YOU WON’T GET LOST. JUST FIND THE SCAT.

“How will you find your way out of the forest? You already know the signs! You have the directions! Remember the deer scat? If you find it, you won’t get lost!”

“What’s scat? Do you mean the deer poop?”

Okay, so you know that went on for several minutes and after that, every time I said “scat” one of the children would correct me and say, “you mean poop.” The children were not buying ”scat.” I was obviously just making up that word.

Moving on!

As part of the reflective process we have built into the program (The Look Twice), the children worked on maps following our visit to the forest the day before (see post <here>. There was so much more to add to their thinking about their exploration and maps as well as many measurable changes in their approach to their documentation.

We conduct the mapping reflection sessions in a structured way. I model the route again, using the direction sticks adding blocks to represent the bike bridges and other elements we found along the way. The number of bike bridges was a question from before our walk, “How many bridges will we cross to get to the Giant Fallen Tree?” We counted the bridges as we walked and now we knew there are four plus the stone bridge. I talk our way through our journey while the children add details that made an impression, e.g. the set of generators pumping or redirecting sewage that we passed or the fairy ring tree stump on the side of the path. The children added the details of the plastic flamingo flock, the deer scat (there’s that word again), and the short cut path that two of the children found that led downhill to the creek so that they didn’t have to retrace their steps and climb over the fallen tree to join the group.

After this discussion, they draw their own maps and then because there are and should be multiple ways to get to the same exercise “Make a Map,” they also recreated the map using unit blocks and materials found around our “Imagination Station” classroom. We do this every time we make a trip into the forest.

Because the conversation, the activity, and the documentation in all its forms were so robust, I could tell there was an opportunity to add yet another layer. This is the thing about lesson plans and the balance of teacher-led to child-led pursuits. The forest provides, but you have to learn to read the signs and know when to read those aloud to the children! I explained the significance of the short cut path and connected it to things the children had already learned from our sewage and watershed exploration (see a photo collection of that experience <here>).

The significance of the deer scat is that it will tell you where the deer sleep, walk, eat, and drink. Where do they drink? The children KNEW it was the creek — and just a side note — listening is just as important as sharing. These walk hand in hand. One of the children kept calling the creek a lake. Here is an opportunity for teacher reflection and planning, I must revisit vocabulary later one-on-one.

Back to the discussion…How close was the short cut path to the deer scat? “Right next to it!” one of the children who found it shouts. I tell them that what they found is called a deer path. Herds of deer cut paths through the woods to get to the places they need to go and the children followed that deer path down to the creek and once you are at the creek, will you get lost? They shouted, “Yes!” And of course that is the right answer for the moment! How many stories are about children getting good and lost in the woods?

So I point back to their maps. What is at the beginning of your maps and what is at the end? They had all drawn the short cut or deer path, this discovery of something so perfectly child-sized and child-sourced was that significant, so it was easy to find that on one end was the school and on the other was the fallen tree. We had already talked about how you could see and hear a major road from the fallen tree and many of the children knew the name of this road and that it would take them home. They knew from our earlier discussions that water runs downhill or that Sligo Creek is at the lowest point in a valley.

If you find deer scat, you will find a deer path, if you follow the deer path downhill, you will find the creek, if you walk along the creek — in either direction(!) — you will find something you know. To test how all of this was landing, I asked them what would happen if they followed the deer path uphill rather than down and they shouted, “It would take us away from the creek!”

A collection of maps reveals how each child documents their own unique and yet shared recollection of the walk to the Giant Fallen Tree. Notice all the different ways to document deer scat and pink flamingos!

A collection of maps reveals how each child documents their own unique and yet shared recollection of the walk to the Giant Fallen Tree. Notice all the different ways to document deer scat and pink flamingos!

In this map, the bike bridges are represented by cheerful-looking M-shapes while the pink flamingos smile and take center stage, eyelashes and all! The dotted line will take you wherever you need to go!

In this map, the bike bridges are represented by cheerful-looking M-shapes while the pink flamingos smile and take center stage, eyelashes and all! The dotted line will take you wherever you need to go!

The children collectively (and individually) draw maps. While they draw, there is a steady stream of conversation. They trade ideas and memories. They tell the story of the journey even as they draw the elements on paper. This is how rich the opportunity for “The Look Twice” is!

The children collectively (and individually) draw maps. While they draw, there is a steady stream of conversation. They trade ideas and memories. They tell the story of the journey even as they draw the elements on paper. This is how rich the opportunity for “The Look Twice” is!

I noted that there was a change in the way the children created landmarks, both on paper and in their constructions. In this photo, you can see that the landmark: School is standing upright and also the children-figures are walking ON the path rather than alongside. This is a marked change in approach.

I noted that there was a change in the way the children created landmarks, both on paper and in their constructions. In this photo, you can see that the landmark: School is standing upright and also the children-figures are walking ON the path rather than alongside. This is a marked change in approach.

Here the school is a flat and quite a substantial part of the map story. Definitely “house shaped” and the next large block represents the work site. The collaboration between two map builders have defined these two landmarks as something that should be featured prominently in their map construction.

Here the school is a flat and quite a substantial part of the map story. Definitely “house shaped” and the next large block represents the work site. The collaboration between two map builders have defined these two landmarks as something that should be featured prominently in their map construction.

This collaborative construction map is especially fun to look at. The fallen tree is represented by four, joined quarter blocks, with a rectangle block trunk (center of the photograph. The complex structure along the lower edge represents the two generators and sewage pump that we had to walk past along the way. This machinery, open sewer, smell, and sound was something really worth noting. Then there is some fun with the children (note how they are walking alongside the path) are carefully orchestrated rainbow people and pets. Because. The thing that cannot be seen is the loud and vibrant negotiation between the builders of this map. They had to agree to agree how to connect their paths and what landmarks needed to be included.

This collaborative construction map is especially fun to look at. The fallen tree is represented by four, joined quarter blocks, with a rectangle block trunk (center of the photograph. The complex structure along the lower edge represents the two generators and sewage pump that we had to walk past along the way. This machinery, open sewer, smell, and sound was something really worth noting. Then there is some fun with the children (note how they are walking alongside the path) are carefully orchestrated rainbow people and pets.

Because.

The thing that cannot be seen is the loud and vibrant negotiation between the builders of this map. They had to agree to agree how to connect their paths and what landmarks needed to be included.