By Valerie Easton
The curriculum at the Fiddleheads Forest School follows the interests and excitement of its students. Teacher Kit Harrington, inspired by 5-year-old Hazel’s passion for lichen, came up with a song about the symbiotic nature of this ancient organism. Many of the preschoolers grip tufts of lichen as they sing beneath a canopy of conifers in their outdoor classroom in Washington Park Arboretum.
Cedar stumps serve as stations for art projects, and a science and math lab with photos of birds, a nest with an egg in it, feathers and a magnifying glass. The microscope and binoculars are the most popular items in this classroom, where inquisitiveness is encouraged. “The kids learn to look closely, to observe,” explains teacher Sarah Heller, who, along with Harrington and education interns, keep the kids busy and safe. Barred owls nest in nearby trees, and when they hoot, the kids hoot back. They follow raptor calls, enchanted when a Cooper’s hawk swoops through their classroom grove.