My daughter (known in Spy Garden as Babyzilla!) attends a Forest School. Rather than have daily themes or weekly lessons, the kids do semester-long projects on topics of their own choosing. My son (known here as The Spy!) also attended the school when he was younger so I’ve seen a wide variety of really cool projects. At the end of each semester the project comes together with some sort of event or “store” or publication or art installation or field trip. The Ocean Project concluded with a child-written play. The kids made the set, designed and made the costumes (learning to sew with the teachers’ assistance) and performed for the parents.
The Spy 2011 Ocean Project
Hammerheads. The Spy. 2011
There’s been a Dog Project which concluded with parents bringing in their dogs and walking them through different stations of a Dog Spa…
Maddie (our late golden retriever) in the Reading and Relaxation Station of the Dog Spa hahahah
There was a City Project, Animal Project, Dirt Project and many more (and many more to come for Babyzilla!) Often when the kids are working on a project they will write letters to various individuals or businesses asking questions or making requests to learn more about the topic. Teaching kids to seek out experts in fields they are interested emphasizes that their inquiries are part of a world outside the classroom walls (or treeline)!
From the school’s website…
Our philosophy is based on the truth that young children are best challenged in the arts and sciences when they are given meaningful work in the dynamic setting of the real world. Here, their experiences have big implications. Content is contextual, not isolated. It is all connected to the world that surrounds.
Sounds impressive. But do preschoolers really feel connected to the world beyond what they see in their immediate surroundings? Do they really feel they have the power to influence their environment? Are these concepts farfetched? The school proves over and over again it is possible!
Recently, the kindergarten class at the school was doing a “Bone Robot Project” (remember the project topics are of the kids choosing!) While this project was underway, one student, in researching his first name (Roa) came across a Belgian street artist, whose pseudonym is ROA. ROA’s art often depicts the bones and other internal aspects of animals.
ROA. Vardø-Norway Photo © by Ian Cox 2012 (source)
Excerpts from an email from the school…
When Roa brought examples of ROA’s work for them to see, they were inspired. They still mention his work often, and it has influenced the direction of the project. In fact, they were so inspired, they decided to write to ROA and invite him to paint a mural at [the school]. He’s kind of a big deal in Europe, so we really weren’t expecting a reply.
ROA said yes!!!
We believe in empowering children to change the world. This is not an empty, grandiose statement. When we say “change the world,” we mean the immediate world—the world within reach. We want our students to internalize an “I can” attitude. I can climb that rock. I can build a bone robot. In short, I can imagine a change in my environment and then make it happen. We believe that fostering this attitude can lead to the more grandiose outcome later in life. Writing a letter to a well-known artist and having him accommodate the request definitely serves this purpose.
This spring ROA will be coming to the school to do a mural. So exciting!!!
The animals ROA chooses to paint are those that live in the area surrounding the location of the mural. I wonder what he will choose? A bunny? Racoon? Deer? Ladybug? Groundhog? A turtle, snake or crawfish? He’s got a lot of great options of special creatures that live right in the woods of the school’s eleven acre campus.
ROA. Johannesburg South Africa. (source)
What makes even more exciting is that ROA has a secret identity. ROA is a pseudonym. And I just love the concept of a secret identity. Spy Garden is sort of my own pseudonym. (Or is it Mrs. Spy Garden?!) Can’t wait to watch the mural in progress and to share the final masterpiece with you all!