“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.”
We are lucky to have the wonderful Hoyt Arboretum as our neighbor here at Opal Museum School. We use this tree museum as an outdoor classroom and roam its trails as often as we can. As we have wandered through the trails and trees throughout the years, we have discovered many special and specific places where we like to visit often. These different spaces are loved by the children in this classroom community, as they were by the children of the communities past. As we continue to visit these special spaces over and over again, we have observed the children closely as they wander, explore and observe in each unique space. Their connection to these different spaces in the Arboretum poses the following wonderings:
What makes these spaces important to our community?
What makes us want to visit them over and over again?
What emotions are connected to each space?
How does our play differ in each space?
We have been noticing the energy and connection that the children have around these spaces in the Arboretum. We want to dig deeper and look closely at the children's connections to these natural spaces. Luckily, we were not the only ones!
On Wednesday, there was an unusual basket found in our classroom, filled with pine cones and boughs and with a piece of paper attached that read "To: Early K Community." Was this a special package just for us?
We quickly read the enclosed note:
Dear Opal Museum Early Kindergartners,
We are friends of the Arboretum and we have noticed that your class, as well as the other classes at Opal School, loves to play within the spaces on the Arboretum. We have watched you as you hike, play, collect, and observe throughout the different spaces and areas.
We also know that the children of Opal School cared so much for Lily, a tree that was cut down in the Upper Meadow. We love and appreciate that you planted a new tree and we have been watching you to see if you really protect and take good care of our friends the trees. We notice how happy you are when you play with the trees and the hills.
We want you to share what you know so that other people will take care of us, too. Will you help protect us by telling people what makes us special? When they took Lily away, they didn’t know how much the children cared for her. Maybe if you can let people know about all the special places and things that live in the Arboretum they will be protected.
We have enclosed a gift to get you started. We hope that you can capture the magic of the Arboretum so that many more people will know what is so special about it. We want you to share it with the whole world!
Please write us back!
Love, Special Friends of the Arboretum
Then we searched the basket for our special gift. It contained two disposable cameras! This could be one way we could capture what we loved about the spaces in the Arboretum to share with the whole world. With excitement brewing from everyone in our community, we quickly packed up and headed outdoors! We followed the path that lead us to one of our favorite spaces, The Running Space!
The Running Space is located on the other side of the Memorial. It has many wonderful qualities, such as a huge running hill as well as a small forest, or a clump of Douglas Fir trees, that offer endless exploration and possibiities.
The play that happens in the space is amazing to watch. From speeding down the hill to snuggling with fellow birds in a nest, the children use their whole selves to manipulate this natural playground.
We spent all morning in this space, trying to uncover and capture what we loved so much about it. This mostly looked like play, as the children became baby birds, skunks and garbage collectors. The children also took the advice of our "special friends" and used the disposable cameras to capture the magic that lived here.
Here are some of the images that were captured by the children:
"I want everyone to know about having friends help build the nest. Helping is nice." -D.W.
"I like this one because I see my friends playing." -H.F-A.
"I want to capture the forest because it is special." -O.A.
The next day, we reflected on our time we spent in the Arboretum and invited the children to draw themsleves in the Running Space.
We wondered what they liked to do in this space. Here are a few of their drawings:
“I was in there with Sam, Isabella, Jake, Felix and Andrew and Dahlia and Andrew, Cade and Dara and a lot of friends were playing baby birds. Andrew said to Sam, ‘Don’t fight, just snuggle in.’ It feeled good and fun. I was a baby and Isabella was the big bird. It felt strong. Every single time everyone wanted you.”
-R.S., age 5
“I remember when I was standing next to the tree. I’m little and it’s bigger.”
-F.A., age 5
"I played baby birds. I got lost in the forest and mama came looking for me."
-L.H., age 4
“That’s me in the nest and that’s Andrew and that’s Felix and that’s all of them and that is the nest and all of the trees. I’m curling in my wings because they’re so big they can touch the sky. My legs were so fast I tumbled down the stairs. When I got downstairs the food was gone. I needed to lay down in there with my blue jay feet because my wings were not strong to do it – my feet are stronger.”
-I.B., age 4
We will continue to love, protect and study these specific spaces in the Arboretum and dig deeper into our strong connections to them. Please keep posted, because we want to share our findings with the whole world and we want to start with you!