Seeds – the beginning of something, the signal of a cycle continuing, a start. With the season of fall upon us, the Schuylkill Center forest has been filled with seeds covering the ground and showing up amongst the trees. For me these seeds symbolize the start of a new school year, the continued pattern of growth and learning for a new set of Sycamores, Sweet Gums, and Sassafras. It is the planting of knowledge and questions for teachers and children here at Nature Preschool.
What happens at the start of each year defines the community of teachers and children as they embark on a journey to interact in the outdoor world. Each class is named for a native tree: Sycamores, Sweet Gums, Sassafras. As the children and teachers ventured out onto the trails, they began to notice the seeds covering the forest floor. Seeds are an engaging learning tool for young children as an open ended “loose part” that can be manipulated, peeled, squeezed, and more.
As the children began to gather seeds of all shapes and sizes, they worked on classifying them into groups – an important piece of scientific categorization. Black walnuts, horse chestnuts, sycamore balls, and sweet gum balls are only a few of the types found. This range of categories shows the children how differences are vital in the natural world and, similarly, within our community. By examining shape, color, and texture, the children bonded over distinguishing one seed from the next. This allowed for some larger Schuylkill Center engagement – we talked with two of our environmental educators, Camila and Eli, when mystery seeds were discovered. This showed the children the questioning and research process and allowed them to feel comfortable in not having all of the answers.
As the children are exposed to seeds of different kinds, they understand the commonalities as well. All seeds are the beginning of life, and the children can associate that with the new growth observed in the forest throughout the year. Seeds provided a material for many of our favorite art and literacy activities including seed letters and collages. Furthermore, they are a great addition to sensory play when combined with play dough and other loose parts. Last, one to one correspondence and grouping were essential math skills practiced when working with all of our findings. Be sure to look for seed activities in the classrooms or ask your Nature Preschooler about all of the fun.