention and enroll them in the learning right away.” There’s more to the notion than I’m going to say right here, but the basic idea is to grab their imagination and ignite their need to know. Ways to do this are to offer a dare, a mystery, an experience — help them experience the “huh?” — a gap in their knowledge, and then close it with an “a ha” experience. That‘s how I might achieve that.

So, today I’m telling a story at the Vashon Wilderness Program where I teach 4-6 year olds. We’ll be harvesting Nettle, and so learning a way to do it that avoids you getting “stung” (but doesn’t guarantee it!).

A story is a great opportunity for igniting that sense of “Gee, I don’t want to get stung — but you really can touch Nettle without getting hurt?”

In my story (which is based on my own true experience), Annie visits her Aunt Elinn (they are both characters in my children’s magical fiction novel, Because Of The Red Fox). Because she likes plants, Aunt Elinn is having her help with the harvest. Today’s harvest is of Nettles for food. Annie suddenly sets a challenge for herself. Can she not only harvest Nettle with her bare hands, but touch Nettle on the undersides, and along the stalks (where all those stinging hairs are) without getting stung (she’s heard that it’s possible)? She uses lessons from being attentive to the cat in her lap, and sneaking up on Robins to discover the secret on how to do that …..

Maybe I’ll share that story with you another time how about how she ends up not only stroking the Nettles, but lying on the ground beside them — without one sting! Right now I need to head on out to the forest and see if I can ignite that need to know with my kiddos!

Why I Love The Herb Fairies Books

The Herb Fairies are a marvelous book series by Kimberly Gallagher. I was part of their 2013 book club, which involved the tales, plus wonderful resources for kids (and kids at heart) for making herbal remedies, yummy foods with herbs, and fun activities.

Recently, Herb Fairies had a video contest for 2013 members. I’m excited to say that my video won the grand prize in the Testimonial category!

Anyway, take a look at my video (it’s only 2 1/2 min. long), and maybe you’ll be inspired to check out The Herb Fairies!

Children And The Magic Of Plants

It’s been a beautiful and full spring. In addition to teaching my Wise Child program, I’ve served as a teacher at the Heartstone Children’s Program (a nature-inspired Waldorf school for 4-6 year olds). Each day we spend time playing on the farm where our programs meet. The kids will nibble on all manner of plants (with the farmers’ blessing!)–herbs, broccoli florets, kale leaves, sour sorrel, roses, and more.  They especially graze on the sorrel and fennel! Watching the kids play with and amidst the plants and casually taste them, I’m convinced that every young child program should have an herb and vegetable garden specially for them!

Here are just a few images from this spring.

Tasting Johnny-Jump Ups - photo by Jane
Tasting Johnny-Jump Ups – photo by Jane

 

We gathered and tasted Johnny-Jump Ups (violets) after reading the Herb Fairies book about Violet. I find the demulcent, gently sweet taste reminiscent of Marshmallow root.

Sorrel is a favorite plant with the kids - photo by Jane
Gathering Sorrel – photo by Jane

Sorrel is a favorite plant with the kids!

At the farm: What an amazing place for kids to pass the day! - photo by Jane
The farm – photo by Jane

What an amazing place for kids to learn and play!

The day was wet with spring rain ... yet these two  kids were enthralled by the willow catkins. Enchanting! - photo by Jane
Enchanted by Willow – photo by Jane

The day was wet with spring rain … yet these two kids were enthralled by the willow catkins. Enchanting!

Signs Of Spring ~ Lesson Plan Is Here

Hazel Catkins ~ photo by Jane Valencia

Just posted is a Lesson Plan For Early Spring, the Northeast time of year — a time associated with perception and the stirrings of new life. For inspirations regarding how you might share this magical time with children please read here.  Enjoy!