A Kindergarten Expedition: Science and Stewardship at Minnehaha

By Marshall Anderson
Mississippi (Kindergarten) teacher

In the fall, our Kindergarten class (the Mississippi) went to Minnehaha falls. I learn so much from watching our children explore and wonder. They are scientists and artists and poets at their core and it is my job, my pleasure, to honor what they bring and help them extend that learning and exploration.

What does a waterfall feel like?
After we saw the magnificent waterfall, students acted out what a waterfall looks and feels like, then what rapids look and feel like. They went crashing to the ground or ran with joy, their arms spread.

Listening, Silence and a Loooong Walk
We had moments of silence to listen like deer, or observe like owls. Students were so proud that they hiked from the falls, along the creek, and then made it all the way to the Mississippi river (1.8 miles). Fueled by snacks and hot chocolate, they excitedly hiked, climbed, and hiked some more.

They were thrilled to see a huge flock of robins (at least fifty strong), as well as rapids, many bridges, animal homes, beaver dams and beaver “chews,” and much more.

They Are Scientists and Stewards
They sang along the way, shared theories, asked questions, and made many discoveries. Two students were interested in why there were downed or decaying trees, others asked about the current of the water, the sandstone caves, while others were trying to understand the “ancient writing” they saw on the trees.

The passionate questioning, theory making, and testing of their ideas is strong scientific thinking and helps develop rich language. This questioning, theory-making and observing nurtures a deep connection to the natural world that creates caring, stewards of the land.

Getting Back to School and Thinking Some More
The next few days at school were spent reflecting on our experience. Students built a model of the falls and river area in the block area.

They generated words such as: creek, waterfall, Mississippi, rapids, current, beaver, robin, and many more. They journaled and put their ideas about their experience in their drawings, words, and sentences.

I always feel gratitude watching students experience these moments of connection to the natural world whether it is on the side of the schoolyard, park, or at a beautiful place like Minnehaha Falls.

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