Self Science

 

                               “All learning has an emotional base.”   Plato

So many children today grow up in a world of neglect, violence, and despair. Most of America’s youth are at risk. More than half of America’s high school seniors have witnessed violent crimes at school and between three and six children are killed by abuse daily. Our educators are struggling today with little support and few tools to effectively equip students for the climate of trauma and fear.

We have experienced a burst in the scientific study of emotional learning and the functioning of the brain and have a more accurate insight into the processes of learning, feeling, and thinking.

Self-Science is a valuable, effective approach to building a vital set of skills and understandings. The value of Self-Science has been proven in practice and in research. In his bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goldman calls this program “a model for the teaching of emotional intelligence” as one of the two curricula he recommends.

Self-Science is designed to build emotional intelligence and to develop a learning community that fosters respect, responsibility, and resiliency.

Fundamental skills the program teaches:

Recognize, understand, communicate, and manage feelings.

Recognize and redirect patterns of behavior.

Set goals and move toward them.

Increase respectful communication, thinking, and behaviors.

Results from Implementing the Emotional Intelligence curriculum are:

Higher motivation

More creativity

Higher academic achievement

Greater safety and inclusion and less violence

More accountability

Better relationships

Improved social skills

Increased lifelong success

For teachers, improved EQ skills increase “on task” behaviors and reduce discipline problems

We have not learned how to make quality of life, joy, purpose, and connection a part of our daily lives. Our society is faced with overwhelming problems of poverty, violence, racism, and selfishness.

Children need to be equipped with tools to grow strong despite the negativity that surrounds them. They need strategies to manage themselves and to reshape their society.

Schools cannot replace family, church, or other cultural systems that historically have shaped the integrity and morality of children. Given our current situation schools need to help reinforce the principles that we all share as a society.

The U.S. is the only country on the entire planet that does not have either a religious context for instruction or a values program as a framework/foundation. It is essential that schools support the learning of parental and community values and the universal principles of our society.

The Self-Science curriculum is based on some very simple assumptions:

The more conscious one is of experiencing, the greater the potential for self-knowledge. The more self-knowledge one gains, the more likely it is that one can respond positively to one’s self and others.

These assumptions are based upon a careful and critical study of respected research in the area of affective education. Eclectic in origin, Self-Science draws principally from 30 years of practice along with research on learning and development; Seligman’s studies of optimism; Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Kelly’s psychology of personal constructs; child personality and development studies; Neuro-Lingusitic Programming; and scientific methods of inquiry.

Emotions are not in the way of learning, but they are the route to learning. Emotions are not peripheral, but they are central to being human. Perhaps most satisfying for educators, emotional skills are learnable.The following is an great website to learn a lot more.

The Emotional Intelligence Network

Six Seconds is a research and practice organization that supports educators who wish to make SEL(social-emotional Learning) part of their school environment. We do this by:

  1. Conducting, supporting, and sharing research  on effective implementation of social emotional learning.
  2. Encouraging effective SEL implementation through  Benchmarks for Social Emotional Learning.
  3. Supporting additional research through Six Seconds’ Grants.
  4. Equipping educators and faculty withcertification training in tools and processes to fully integrate SEL.
  5. Connecting the community of emotional intelligence change makers.

The Arts and Education

The Arts employ all of our senses.

The young child is a creative child with the ability to appreciate and participate in the creative arts.Through the arts children develop the ability to observe, express, and draw conclusions across disciplines and embrace a lifelong love and appreciation for the arts. The creative arts are a basic human need.

The arts have stood alone for a very long time as subjects isolated into packets of instruction. The arts should be integrated into most areas of the curriculum to produce a well-rounded creative person. It is important to encourage creative expression and nurture the creative talents of children.

Music is a form of storytelling. It is a natural active thing and part of the soul of humanity. Music comes from the heart of life. Singing exercises the lungs, increases breath control, aids speech development and sound and volume control, and increases vocabulary. Teach a second language through song! Music is mathematical. It’s stories. Tune in to the rhythm of our heart! Make music a part of every day.

Explore rhythm with young children with simple claps. Then add clap/patch (clap thighs) and then clap/patch/snap(snap fingers.) A drum is important in the classroom. The drumbeat sets the rhythm to the music and the children follow. Children like to take turns doing this. Be creative. There are many things you can do with a simple drum

Musical instruments can be bought or made. My first rhythm sticks I made of bamboo. I recommend about eight inch, but you can make them thin or fat, long or short.

Shakers can be from gourds you plant to seashells tied together, or salt boxes with beans or rice or pebbles inside for different sounds. I stay away from plastic anything. Explore and create. You might create shakers filled with different things for children to identify or match sounds together.

Octave bells are used to develop ear training and pitch. I use them to see if they can tell me which is high or low or they can put them in order of pitch and we can also make simple music with them.

Sound games are fun for children. I had a musical bingo game of different instruments sounds and a recording of animal sounds. Children need to develop their sense of hearing. Vocal sound games strengthen the vocal anatomy (animal sounds, laughter, sirens.)

Create a sound machine. Each child chooses a sound and their movements then they gather to each other to make a moving machine. It’s fun. One of my classes did this as entry into the theater where they were performing. It was great!

 

Control of the breath comes from singing and through breathing exercises. Singing enhances vocal ability and strengthens the lungs. It is important to chose music and exercises that strengthen the vocal anatomy (tongue, lips, throat muscles.)

 

Visual arts – to draw is to look, to look is to see, to see is to have vision, to have vision is to understand, to understand is to know, to know is to become, and to become is to live.

Nature will inspire children’s drawings. Let them create from natural materials and not pom-poms and artificial junk. There are so many fun natural materials to use and most will cost you nothing.

Not only do children need experiences of visual creation, they need to be exposed to fine art. Take them to the art gallery or an art show or invite artists to your class.

It’s important for young children to simply explore the line – straight lines, spirals, and curves. Experiment with dark and light, black and white.

Children need to explore the basic elements of the visual arts: line, shape, color, space, form, texture, and value.

When it comes to color sorting, you can make color gradient boxes using paint strips from the paint store. Large watercolor blocks are easy for children to use painting and always safe.

Have a weaving wall inside or outside the classroom. There are many areas of the visual arts: sculpture, jewelry making, carving (I remember carving a bird from a piece of soap), painting, collage, drawing, coloring, printing, stamping, dying, sewing, weaving, paper making, pottery, photography, and graphic design to name a few. Explore the visual arts with students. Learn by playing!

Enjoy creative experiences, talk about art, create art and go on art adventures. Help children develop an awareness of art in books and in every day life. Create a classroom gallery.

Theatre – Children are natural actors. Allow children to act out in circle time, explore expression and tone with their voices, play theatre games, and pantomime.

Children must be given the opportunity to speak and be heard. Listen and respond to children. Let them tell a story or recite a poem they know. Very young children usually start out doing little finger plays when they are young. Children are still trying to master language so it is good to let them talk and even take turns telling a story, maybe even create a puppet show!

For the very young child reading to them at home is one of the best language learning exercises I know and also stimulates the imagination.

Be imaginative in exploring gestures, posture, movements and body language, vocal tone and variations, facial expressions, and the way we walk.

There are many theatre games for older children like changing hats, building a character, fact or fiction, famous people, invisible shapes, news broadcast, etc. A class of eight and nine year olds in Charleston presented a play in French for Piccolo Spoleto one year. The school also had a summer arts program that included performances

Movement is required for a young child to develop balance, coordination, strength and even rhythm. Perception and motor development go hand in hand. A dancer’s body channels and radiates the music through balanced precise movement! Have children do movement to their songs. Practice yoga exercises 15 minutes a day. Leave time for outside play. Some playgrounds are designed to enhance their perceptual and motor development and encourage exploration. Others are filled with metal bars and swings that become basketball courts and football fields.

Outdoor in nature is where children like and need to be. Ask yourself if what you are doing is something you can do outside and start going outside more. You may find it harder at first because children get so excited about going outside, but with a little time they will calm down and develop more self-control. You will find that things will begin to flow and soon go much better outside and inside the classroom.

Another great fun exercise is dancing. You can introduce culture and language through dance and it is so much fun!

     Writing and Language Arts – The very young child focuses on the sounds and rhythm of language to learn speech and then read and write. They can learn to rhyme words very early and enjoy making silly rhymes.

When the child is able to write, keeping a journal is a useful tool. The diary is a type of personal journal. Students can keep a journal of dreams, experiments, thoughts, progress of a plant growing or a journal of their poetry and stories.

Some students like to experiment with ways of writing. Once a child learns to write, they may play and explore writing in different ways such as printing, cursive, writing in a mirror image, writing in code, or invisible writing. They may explore different tools to write with such as pencils, pen and ink, bamboo pens, feather pens, etc. Give them the materials, explain their use, and let them explore and create!

Famous Rock Formations

 

DEVIL’S TOWER

Geologists classify it as an “igneous intrusion. Native Americans regard the tower as sacred ground. Today, the 1,267-foot formation stands as the centerpiece of Devils Tower National Monument.

NATURAL BRIDGE

Carved by a creek, Natural Bridge in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is one of the most famous natural sites. Standing 215 feet high, with a span of 90 feet, the formation is open to the public. Natural Bridge makes this list because its early supporters were extremely persistent in promoting Natural Bridge, once hailed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”

STONE MOUNTAIN

Confederate States of America icons Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, along with their horses, are chiseled into the face of Stone Mountain, located just east of Atlanta, Georgia. Work on the carving began in 1916, but was abandoned in 1925. The sculptor who unexpectedly walked away from the Stone Mountain Carving, Gutzon Borglon, didn’t stay out of sight long — he began work on his signature achievement, Mount Rushmore, two years later. The Stone Mountain Carving was abandoned for nearly 40 years before resuming from 1963 until its completion in 1972. The carving, which is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world, is 400 feet above the ground and measures 90 wide by 190 feet tall. In case you’re wondering, the heads of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore measure about 60 feet tall.

 

THE WAVE

The Wave is a rock formation located on the Arizona/Utah border. Erosion through millions of years created the swirls and ridges in the sandstone that give the area such an otherworldly appearance. Of all the rocks on this list, this is the most difficult to visit, requiring a tough 6-mile round trip hike. Access to the Wave is limited to 20 visitors per day, and applications must be made months in advance.

DELICATE ARCH

At the Arches National Park in Utah, the Delicate Arch stands out above the rest. The 52-foot-high sandstone formation is the state symbol of Utah. It is a strenuous 3-mile round-trip hike.

PLYMOUTH ROCK

Plymouth Rock remains an important part of American heritage. The rock is a popular attraction in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Mount Rushmore was carved out of a granite mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The sculpture is of the faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Construction ceased in 1941 after 14 years when funding ran out.

The Forest Schools

 

 What we love, we are likely to protect. To love something, we must know it. Nature affords     children a direct experience with a world not made by humans where they can feel themselves as a part of a larger community of life.

A forest kindergarten is a kindergarten “without ceiling or walls”.

 

“Because children’s experience of nature remains a vital and irreplaceable source of healthy development, nothing less than the future of our species is at stake in maintaining and, when compromised, restoring this relationship. The crisis of deeply diminished connections between children and the biological basis of our humanity is too great for us to remain passive. The scale and scope of the problem calls for bold steps and a deeper understanding of what is at stake. “                                                                                                  – Reflections on Children’s Experience of Nature, Stephen R. Kellert

The Forest School is a model of early childhood education that was developed in Europe in the 1950s and very popular in many European countries. The hallmark of a true “forest kindergarten” is that the children are exclusively outdoors, year round, regardless of the weather (primitive shelter is available and weather appropriate clothing is required.

While modern mainstream early childhood education emphasizes academics and the use of technology, forest kindergartens support a child’s connection to the natural world, to other people, and to their own developing intuition. The forest kindergartens of Europe now have several decades and generations of experience that demonstrate that forest kindergartens are the optimal environment for the healthy development of the young child.

Early childhood development experts agree that free-range, imaginative play learning available in a forest kindergarten environment supports gross and fine motor skills, balance, coordination, problem-solving socialization, creativity, imagination and empathy. The development of these qualities is essential during the critical ages of 4-7 years old, when right brain activity is dominant in the young child. The current focus in mainstream early childhood education in the U.S. on rational left brain activities such as reading and writing is premature and inappropriate according to the most respected early childhood development experts.  Indeed, many European countries such as Switzerland and Finland, whose students statistically outperform U.S. students, do not begin academic schooling until age seven.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”   Albert Einstein

When children from German Forest Schools go to primary school, teachers observe a significant improvement in reading, writing, mathematics, social interactions and many other areas. Roland Gorges, a researcher, stated that children who had been to a forest kindergarten were above average, compared by teachers to those who had not, in all areas of skill 

tested. In order of advantage, these were:

Improved skills
Knowledge and skills in specific subjects.
Reading
Mathematics
Constructive contributions to learning
Asking questions and interest in learning
Motivation

“For the child, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. It is more important to pave the way for a child to want to know, than to put him on a diet of facts that he is not ready to assimilate.”  Rachel Carson

“Empathy between the child and the natural world should be a main objective for children ages four through seven. As children begin their forays into the natural world, we can encourage feelings for the creatures living there. Early childhood is characterized by a lack of differentiation between the self and the other. Children feel implicitly drawn to baby animals; a child feels pain when someone else scrapes her knee. Rather than force separateness, we want to cultivate that sense of connectedness so that it can become the emotional foundation for the more abstract ecological concept that everything is connected to everything else. Stories, songs, moving like animals, celebrating seasons, and fostering Rachel Carson’s “sense of wonder” should be primary activities during this stage.”  David Sobel, author of “Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators” and many other excellent books.

Children today are facing a crisis of disconnection from the natural world, as indicated by the term “nature deficit disorder”, coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, “Last Child In The Woods”.  ​

Besides the enormous benefits for the healthy development of the young child, the other reason our world needs Forest Schools is that our planet is in trouble.  The modern way of life is rapidly consuming the Earth, creating the enormous ecological disaster currently unfolding. Our Earth needs several generations of nature-connected children who grow into empowered, imaginative, nature-connected adults capable of solving the myriad of problems they will inherit. Forest kindergartens are a visionary, long-range, generation-spanning form of ecological responsibility.

Besides the enormous benefits for the healthy development of the young child, the other reason our world needs Forest Schools is that our planet is in trouble.  The modern way of life is rapidly consuming the Earth, creating the enormous ecological disaster currently unfolding. Our Earth needs several generations of nature-connected children who grow into empowered, imaginative, nature-connected adults capable of solving the myriad of problems they will inherit. Forest kindergartens are a visionary, long-range, generation-spanning form of ecological responsibility.

Benefits of Forest School

  • Improved confidence, social skills, communication, motivation, and concentration
  • Improved physical stamina, fine and gross motor skills
  • Positive identity formation for individuals and communities
  • Environmentally sustainable behaviors and ecological literacy
  • Increased knowledge of environment, increased frequency of visiting nature within families
  • Healthy and safe risk-taking
  • Improved creativity and resilience
  • Improved academic achievement and self-regulation
  • Reduced stress, increased patience, self-discipline, attention span, and recovery from mental fatigue
  • Improved higher level cognitive skills

The biophilia hypothesis argues that a love of nature is instinctive. The term nature deficit disorder, coined by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods recognizes the erosion of this by the urbanization of human society. Attention restoration theory and related psychological work has proven health benefits in reduced stress, improved concentration and improved medical outcomes from surgery.

Playing outside for prolonged periods has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s development, particularly in the areas of balance and agility, but also manual dexterity, physical coordination, tactile sensitivity, and depth perception. According to these studies, children who attend forest kindergartens experience fewer injuries due to accidents and are less likely to injure themselves in a fall. A child’s ability to assess risks improves, for example in handling fire and dangerous tools. Other studies have shown that spending time in nature improves attention and medical prognosis in women. Playing outdoors is also said to strengthen the immune systems of children and daycare professionals.

​     The forest kindergarten movement is in its infancy in the United States.  The first forest kindergartens in the U.S. started in California in the 1990s  (Tender Tracks and Wild Roots Forest School.)  In the southeastern U.S. there are only a scattered few forest kindergartens at present, but the movement is gaining momentum.

Establishing a Forest School: Two main routes to establishing a Forest School program:

  1. Employ (or contract in the services) of an existing Level 3 Forest School practitioner
  2. Train one of your existing staff to become a Level 3 Forest School practitioner

One of our first forest schools was Wild Roots Forest School in Santa Barbara meets in local, natural spaces. The sky is our ceiling, the trees are our walls, and the floor is the living Earth. Children learn to identify local flora and fauna, recognize patterns in nature, build physical prowess, agility, and confidence, and develop a solid foundation for lifelong learning. Our classes are busy foraging, recognizing plants that can heal or harm us, tracking and observing animals, observing changes on the land, painting, drawing, crafting, and playing in nature’s playground. Using wild harvested materials in our play and work helps us to experience our interdependence through all of our senses.                    With a strong daily rhythm, our classes are infused with songs, games, poetry, storytelling, and plays. This creative work develops, among a wide array of skills and qualities, a keen memory, a rich vocabulary, the firm foundation for future literacy, and a strong sense of rhythm. Our imagination acts as a bond with nature and helps us develop reverence, understanding, and compassion. Daily, the land offers a host of new adventures to spark the natural curiosity and imagination of each child.

The Asheville Forest School on the east coast in N.C. provides nature-based education that supports the healthy development of the whole child—body, mind and spirit–and helps them realize their full potential and become compassionate stewards of the Earth.

Books:

  • The Outdoor Classroom by Hilary Harriman
  • The Outdoor Classroom Ages 3-7       Karen Constable
  • Play the Forest School Way   Peter Houghton & Jane Worroll

Links:

Outdoor Learning 

The Forest School Association

Forest Academy Teacher Training

 

 

Gardening Myths

Gardening Myths

1. Paint pruning cuts – Latex, shellac, petroleum and asphalt compounds are some of the materials used for wound dressing to seal off the cut surfaces to prevent rot and other diseases. New research finds that wound dressings of this sort do not benefit trees and in most cases may be quite harmful.

When part of the stem is damaged, trees use self-healing mechanisms to form a scar at the site of the injury to keep out pathogens. Wound paints prevent the formation of scars and interfere with the natural healing mechanism. They can seal in water, spores, and microorganisms that cause decay. Bleeding cuts should never be dressed in any way.

Make the cut as clean using a sharp instrument. Clean the saw/pruning shears and make a slanting cut close to the collar of the branch. Leave it to the tree to do the rest. Do heavy pruning towards the late winter when trees are at minimum risk of infections.

2. Organic pesticides are safe – Organic compounds derived from plants and animals may be more biodegradable, but it is wrong to think they are all harmless to people or the environment. Some of the most poisonous substances are derived from plants and animals, examples being snake venom, ricin from the castor plant and botulinum produced by bacteria.

Several organic pesticides with varying amounts of toxicity are used in agriculture. Rotenone is a very potent pesticide, insecticide, and piscicide. Organic in origin, it has been found to be six times more toxic to humans and other animals than Sevin. Rotenone is banned in some countries but continues to be used liberally in others.

Nicotine, pyrethrum, and neem are other plant-derived pesticides. Nicotine has high toxicity for mammals, including humans; pyrethrum has immediate action on pests while being less toxic to mammals. Neem has slow action and disrupts the metabolic pathways of insects, but may be safe for other animals.

Bacterial toxins such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin and Alpha Beta Protein are used to trigger defense mechanisms in crops to produce biochemicals that make them more resistant to potential pathogens. The safety of these toxins and the substances plants produce against them is under the scanner. So, organic pesticides should be chosen carefully for their merits rather than their ‘organic’ label. And, they should be used with the same caution that you reserve for chemical fertilizers.

3. Amend clayey soil with sand – Clay holds water; sand quickly drains. What happens is more compacted soil that defies tilling, let alone better drainage. Fine clay particles fill the spaces between the larger sand particles, giving a thick, mortar-like consistency when mixed with water.

To amend clayey soil, add plenty of compost and leaf mold to resist compaction. It gives the soil an airy structure that facilitates better drainage. Once amended, sand may have some additional benefit.

4. Don’t water the garden at mid-day – That doesn’t seem to be the case. Many gardeners find it beneficial to spray their plants when they look tired in the hot sun. If any burn spots develop on leaves after you water your garden, check your water for soluble salt concentration. When water droplets evaporate, caustic salts on the leaves may cause burn spots.

5. Plant trees in deep holes to give them stability – The advice to dig a deep hole at least twice the height of the root ball is often followed. Deep holes are not what give stability to trees, but wider ones. The planting hole should be twice the diameter of the root ball, if not more. This provides a large area of loose soil for the roots to spread out. A wider base anchors a top heavy tree better than a narrow one.

6. Fill the planting hole with compost and fertilizers – Planting time is not the best time to provide these. When you fill a planting hole with compost, you give the plant a relatively loose medium rich in nutrients that absorbs moisture well. The plant will restrict its roots to this area. This affects the stability of the plant. In dry spells, fast-draining compost dries up quicker. With few roots beyond this area, the plant suffers. High concentrations of fertilizers can burn the roots, especially new roots. Root burn is a common reason for new plants not thriving.

Keeping the new plant in position, backfill the planting hole with the same soil you dug up. Water well. Allow the plants to spread out its roots in search of nutrients first, and then apply compost and fertilizers around the plant, never too close to the stem. Some gardeners dig a shallow ditch around the plants for adding compost.

7. No more watering if you convert your garden to a xeriscape – It is a myth that drought-tolerant plants don’t need to be watered. Plants native to arid lands do need quite a bit of water in the first year. Lavender, Agastache, Salvias, Yarrow, Sage, Blue-eyed grass, Red hot poker plant, Armeria, Black-eyed Susan are all drought-resistant once established but not drought-proof. They need regular watering and an occasional drink in summer. Drought-tolerant plants is hate water logging. Plant them in well-draining soil.

Some plants like cacti and succulents store water and may be able to survive dry periods without much damage. Grasses that dry up in the summer heat may turn green again when rains come. But if you neglect thin-leaved flowering plants, they may not make it through the summer.

8. Plant two of each fruit tree – Some fruit trees need cross-pollination to bear fruit. Self-fertilization can take place if male and female parts are present in the same flower or in different flowers on the same tree. There are exceptions.

Not all trees self-pollinate. They are self-sterile. Some apples, plums, pears and sweet cherry need pollen from other trees for fertilization to take place. Honey bees are the main pollinators of fruit trees. That means you need more than one apple tree or sweet cherry in your own garden or in neighboring gardens for the bees to bring in the pollen.

Just getting two of the same type of tree may not work out here. They have to flower at the same time and be compatible in other ways too. Know which varieties are compatible or go for a self-pollinating variety like Granny Smith and Golden delicious. Persimmons have separate male and female trees and you have no guarantee that you will get a male and a female unless you get grafted trees.

9. Feed a plant to revive it – We often forget that plants can make their own food. Millions of acres of woods and meadows manage without our intervention.

Plants may use up certain minerals in the soil resulting in their gradual depletion. When the minerals are provided with fertilizers, the plants often respond with renewed vitality. But every plant can’t be revived with additional feeding. The first step is to find out the reason for the decline such as insect attacks, diseases, environmental stress, adverse weather, damage to roots and root girdling. Both inadequate water and excess water can be detrimental. Rule out probable causes before giving plants a dose of fertilizer. Excess fertilizers can kill a tree under stress.

10. Add sugar or baking soda to get sweet tomatoes – The tomato variety and the amount of sun exposure has bearing on the taste and flavor of tomatoes, but soil pH does not affect sweetness. If you want sweeter tomatoes go for specific varieties known for their sweet taste.