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Fun and imaginative play in the forest

Written by Regina Miller
    Tuesday, 09 April 2019
Fun and imaginative play in the forest

It was time to go pick up the kids for another fun field trip so I headed over to the nearby school in one of our buses. Once at school I waited a few minutes for the class and soon the line of little ones came walking down the hall. The group of K5 children was eager to see me and very excited about the field trip they were going on. I asked them if they knew what we were going to be learning about that day and one child eagerly responded with, “Habitats!” I told the group that we were indeed going to be learning about habitats and animal homes and then we headed to the bus to begin the adventure. On the way to the Center, each pair of children had pictures of an animal and its home and they talked with their partner about how the home helped their animal.

Once back at the Center at Riverside Park, we met my teaching partner, Kirsten, and then went in through the secret slide door to introduce the topic of animal homes. We began with a puppet show about different animals and where they live. The kids were mesmerized by the puppets and afterward remembered every detail of the show. Excitedly they asked if we were going to go outside to the woods and when we told them we would, they were extremely excited and a few about jumped out of their skin with wiggles of delight. So off to the woods we went!

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Regina Miller, Environmental Educator, teaching about wildlife in the parks we manage

As we walked through the forest, the children looked for animal homes high and low. We found squirrel nests and woodpecker holes in the trees and looked and listened for signs of animals. At one point we stopped and I told them that I had some animals (finger puppets) in my backpack that have lost their homes and asked if they would help make them new homes. Of course they were very eager to help!

A little farther down the trail we found a spot in the forest to stop and make homes for the animals. The children gathered around and helped to quietly call the shy animals out of my backpack and one by one, out they came. Squirrel puppet home111There was Samantha squirrel, Teddy toad, Rena raccoon and Woody woodpecker. There were coos of delight from the kids who gently touched and petted the puppet animals. After breaking up into 4 groups, we showed each group where they could build their animal a home and gave them their puppets. Then off they went gathering leaves, sticks and bark to build the best home they could for their animal. The children worked hard together and caringly created wonderfully cute homes for each animal. After building was complete, we all took a tour of homes and each group showed their home to the whole class. We rounded out our adventure by climbing on some downed trees and playing in a stick fort at one of our free play areas. During the play time, children carried around their puppet friends and continued to find homes for them while letting their imaginations feed their exploration.

Soon it was time to get going back to school. It was hard to pull them away from so much fun and imaginative play in the forest. Once back at school we said our goodbyes and there was a little sadness at our adventure being over. I heard comments like, “I want to stay there forever” and “I want to come back” and “That was so much fun”. It is wonderful to hear comments like these and also wonderful to know that they will come back again and be able to have another adventure another time.

Regina Miller

Regina Miller

Regina is an Environmental Educator at our Riverside Park branch where she teaches many students from nearby schools who partner with the Center through the Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP). She has a deep passion for sharing nature with children and especially loves being able to work with the same schools and children year after year. Regina has an undergraduate degree in secondary education and science as well as a Master’s degree in natural resources with an emphasis in environmental education. In her spare time she enjoys walking her dog, hiking, tending a freshwater aquarium and spending time with family.

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