Today I recorded a video with tips, tricks and some “Functional Systems” for teaching and supporting children in getting ready to go outdoors in winter. I believe that by taking the time to teach and support children in learning to get ready for winter that I am building their skills and confidence. So instead of being overwhelmed by this transition, I look at it as a learning time.
Intentional teaching and support in this process is a great investment of my time as a preschool teacher….and remember, getting ready for outdoor time is part of the ‘curriculum’! Goals for winter dressing include:
Build their independence in getting ready
Help children to become comfortable outdoors for extended periods of time
Communicate their needs and find support with the adults
Reap the benefits of being outdoors in the winter
Resources mentioned in the recording:
Children’s Books for teaching about Winter Gear
The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch Mrs. Toggle’s Zipper by Robin Pulver Under My Hood I Have a Hat by Karla Kuskin and Fumi Kosaka Do I Have to Wear a Coat? by Rachel Isadora The Mitten by Jan Brett A Hat for Minerva Louise by Janet Stoeke The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats What I Wear Outside in the Winter by Inhabit Education
NOW ENROLLING: “Wonders of Winter Master Class Series” – Ready to feel confident and excited to teach in the outdoor classroom this winter? Join me in January 2023 for a 20 hour professional development series that s designed to equip early childhood educators with the tools and resources to keep children engaged in learning throughout the entire winter. Each session we will dive into practical and actionable steps that educators can take to bring outdoor learning to life! Click here to learn more about the “Wonders of Winter Master Class Series”
“Pinecone People” – Today I made “Pinecone People” with a group of 20 preschoolers out in the forest. I wasn’t sure how the natural materials would stick because everything was wet from two days of rain. I sort of cheated and pre-glue beads to the pinecones so there would be some level of success, even if the other bits were falling off, at least the heads would stay on! I also had some plain pinecones so children could create whatever they wanted.
Pinecones are challenging in that they tend not to stand up on their own and have very little flat area to glue onto. So this led to exploring the following ‘adhesive materials’ and I share some thoughts on how it went.
The next picture shows the art materials I gathered that I thought might be useful to adhere natural materials to the pinecones. I wasn’t sure how these would work but I wanted to have a variety of options to test out. (If I was making these indoors I would have used my trusty low-temp glue gun since it makes things stick even if the surface isn’t flat.) But that’s a challenge of being outdoors is figuring out how to make it work even in damp weather! Listed below are some thoughts on these materials!
Liquitex Acrylic Medium – I read about this in Sally Haughey’s book, “Wonder Art”, and thought I would give it a try. It’s much more expensive than glue but so worth the investment. A little bit goes a long way and it seemed to work well with a wide variety of textures. Obviously the drier the material the easier things seemed to stick, but even with some damp materials it all stuck really well. So I would definitely suggest adding this to your teacher art supply kit. I used a popsicle stick to get a little out at a time and kept it in a little scoop so I could keep track of it.
Glue dots sort of worked especially if stuffed into the pinecone. If the materials were lightweight and dry, they seemed to hold fairly well. Today with the damp though, wet materials did not stick well.
White glue was all but useless since pinecones have very little flat surfaces and take way too long to dry. This was frustrating for some kids and though they can be independent with the glue it really didn’t work well.
Twine & yarn was woven into the pinecone independently as decoration and with adult support the yarn was used to tie the leaves on like a belt or scarf.
Fuzzy sticks (pipe cleaners) ended up being a great tool. Many preschoolers could independently twist them onto the pinecone and have their people holding acorn babies or used to hold on their wings.
Air Dry Clay was not really great to get the materials to stick together but some enjoyed squishing materials into the clay and squishing small bits into the pinecones.
Wool roving wasn’t in my materials bag today but in hindsight I could see the kids enjoying weaving it into the pinecone, creating hair, or making arms with it.
Moss also wasn’t in my materials bag today but would have been fun to add for hair or decorations.
Milkweed Pods all the little pinecones became ‘babies’ and I was wishing I had some little pods to use as cradles!
A related discovery was that using washable markers on wooden beads led to smears and bleeding. I discovered that the wooden beads and colored pencils worked well though the color was light. I was tempted to use a permanent marker but knew that many other aspects of the projects needed adult support.
Have you ever made “Pinecone People”? Any tips or tricks that you discovered?!
Animal Tracks- after a fresh snowfall, it’s so much fun to find and follow a set of animal tracks in your backyard (even cat tracks are fun to find and follow). See how far you can follow the animal tracks and try to figure out who left those tracks.Older children might enjoy drawing the tracks they find into a journal and identifying them. If you carry a digital device you could also use an app like “SEEK” to help you identify the tracks in the moment.
Fiction Book to get your tracking started – Read the book “Tracks in the Snow” by Wong Herbert Yee about a little girl who sees tracks out of her window. A refrain in the book is wonderful to share when you go outside on your tracking adventure…. “Tracks in the snow. Tracks in the snow. Who made the tracks? Where do they go?”
Mini World Animal Play – adding cotton batting to the indoor science area, providing small play animals, and books is a great way to extend their learning.
Photograph Tracks & Research – Take a photograph on tracks on your hike, then print out the pictures, and look in a tracking book to find a match. One of my favorite books to have on hand in my classroom is called Tracks, Scats, and Signs by L. Dendy. Helping children to learn how to use books as a tool is wonderful life skill and children love to feel ‘grown up’.
Follow the Footprints activity: Make animal footprints that are to scale of the actual size of the animal. (I am using Deer & Moose this year.) Before the students arrive, put the footprints out in the outdoor space. Then have the children track the prints down and follow the animal.
Flip Flop Tracks – there are lots of pins on Pinterest showing how people transform flip flops into various animal tracks. It would be fun to make these so they could be tied onto a pair of boots, then kids could stomp out their own versions of animal tracks.
Animal Signs in Winter – Look for other signs of animal activity – nibbled twigs, chewed acorn shells, pinecones that have been shredded, scat, or scratches in bark – as we go on our winter walks we look for signs that animals have been there. There is a great one page handout in the Cultivating Joy and Wonder curriculum (on page 228) to use as a reference.
Look for the ends of twigs that have been gnawed, nibbled, or snapped off
Look for bark that’s been gnawed or stripped off, or the the remains of nibbled nuts
Look for poop! Animal poop (scat) can help us identify the naimale and what it’s been eating
Look for animal homes (squirrel leaf nests, holes in trees, dead logs)
Winter Track Walk Data Collection: Taking a winter walk in the forest looking for animal tracks can be quite the adventure for young children. Explain that in addition to tracks people also look for tree scarring and scat (animal droppings). Look for real animal tracks and other signs that animals have been there. Help the children learn how to approach the tracks slowly without disturbing the tracks so all their friends can see before we make our own tracks over top of them. Over time continue to take photographs of the tracks so that you can print and make a classbook of your discoveries. Who are the frequent animal visitors in your area? Make tally marks or some other data collection so you can see who are the most frequent visitors.
Animal Track Pattern Cards – give each child their own ‘Animal Track Pattern Cards’ to wear as a necklace. Help children learn the four categories of animal movement (straight walker, hopper, waddler, bounder) and test it out with your own body. I like to start with teaching about the “hoppers” and pretend we are snowshoe hares. When children feel this movement in their body it is easier to understand how different animals move. This makes for a great gross motor game to play! You can get a free printable “Track Patterns” from the Shelburne Farms Cultivating Joy and Wonder book on page 221 – https://shelburnefarms.org/our-work/resources/cultivatingjoyandwonder
Looking for a few more curriculum ideas? Check out these three elated lessons from the Cultivating Joy and Wonder book from Shelburne Farms:
“Active in Winter! Animals on the Move” p.102-103 (115-116)
Small Scale Track Making : Bring a few plastic toy animals outdoors. Show the kids how they can make the animals walk through the snow leaving behind mini tracks. Tracks can also be made with toy vehicles. Play a version of hide and seek where children make tracks with toys and another child goes to look for where they end & find the toy. Tracking Basket: in the outdoor classroom, display an animal track identification poster on the fence or wall. Keep a small tracking manual or plastic tracking cards available for the kids to explore. Animal Tracks matching cards could be laminated and kept on a ring. One set that is very preschool age appropriate (though the tracks are not to scaled) is at PreKinders. This link takes you to a *FREE* printable animal track book with predictable text “This is a raccoon track.” with color pictures and clip art of the track. There is also a set of animal photos and track cards that can be printed out and made into a matching game. https://www.prekinders.com/animal-tracks-book/
Children’s Booklist for Animal Tracks:
Arnosky, Jim. Wild Tracks! (This is a wonderful book with amazing fold out pages of life sized tracks) Arnosky, Jim. I See Animals Hiding. Benjamin, Cynthia and Jacqueline Rogers. Footprints in the Snow. (This is an easy reader book that is often found as a $1 book through Scholastic Book Club.)
Dendy, L. Tracks, Scats, and Signs. (Favorite reference book to keep in my backpack to use to identify animal tracks and scat.) Dodd, Anne Wescott. Footprints and Shadows. Dorros, Arthur. Animal Tracks. George, Lindsay Barret. In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? George, Lindsay Barret. In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? Hulbert, Laura. Who Has These Feet?
Hodgkins, F. Who’s Been Here? A Tale in Tracks. (includes tracks from: cat, turkey, moose, skunk) Jones, Jennifer. Who Lives in the Snow? Judge, Lita. Red Sled
Levine, Lynn and Martha Mitchell.Mammal Tracks and Scat: Life-Size Tracking Guide (Another great reference book with actual size tracks that make it easier for children to identify.)
Miller, Dorcas. Track Finder: A Guide to Mammal Tracks of Eastern North America. Selsam, Millicent E. Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints Sams, Laura.Stranger in the Woods – Photographic Fantasy. Lawlor, Elizabeth P. Discover Nature in Winter (Discover Nature Series) Stall, Chris and Steve Whitney. New England Animal Tracks. Wilson, Karma & Jack E. Davis. Moose Tracks!
Yee, Wong Herbert. Tracks in the Snow.(A great story to introduce young children to tracking. A girl follows tracks around her home and discovers that they are her own tracks from the previous day.)
Times: This online course will be taught using a FLEX model. There will be FIVE Zoom sessions that students are encouraged to attend in real time. Each session will be recorded and uploaded so students can also watch at their own pace, if preferred.
Zoom sessions will be on Monday evenings from 6-8pm: March 20, April 3, April 17, May 1, & May 15
Zoom synchronous meetings (or watch the replay)
Self paced modules of content and submission of work
Location: Online; Technology Tools: Zoom and Google Docs
Every outdoor classroom is as unique as the school or program that designs and builds it. Whether you are starting from scratch, transforming a traditional playground into a nature-inspired play area, or expanding an existing outdoor classroom, this course will help you define and prioritize design elements for your space. Research confirms that learning outdoors promotes child development and learning in all domains – physical, cognitive, and social/emotional. By understanding the benefits of outdoor learning, participants will discover ways to share information with stakeholders as a powerful way to communicate the value of creating nature inspired learning spaces
Audience: Early Childhood Educators (PreK – 3rd grade)
April Zajko, M.Ed. is a Licensed Early Childhood Educator and Reading Specialist. Her bachelor’s degree was earned at Delaware State University, and her master’s degree was earned at University of Virginia. Her passion for lifelong learning led her to study in-depth about place-based learning, mindfulness, holistic development, nature-inspired approach to early childhood, and creating supportive learning environments for all children.
Deadline to register: February 14, 2023
Fill out the registration form to hold your spot. (Registration is limited to 20 students per semester.)
Mail payment – Course payment of $1,100 is payable by check to the Fairbanks Museum. This is due 2 weeks from the time of registration. Please mail your check to: Fairbanks Museum, Attn: Karina Weiss, 1302 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819
Confirmation of registration will be emailed to you once payment is received.
For additional course or registration information, please contact April Zajko for more information ~ email@example.com
To explain the developmental benefits of learning in an outdoor classroom and create buy-in with stakeholders within your school or early childhood program.
To develop a vision map and action plan for developing an outdoor classroom that meets the need all children.
To define obstacles, develop solutions, and create a funding plan in order for the outdoor classroom to be established and thrive for years to come.
Establish or expand the outdoor classroom that meets the developmental needs of young children
Through participation in this class, the student will be able to:
Recognize the differences between an outdoor classroom and traditional playground
Describe the significance of nature-based education in early childhood (preschool through 3rd grade) and name the developmental benefits from learning in an outdoor classroom.
Demonstrate ways to share information with stakeholders about outdoor classrooms as a way to communicate the value of creating nature inspired learning spaces
Explore ways to get buy-in from stakeholders and discuss ways to assemble in inner circle of supporters
Design a vision map of your outdoor classroom with multiple phases of implementation
Research ways to secure funding to build or expand outdoor classrooms
Develop an action plan for creating an outdoor classroom based on your vision and research.