Monday's walk with Faye was incredible, as usual. If you are new to our classroom, you may not have heard about Faye, Naturalist Extraordinaire. She has worked with us for many years now, and leads expeditions into County Farm Park several times a year. I marvel that I always learn something new with Faye, even after all this time. For instance, this time I learned that the shrew is the only venomous mammal!
Speaking of shrews, our walk began by happening upon a dead shrew. Children looked closely and hypothesized on what must have happened (CSI, County Farm Park). Most children thought that some other animal must have killed the shrew, but didn't get a chance to eat him. We also saw spiders and caterpillars.
When we came to a meadow area, Faye asked some questions about Lewis and Clark. She knew that we have been learning about the expedition and the Corps of Discovery. We imagined that we were part of the expedition, and had been asked to collect samples of what we found to bring back to President Jefferson. Some children did sketches, some offered ideas to write in a journal, and some picked various items and used egg cartons to collect and sort. Going off trail was very challenging, and we had to work hard to get through all the growth. We imagined how exhausting it must have been to do this day after day.
We found spots that would make better shelters than other, and talked about what explorers look for to survive. We tasted berries and crabapples, and learned that Lewis and Clark must have really depended on Native Americans to find safe things to eat. Some fruit (like the wild grapes we tasted) look very similar to other dark berries that would make us really have a stomach ache.
All the children loved this adventure with Faye. Etienne, in particular, let his imagination soar. Several times I heard him say something like, "Look! Up ahead! It's Fort Mandan!", and once he even scrambled part-way up a small tree when he spotted a "bear".
This type of experiential learning is so important for young children. In a few years, they may not remember the exact dates of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but I bet they will remember exploring their own uncharted territory, tasting berries, drying fruit, escaping bears, and making moccasins. They will know what it means to become excited about learning.