We checked in with Michelle Black, who teaches at Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool, about her school’s experience transitioning to remote learning.
MiniBury: How is remote learning going?
Michelle: It has been really challenging figuring out how to connect with “Forest Preschoolers” via the computer. Our philosophy at Wren’s Nest was to get outside as fast as possible, and stay outside as long as possible. The last thing we want now, is for kids to see us on a screen, when the sun is inviting them out into nature.
We think we’ve found a balance. We have one “Zoom Circle” per week (and it’s absolutely fine not to attend), occasional evening hours when kids can chat with the teachers or each other informally, and a parent-support meeting two evenings a month.
The other communication method that we’ve incorporated is Snail Mail. We decided to “slow our world down” and encourage anticipation (delay gratification) by having the children look forward to exciting things arriving in their mailboxes. So far, we’ve mailed: birdwatcher badges, garden seeds, and seashells. We’re now sending our favorite Abenaki raccoon, Azban, with a journal from family to family, to record their many adventures.
MiniBury: Tell us more about Azban.
Michelle: We like to use Abenaki animal names whenever possible. Azban — from the book Azban’s Great Journey by Bryan Chenevert — is a favorite. We often see his footprints by our stream, and his trickster stories are often requested.
Americorps member Whitney Parsons mailed a laminated baby Azban to each student. Part two of this project is that Mama Azban (who is larger and made of cardboard and felt) would like to visit her babies and see how everyone is getting along.
Mama Azban will be making her way from house to house through the U.S. postal service. We will send her with a small journal that each child can use to document an adventure before sending her and the journal on to the next family.
This is new territory for all of us, and every day we brainstorm new ideas. I can’t say enough about our fantastic teaching team: Director/Teacher Suzanne Young and two fabulous AmeriCorps members, Kat Bower and Whitney Parsons.
Thanks for sharing your ideas, Wren’s Nest. And happy trails, Azban!