Soaking up the fall sunshine feels really important. Every day that we have a warm breeze and lots of light feels like finate now, like it might be our last one before the chill of winter. When we play in forest school the weather can really influence our mood and what the environment around us has to offer. We think it is really important to leave space for the weather, to allow it to dictate some of what we do in a day.
On this day, the warm weather brought out all the ladybugs who had been hiding from the cold, wet temperatures. There were many many ladybugs and once you saw one, suddenly you could see two more here and 3 more there.
"Can I use my painted shell?" she asked with a purpose. "Sure, it's drying on the porch. You can go grab it." I said, taking care to step lightly through the ladybug nesting area.
This is one of the advantages of planning through making space for the unexpected. I had no plans to play with ladybugs today. There was no way for me to know that they would even make an appearance. How could I know that there would be a great interest in creating a home to observe them. I could not know it would take 45 minutes of intense study before there would be any sign of boredom. I had no way to predict that we would learn about where lady bugs keep their wings, or that they are good at getting up when they fall on their backs. I might have foolishly tried to teach about the spots indicating species or the fact they are insects (and how you can tell) - none of which would have sunk in as deeply as the information that was soaked up through the curiosity driven observations. The quiet, watchful study of how they behaved and how easily they navigated the materials of the forest floor. How quick they were, how suddenly they could take flight. How many of them grouped together and how they wake up in the warm sunshine. All of this information was self-directed and of great interest, and so, far much more likely to 'stick'.
My job then, if not to teach all about ladybugs and provide the facts and knowledge I have rattling around inside my brain, becomes all about making space for such experiences to occur. My job, is to have 45 minutes to give them for this exploration, to have materials available to make a ladybug nest (or to help them find them) and to respect these moments for the learning opportunities they are. My job is to get out of their way, to allow them to feel the tickle of tiny feet on their fingers without interference. To give them a chance to show me where they are at, what they find intriguing and how they learn best. My job is to come up with supporting material for provocation of further exploration. In this case, I could maybe suggest we find some way to mark the space where ladybugs are nesting because there was great concern about accidentally stepping on them. I might provide books about ladybugs or we may write a song to sing them back to sleep. My job is to learn along with them, so that I can model self-directed learning.
Whatever comes next, we will be collaborators in it's construction and it will flow like the weather does. Sometimes in unexpected ways.