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298 6th Avenue | Brooklyn, NY | 11215

Dear BFS Families,

We walked to the park last Thursday on our final official day of Forest School. As I moved from tree to tree, observing the children and recording their words and experiences, I began again to see the world from their perspective. Size and capability were central themes.  “Look at me. I am taller than all the grown-ups.” said Lil proudly. “You said I am little, and I am, but I am also big,” shared Finn as she spoke to a peer. “I can do it!” proclaimed Gigi as she climbed the tree and then jumped down. “You have to be brave,” remarked Fox as he described the courage it took to climb the tree and then find a way down. By this time in the year, children have developed the emotional and linguistic skill to describe details in their environment, to compare and make connections to their own experiences.

Not only were the children noticing their own size, they also noticed even the smallest creatures, the insects that climbed in and out from bark, grass or rocks. They noticed the number of legs or the smoothness of an exoskeleton. They called attention to the slightly bent wing of the Rainbow butterfly before it was set free. As they climbed, they worried about harming the creatures that shared the forest with them. “You have to protect nature,” said many Sunshine or Rainbow classmates.

In classrooms around the school, children have been busy growing insects and caring for creatures in an effort to both bring nature inside the room and become keen observers of the life cycles of the insects they helped hatch. Jitterbug is a veritable insect haven, hatching a silk moth and luna moth, several butterflies and, finally, a praying mantis, which they are waiting for still.  Because they wanted to observe insects in their habitats, they even made a bug hotel.
Sadly, Dragonfly had to say goodbye to their tropical fish recently. They have used this  experience to address end of life concepts and understanding. The teachers asked the children, “How do things begin?” which, of course, begs the question, “How do they end?” The children contributed what they knew: they are eggs, they grow...Their teachers came up with some language around death: “It (the animal) was not feeling well in its body. When a body can’t go on any more, it dies.”  Ellie, did not like to say the fish died, instead saying ”it, or they (because many died all at once), went on a vacation.” Our job is not to correct this but to provide a platform for the discussion and sharing of ideas. Everyone has their own way of processing.
When we bring living creatures into the classroom, there is an opportunity to learn, not only about life and death, but difference and ability.  One of the butterflies in Dragonfly had a wing that did not develop. They named him Wiggy and kept him in the room to take care of him. The children brought him flowers so he could eat, understanding that he needed help caring for himself. The care and thoughtfulness the children exhibited illustrates what can happen if you expose children to situations where real life occurs. It isn’t always predictable, or typical.  This differently abled butterfly needed support and the children recognized this and wanted to help.
Through Forest School, the older children learned to trust their bodies, to take supported risks and explore the unfamiliar.  They gained a competence and assuredness that they can only gain through experience and trial and error.

All of this exposure to the natural world echoes their own journeys and stages of growth.  It is how we let them know they, too, are ready to think about moving on. Within each classroom, teachers are working to create activities that will support children in transitioning to the next room or school experience they will have. They are ready.

As adults, we may hold on to the emotional resonance of this shift, recognizing how special it is to be a part of this community at this time in their lives. It will not come again in this precise configuration, so we cherish every minute we can.  They will continue to grow and move on, as they should. Some of us will remain together for another year, new faces will arrive and, some, will leave this building for new settings. Take a look around you and notice: the bodies in motion, joyful or tearful, depending upon the moment, mark the light that is filtered through the green leaves, the smells of childhood sweat or runny ice cream, and the feel of the handrail, or the pavement, or the nap of the carpet.  This is how I remember each and every one of you. It is also how I remember where I parked my car, so I know it works! These moments are priceless. They have grown so much, and still have so much yet to explore and learn.


Enjoy the month ahead - Happy June Fun!


Medina Khalil

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Medina Khalil - Executive Educational Director | Mikia Eatman - Operations Director | Daniela Vancurova - Educational Assistant Director

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Brooklyn Free Space · 298 6th Avenue · Brooklyn, NY 11215 · USA

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