Active Games and Creative Dramatics to Introduce Youngsters to their Fellow Beings in North America’s Northeastern Forests
This is a collection of lively games and creative dramatics that blends both the arts and foundational science content. Many are based upon traditional game formats that appear across the globe in children’s play: tag, singing circle games, races, competitive team relays, among other familiar structures. Such activities can readily be adjusted and repurposed to enable young people to learn specifics about the amazing and beautiful natural world that enfolds us. The resulting active, outdoor games are suitable for youngsters from three to twelve, with recommended age groups listed for each activity.
Topics considered range from photosynthesis to food webs; from keystone species to intergenerational care, from seed dispersal to the life of frogs. Their correlation with the Next Generation Science Standards allows teachers to integrate them more seamlessly within their curricula and lesson plans. At a deeper level, the experiences are designed to nurture in children psychologically positive, almost visceral understandings of the beings, processes, and interactions that swirl around (and to some degree within) them. The content is focused on the ecosystems of the temperate deciduous forests of the United States and Southeastern Canada. Nevertheless, many of the games could also be readily adapted for use in other biomes. In most cases, this would require simply changing of the cast of characters/species and the natural history details.
While the provision of factual natural history information is essential, as implied earlier, it’s not the exclusive goal. Instead, the games are also concerned with supporting youngsters’ subjective and interpersonal priorities (Social and Emotional Learning / SEL) and expanding their sense of belonging and connection to nature and their community. They address young people’s need to exercise growing muscles and practice navigating social choices, including building friendships. They provide opportunities for enhancing executive function skills. Many have features that can foster the development of artistic gifts in the realm of singing, dance, and dramatics.
There is concern for students’ attunement to beauty and their enjoyment of life – even in midst of learning real science. When played well, these games and activities are fun! Almost all are best conducted outside under blue skies with friends, although they can also be played in open spaces indoors such as gyms or even hallways. It is hoped that the collection can serve as a springboard that inspires educators (including the children playing) to develop ever more effective and pleasant games for transmitting and cultivating knowledge, ethics, spirit, and creativity.
Key Selling Points
To be useful and effective for as many children as possible, learning about ecosystems should be enjoyable, empathetic, and active – as well as scientifically accurate. This is the premise of these arts-infused games and projects.
This resource is a uniquely sociable, kinesthetic complement to the usual array of verbal, analytical, and lab-based curricular materials available for school settings. It suggests strategies for structured yet enjoyable time outside in the fresh air. It’s shaped not only by the physical and biological sciences, but by concepts derived from evolutionary psychology, arts education, Indigenous cultures, anthropology, and research on children’s development of a sense of place. Its goal is to further prosocial and proplanetary values, social and emotional skills, and sturdy, actionable understandings of the wonders of life on Earth (compassionate wisdom).
This book will be especially valuable for formal and informal educators working in outdoor classrooms, school gardens, environmental centers, farm-based settings, forest preschools, and summer programs. Selected activities can be adapted for indoor use, and some could entertain and inform children at birthday parties, Harvest Fairs, Earth Day Festivals, or other community-building events.
Sample Spreads from the Book
“For many years now, Edith Pucci Couchman has been developing some of the most stimulating and creative activities for encouraging young minds to explore the natural world. Her collection Circling the Sun, Racing the Wind is the right book at the right time and destined to be well-used by those fortunate to get their hands on a copy.”
—Tim Grant, editor of Green Teacher magazine
About the Author/Illustrator
Edith Pucci Couchman is an educator and visual artist dedicated to helping youngsters learn more — and care more — about the amazing Earth Community to which they belong. She’s found that some of the best ways to do this include building children’s capacities for creating art and encouraging them to play active games inspired by ecology and natural history. She has been teaching since the early ’90s in Southern New Hampshire and Northern Massachusetts in settings ranging from the forests and fields of nature and art centers to the gardens and classrooms of public, independent, and Catholic schools. Her students have included three-year-olds with their parents and octogenarians, with a focus on those aged 4 to 13. Edith’s work has been recognized with awards for Conservation and STEM teaching. She’s published five articles in the Canadian online environmental magazine Green Teacher, and she’s presented at state, regional, and national conferences. Her paintings have been exhibited at museums and art centers in the Midwest and Northeast. In 2020, she was the principal illustrator for NH Farm to School’s Indigenous Harvest Calendar (and accompanying seasonal activities) published online. She currently serves on the Board of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire and is the editor of the website https://evolvingbeauty.org. Edith is blessed to be the mother of two grown children and a grandmother as well.
Age Range: 3.0 to 12.0 years/preschool to 6th Grade
Page Count: 174 pages
Format: Softcover; full-color illustrations
Trim Size: 8.5 x 11
Publication Date: January 9, 2024
Distributor: IPG / Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights & Publicity contact: Dede Cummings
Distributor: IPG; also available through Ingram, Follett/Baker & Taylor, and other wholesalers.
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