All About Black Rock Forest
One of the major highlights of kindergarten is boarding the yellow school bus to visit Black Rock Forest (BRF), a nature preserve in Cornwall, NY that students have been hearing about from older peers throughout their previous years at MMS. BRF is run by a consortium of schools, universities, and scientific and cultural institutions.
The kindergarteners head up to BRF four times a year, with each visit usually timed to observe how the forest changes every season. As Maria Montessori wrote, “The senses, being the explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge.” These trips to BRF allow children to connect with and appreciate nature’s beauty and wonders. They can explore and experience with all of their senses. Around winter time, if they are lucky and there’s snow on the ground, they not only get to see animal tracks but are able to explore the forest snowshoeing. In the spring, they discover the life cycle of plants and animals.
We have been working with a wonderful teacher, James “Jamie” Kamlet, since MMS joined the Consortium in 2005. The kindergarten year sets the stage for students’ regular BRF trips in UE and LE, and two highly-anticipated moments: third graders go for a much awaited overnight trip; and sixth graders have a year-long study that culminates with a graduation project giving back to the forest and constructing things like a bridge, bird houses, and a boardwalk.
For our students, these 3 rules for forest manners are key: be respectful, “get low,” and have patience. They gain an understanding that they are guests and must treat the flora and fauna inhabiting the forest with respect and great care. On their first trip on October 9, they hiked to the Upper Reservoir where the kindergartners learned that if you “get low” and exercise patience, the forest floor is full of critters. They found earthworms, salamanders, millipedes, and an unusual looking caterpillar! Students go to Black Rock Forest rain or shine. If the weather is not very cooperative, they visit the Science Center, a space to engage in special projects and activities.
BRF excites our students and stimulates their minds, so much so that they usually end up asleep on the bus back to school! As a Primary community, the other students and teachers look forward to having our kindergarteners regale us with their BRF stories and adventures!