Obviously, this impacts the way I plan outdoor play and exploration for my preschoolers.
The local playground is only 2 blocks away, and my colleagues and I began making plans for how to teach preschoolers to walk to and from this place safely. We received walking ropes, to help them travel.
Before school began, it seemed very likely that a daily playground trip would be very doable.
But I have learned so much since then!
It is the local playground for three local schools. This means, we not only have to factor in distance and time for this fun, but there is an unpredictable organizational/scheduling component, a need to be flexible - to be able to walk away - should too many other school children be at the same small location at the exact same time. (Imagine telling your class of preschoolers that you are not stopping at the playground, after they have just walked - from their perspective - a long way to get there!)
The first day we used the walking rope, we practiced within the school building only, up and down the hallways. I have partnered each of the children, two holding on to one ring of the rope, encouraging the pairs to look out for one another, reminding one another to hold steady on the ring.
For me, in the lead, with my hand on the first ring, it feels like a resistance weight workout, trying to move 22 preschoolers simultaneously. By week's end, my body is exhausted from these daily sessions.
But this is not a cardio workout - for any of us!
Our first trek outside with the walking rope ended up being a 40 minute excursion. The children were delighted and delightful. They called out to trucks, using their free hand to give a big, boisterous wave...on that first trek, we saw a postal truck, a moving truck, a firetruck, an ambulance, our school's lunch delivery truck, three dump trucks, and a tow truck. There were animals to see as well - we saw a cat, several dogs being walked by their owners, and lots of birds. Plus, there were so many homes and businesses to study - one classmate lives a mere four doors away, so we had to make a special stop there for oohing and aahing; other places had planters, small gardens, sculpture and art. Every single thing that the children observed resulted in the entire walking rope coming to a complete standstill so that children could point, wave, chatter. Yes, we went on a 40 minute excursion that very first day and we went exactly 1/2 a block.
The children had made so many wonderful observations, they had been respectful and taken care of one another, they had a lovely dose of fresh air. But, gross motor muscles? Cardio workout?
So I am looking at outside time a little differently now. I have scheduled an outdoor walk for the exact same time each day - there will be daily fresh air - but I adjust the length of the adventure as needed. On days when we have dance class or access to the indoor play space (for running and moving), I shorten the walk and create a particular learning goal or purpose for the adventure. I have decided to identify different purposes for each outing, and to document the learning.
This past week, I read the children the book Before John Was A Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, which imagines the childhood of John Coltrane and emphasizes what an extraordinary listener he was and how he wove the sounds of his environment into his music. It is a great book for preschoolers at the outset of a school year, as it poignantly illustrates the value of listening. We now go on regular listening walks, stopping ourselves along the way and purposely practicing going quiet and then reporting on our observations - the sounds we heard. There has been great learning about the difference between naming what you see (example, a truck) and hearing the actual sound (vrmmm, vrmmm).
We are considering all the ways to work math learning on these treks - perhaps keeping a running total of the different types of trucks we see, making predictions about what we will see, or walking until we see "x" number of a certain thing.
At least twice a week, we will make it to the playground to run and play. There is a baseball field next to the playground, and we have run bases and played other games here. (What a delight to see the children run in such an open space!)
Although not every walk results in running around freely in a wide open space, we are finding other magic and learning.
13th & Florida:
A Jazz Poem by the Big Cats
Honk honk, vrmmm vrmmm
Trstpp! Trstpp! Trspp!
Waaa, waaa, waa!
Bee bee beep beep
Baaahnp, Baaahnp, Baaahnp
Zoom, zoom, zoom
Eck eck hrmph hrmph
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
Alaya, alaya, alaya blmp blmp
Ah – ah – ah – ah
Mmmm mmmm mmmm
[These are the sounds we heard as we walked; they include trucks, buses, helicopter, power drills, coughs, hammers, birds, and many more.]