Going into the woods is more than random play. The woods are the child’s work to create imaginary experiences and understand that the natural world is full of curiosities and wonder, miracles and delight. The wonder of fairies hiding in trees, butterflies drinking nectar and frogs singing in the rushes when they believe no one can hear them, are the seeds of imaginative play. Imagination grows into problem solving skills, so students have capacity to address complex issues and figure them out.
Tell an Origin Story. One of many ways I inspire a child’s imagination is by telling spoken word stories. When I tell The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to a classroom filled with students, I don’t need to ask what happens next? After listening to the elephant’s encounters with other animals, the children are already held in suspense with fear and anticipation that the crocodile will grab the elephant’s child’s nose.
Meet a Tree. As a guest teacher in a science class, I asked second grade students to “meet a tree.” They sat outdoors and drew a picture of the same tree. Every student drew their picture a little differently, approaching the project from a different perspective. Some drew the tree with birds and other creatures they imagined were there. Other students drew only what they saw. While drawing, I asked questions to get them thinking. Is this tree healthy? How do you know? Why do trees have leaves? Do all trees have leaves? How does a tree take a drink?
Consider the level of student engagement, imagination and excitement as a key measure of learning. Students were recalling prior knowledge, learning with ease, and curious about the spider webs, the insects and the birds they observed in the tree.