Sunday, 30 August 2009

Spring is in the Air

Acknowledging seasonal changes is one way for humans to experience the rhythm of life. As our children witness the unfolding of each season, they grow a little and appreciate the wonders of nature. To know each season through walks, observation, activities, and games helps our children to develop a more intense relationship with planet earth. In most of Australia, the seasons are not as marked as in other climes… There may not be snow-capped rooftops or dazzling autumn leaves, but there are many less obvious signs that we are a part of the cycle of nature known as the seasons.

A seasonal table or shelf is one way to reflect the changes we witness through displaying items from nature, art and craft and dioramas. The table can also reflect festivals and other events that mark the cycle of our year. For ideas on creating a seasonal table you can look to books on Steiner or Waldorf education or search the Internet, where educational ideas abound.

Spring is the perfect season to take a nature walk… To witness the wonders of life emerging from the sleepiness of winter is magical for children and adults alike. Look for birds nesting, flowers in bloom, and rainbows. You could create a nature journal for sketches, photos, descriptions, pressed leaves, texture rubbings and other records of your walks.

Springtime is perfect for germinating seeds. Do you have a garden? Even a small plot will help your children to learn about the weather, insects and the life cycle of plants. Children love to grow peas, cherry tomatoes and other “snack foods” to munch on while they play outdoors. Saving seeds from what you grow to be planted next spring will illustrate the cycle of the seasons and help to mark another year passed. If you don’t have a garden, a few seeds of alfalfa or cress will sprout on a piece of wet cloth. Beans can be sprouted in glass jars, and if placed correctly one can witness the root structure growing as well as the soft green leaves emerging toward the sunlight. The miracle of germination and growth is fascinating to any of us who take the time to watch. Gardens assist us in experiencing this season at its fullest.

Snowdrop and Ulba Bulba - by Susan Whitehead

Songs, stories and poetry are pleasing ways for children to welcome a new season. There are many wonderful books of modern and traditional poetry for children. Or write your own! Poetry and songs written together are a lot of fun and you can include your personal observations. Stories to read together in spring include those about caterpillars, insects, frogs, eggs, baby animals and plants. Our family usually gather together all the books from our collection and the local library which we see as pertaining to the emerging season, and keep them near the seasonal table to be enjoyed over the coming weeks. Dolls, toys and puppets can enhance the storytelling experience. You can make your own from natural fibres and items collected on nature walks, or from pipe cleaners and felt.

In the animal kingdom, we can observe many wonders when spring arrives. A simple bird feeder will ensure hours of viewing for humans, and some very grateful birds. Nesting boxes, ponds, worm or ant farms and cocoons or hungry caterpillars in jars allow close study of other creatures. Your pets or backyard wildlife and the living things you encounter on your walks will invariably show different behaviours throughout the year.

Craft is one way in which children can express their seasonal observations. There are many beautiful craft books in libraries and shops, and a plethora of ideas on the Internet.

Some spring crafts include:

  • Pressed flowers and leaves
  • Paper flowers from crepe paper, wrapping paper or tissues
  • Leis of real or paper flowers to wear
  • Shredded paper birds’ nests with papier mache eggs
  • Butterfly paintings – fold paper in half, dollop paint on one side only, fold again and rub – open up and see!
  • Wind socks from lightweight, brightly coloured fabrics
  • Rain sticks using hollow bamboo or cardboard tubes
  • Puppets of birds, frogs, butterflies and caterpillars for your storytelling

Even very young children enjoy craft time. If they are shown how, step-by-step and provided with pre-cut materials and assistance when required, they will delight in creating beautiful and useful items to celebrate the magic of the new season.