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Typical Day at Fiddleheads Forest School

By Kit Harrington and Sarah Heller

Flexibility is a cornerstone of the Fiddleheads philosophy. As teachers, we take into account a variety of factors including the weather, the wildlife, and the children themselves, when determining the direction of the day. Occasionally we will come to the grove with a plan in mind, only to realize the children have discovered something vastly more important on their own. Teaching in the forest grove sometimes means getting out of the way.

During a typical day at Fiddleheads, students spend the morning exploring and engaging with their environment in a multitude of ways. For example:

A group of children might gather at the peace table to discuss a set of feelings cards or expected and unexpected situations, or use the peace rose to resolve a conflict.

Look up the hill and you might see another group heading down to the dome shelter, deeply engaged in imaginative play – the dome has transformed into a den, and they are a family of wolves, bringing food home to their pups.

Head over toward the big leaf maple and you’ll find another group hunched over the microscope, examining a jelly fungus or lichen they’ve discovered.

Stick around and you might hear you a chorus of cackles and caws erupting just outside of the grove. The children will instinctively gather together with a teacher and tiptoe over to a big Douglas fir. There in the branches they’re likely to find a young Cooper’s hawk or owl, for these children have learned that alarming crows frequently mean birds of prey are near. We’ll all stand in awe and watch as the drama above plays out. Later, the children will incorporate this experience into their own play.

At circle time we’ll discuss the morning’s activities and integrate them into whatever we are studying at the time- whether that means connecting it to a social thinking concept like whole body listening, or to a natural science unit on raptors. At circle the children drink cedar tea, sing songs, and count the days of the month or the days of the year. We reflect on the experiences we’ve had as a group.

Frequently we will extend our circle lesson either before or after by going on adventures around the arboretum. There is an incredible wealth of wildlife here, and we do our best to take advantage of all it has to offer. Although we start the year leading walks ourselves, by the end the children have become adept enough at navigating that they take turns leading us to our various destinations.

We believe strongly in empowering students to guide their own learning process, and work to help each of them develop the tools to do just that through use of a curriculum that expressly teaches self-regulation. Observation of the students in the environment allows us to develop a curriculum that is reflective of each individual child’s needs and interests.

Our goal is to help our children develop into adaptive, independent, and directed students, who are engaged with and excited about the learning process.