Friday, 30 August 2013

Outdoor Play Party - Guest post 4 - Loose Parts Underfoot

I'm back to work next week & soon I hope to be able to share some new outdoor adventures of my new class but in the meantime I am delighted to have Lesley From Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School write a second guest post for the OPP this summer. Lesley has been incredibly generous with her time, this is her 3rd guest post & the school's 5th but more importantly she is going to share some of her loose parts with me!!
We have three annual work party days. Our first one is two weekends before school starts and our Tracks (4-/5-year olds) class' parents are on tap for this one. That class is the largest class and they are assigned this first work session because there is always so much to do before the school year begins.

I don't always attend these sessions. Our buildings and grounds chair is in charge and the whole thing is so perfectly orchestrated, but this year we had a couple of big to-do/s on the list so I wanted to be there! The first, was to build a wall with the large logs we harvested from a fading locust tree on the property. The second was to collect the bumper crop of hickory nuts that blanketed the playground.

The first big to-do was planned -- parents arrived with pick-axes, extra shovels, and resolve -- we knew how big the logs were and the vision for the wall was just as large. I wanted the logs tipped on edge and planted, so we knew the holes would have to be deep. The second to-do with the hickory nuts was kind of unplanned, but almost more important than the logs. I asked the Chair of the committee to add it to the list "if there was time."
The collecting begins
The bottom of the bucket
The reason why this second to-do was so important was that the wood chips were going to be delivered on the Monday after the Saturday work day -- a company comes in and blows the wood chips in with a hose, evenly distributing it across the yard in a lovely and lush carpet. That is all well and good, but that would mean that all the hickory nuts falling would be covered and an important loose part would be lost.
Never a dull moment
Almost full
The children use these hickory nuts for all kinds of adventures. They are dragon eyes for magic stews, they are a currency for buying cakes, and they are ingredients for those very same cakes. Hickory nuts are sorted by their color -- they fall from the tree green as the leaves and as they sit on the ground they turn brown, then black. The children sort them further by the teeth marks left on them by squirrels and other rodents. Some may only have a stripe or two, while others have been scraped over and over.

Well, these are precious to the children and therefore precious to me. When I arrived and found parents waiting for the to-do list to arrive, I improvised and moved the hickory nuts to the top of the list. And here is what I love about parent cooperatives...They all immediately started picking up nuts, even though working beneath the hickory tree was hazardous -- the hickory nuts WERE falling. As the large bucket filled, the parents started imagining out loud, where and how I would present this harvest to the children. For our collectors, I want to make sure that I capture and share some photos of the moment the children see it and how they use those nuts over time.
Completely full
In other news, I discovered a bit about myself and why I am comfortable with 3- and 4-year olds -- I am reluctant to share and I am working hard to learn how to, just like them. I wanted to send some of these nuts off to Kierna and to Suzanna from Pop-up Adventure Play and when I went to scoop some out of that obviously vast quantity of hickory nuts, I found I couldn't. Just couldn't. So there I was on a Sunday afternoon, collecting a NEW batch to send away!
Wood chip blanket and new log wall
 Happy loose parts underfoot, everyone!
There were lots of great post linked up this time again & thanks to all those people who took the time to link up. My favourite post was from Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails on their home made obstacle course with tyres/tires. I think I may have been persuaded to spray paint some of our tyres after seeing how bright & colourful these ones are.

How did your kids play outdoors this week?

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