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SDS Kindergarten Goes Wild

SDS Kindergarten Goes Wild

10 Nov, 2021

“I want to squish that.” “What is on that tree stump?” “Can I touch this?”  These are just a few of the things you hear when you take a group of kindergarten boys into the woods. Even though their energy level and questions can be hard to keep up with, St. Dominic Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Kelly Mungle embarks on an outdoor journey with her students every fall and spring. Kindergarten Day in the Woods has become a much-anticipated day of adventure and exploration for her students.

“I think it is important for the boys to take learning outside the classroom and make connections with the real world,” said Mrs. Mungle. “I want them to own the learning process and take what I have taught them in class each day and allow them to grow and explore in nature.” 

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The St. Dominic teachers and staff understand how boys learn best and are fully committed to implementing strategies that complement the uniqueness of boys. They understand the importance of sparking each child’s intellectual curiosity and allowing him to navigate his own learning, taking healthy academic risks.

Kindergarten Day in the Woods is the perfect example of this mindset being woven into our curriculum. Mrs. Mungle began the Kindergarten Day in the Woods adventure program in 2017.

“By setting a school day in the beautiful landscape of Shelby Farms Park, we are able to embrace nature and expose the boys to the natural sense of wonder and curiosity that is built into nature,” Mrs. Mungle explained.

During the day boys can take healthy risks such as climbing a tree, balancing on a log, and exploring the woods around them, which instills courage and the opportunity to learn authentically what they are capable of doing. Mrs. Mungle also incorporates whatever her students are learning at that time. For example, if they are learning about 3D shapes, they have a 3D shape scavenger hunt. They have their Morning Meeting in the woods and perform their assigned classroom jobs for the day as well.

“I follow my regular lesson plans for that day, teaching whole group math and literacy lessons, then we split into small groups and do activities inspired by the season or time of year. The schedule mirrors our daily inside schedule. We still focus on the foundational Kindergarten skills of cooperating, taking turns, counting, sorting, reflecting, and making observations.”

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When asked why Kindergarten is a great age for this kind of program, Mrs. Mungle said, “Kindergarten is the best age to take them to the woods to explore! They are learning to develop independence and readiness to learn. It provides them with meaningful, relevant and hands-on experiences, allowing them to expand on the foundation of learning we teach at this age.” 

She had to get creative to keep the Kindergarten Day in the Woods alive while our students were learning remotely in the Spring of 2020. “I decided to Zoom with the boys from the trails near Shelby Farms. My daughters were able to join me to help with the scavenger hunt and gathering the supplies as I took video and did a live class on the trails and in the woods.”

Her commitment to Kindergarten Day in the Woods is rewarded by the excitement that comes from every leaf, pinecone, acorn and fungus discovery. It is difficult not to smile when she asks, “Who do we have to thank for all of the great things out here?” and the boys reply “God!”

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