“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
I warmly remember this winter experience as if it were yesterday. As a younger teacher at Carver Primary in Opelika, back in the early 1980s, I started class on a winter morning and looked out my classroom window with the January sun beaming brightly on the cold ground. I thought to myself, “Maybe my little class could go out quickly for a brisk winter walk around the school. We could even include a science lesson in our midmorning walk by blowing our breath and watching a foggy water vapor form with each breath.”
In art class we had done the magic of cutting out snowflakes from circles and squares and the students decorated their desks with an array of falling paper snowflakes. Child-made snowmen/snowwomen displayed on the classroom bulletin board seem ready to dance around on snow. Too, I can remember our class went outside for physical education and recess and enjoyed a pretend snowball fight by substituting paper wads for snowballs as we freely and safely ran around and threw paper snowballs.
Personally, I had rarely seen it snow growing up in Opelika. As I was teaching midmorning math lesson, our principal spoke over the speaker that snow was on its way and that we would have early dismissal. From bright sunshine in the early morning to snow? As we started boarding buses and meeting carpool line, snow began to fall. Lessons taught on winter snow became a visible application for the children to see and feel.
Even if it doesn’t snow, we can still capture the wonder of winter by bundling up as families and taking a winter sensory field trip. Nature’s handiwork can still be observed during its dormant state as well. You can divide your family winter adventure into four mini field trips. Let’s grab our coats, hat, gloves, pencil and paper to record our findings.
A listening field trip is done simply by walking quietly and listening for the wind blowing through the trees, birds chirping, squirrels scurrying, leaves rustling and crunching under foot, ice breaking, rain falling, sleet falling or any other sounds.
A seeing field trip is a lot of fun, as you can make many observations, for instance: shapes of clouds against the majestic blue sky, colors of nature during the winter, angles the sun is peeping through, a variety of animals and birds, the many bright stars in the winter night sky, how the moon changes shape, what trees retain their leaves and which ones don’t, buds that have not yet opened.
Your feeling field trip — of course with safety in mind — can include feeling: moss on a tree or rock, snow, ice, rocks, soft sand or soil, rough tree bark, smooth stones, sun shining on your face, wind and precipitation blowing on your face, prickly pine needles, pine cones and leaves.
Your smelling field trip includes fire burning in a fireplace, pine trees, cedar trees or wood, mulch — all the different smells that the winds blows in.
On those icy, cold winter days or even if it’s yucky outside, call all your little chefs to the kitchen. Families, take time with your child to have them prepare special treats, like chili, spaghetti, pizza, cookies or any concoction you want to come up with. Let your youngest of children have a part in preparing the meal. Cooking lessons in the kitchen can teach math lessons on measurements and lessons on health and safe cooking habits, and cleanup time can be a learning experience.
All young children love to wave a bubble wand and watch bubbles travel everywhere. Cold temperatures enable the bubbles to stay longer and are harder to pop. This is such a fun and inexpensive activity.
Throwing pieces of bread out to the birds can create a bird sanctuary right in your yard. Looking, observing and comparing birds is a science lesson that could last for several hours. Too, grabbing up pinecones (be careful of the sharp pricks), putting small spoonfuls of peanut butter in between the small cone leaves and sprinkling bird seed in the peanut butter makes a bird feeder that your child will enjoy all winter. Just hang the pinecone birdfeeder by a piece of yarn or string and observe the birds flying in over time.
Too, even though it may be cold outside, don’t forget the car picnic. Children love to enjoy their favorite foods and visit their favorite sights. Talking to your children during these special picnics about what they like most about winter offers opportunities to learn how your young child sees winter.
Don’t forget to visit the library and grab books on winter animals like polar bears, penquins, etc. Explain that animals hibernate, which means to sleep during the winter, and some birds migrate, fly south, to warmer temperatures during the winter. I deeply appreciate the librarians at Lewis Cooper Library in Opelika always helping us teachers and families gather books for seasonal reading for our children.
Teach that no two snowflakes are alike and that no two children are alike. Each child is unique and so very special in their own way!
Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd