Mind Mapping with Children

Mind Mapping Our Experience Creates a Story

The high wind gusts kept us from the forest on Tuesday but the kinders made the best of the circumstances. We came together to talk about the change in plans and to create a new plan for our morning together. Collectively, the children opted to take a walk offsite to see what we notice and to play amongst the white pines just outside of the forest.

We headed off on this new type of adventure and it wasn’t long before we began to notice animal evidence in the neighbourhood. We began to spot nests of different sizes in the trees and, once we noticed one, we noticed many! There were bird nests in many of the trees, made visible by the lack of leaves, and we wondered who had built each one based on the sizes and materials used. We have some thinking to do about this still and I’m curious what the children will think of in our time together in the weeks ahead. Birds’ nests were not the only type of nest we found. We were really excited to find a different nest dangling from one tree also. Some of the children recognized the shape, colour and material as that of a wasp nest! We shared recollections about where we had seen one before and what we remembered about this. Finally, way up high in one of the trees, there was one more nest. It was very similar to the larger, leafy nests we see so often in the forest. After pointing out the differences between this one and the small, grassy birds nests, the children guessed that it had been built by one of our squirrel friends. A little farther along, our guess about this was (in the eyes of the children) confirmed as a chunky, curious black squirrel sat nearby on a branch to watch us pass. The children decided this was the friend who built that nest!

When we finally made our way to the hill amongst the pines just outside the forest, we greeted our forest friend and got to work exploring. We were excited to find that someone had left a pumpkin there for the animals just as we had done in the forest. Experts at finding clues, the children made short work of discovering that this pumpkin had been enjoyed already as they recognized the telltale signs including scratch marks on the flesh and the cracked and emptied pumpkin seeds! We all thought this was pretty cool!

We shared our morning together having leaf fights, using found pine branches to sweep the leaves and rolling and running up and down the hill. Even though we couldn’t be IN the forest, it sure felt nice to be there WITH the forest.

After lunch, I introduced the idea of creating a mind map of the morning. For many of our friends, this is a new experience in which we come together as a group and recall the events of the morning, usually in the order that they occurred. Each child has an opportunity to share in their own words “what happened next” before adding their representation of the event to the map. Essentially, together we “draw a picture” of our morning. Our experiences of the morning really painted a picture of how the children guide their learning and adjust to change. They planned their morning experiences and then recalled and shared them in ways that were meaningful to them. The children were so proud of their ideas as they remembered them and then also of the finished mind map. While we truly prefer to be outside, the indoor afternoon gave us the perfect opportunity to show our work to our adults when they picked us up and we couldn’t wait to do that!

Wednesday morning, after seeing the interest the children had in the pumpkins in the pines, we brought out one large pumpkin and two small ones that had been donated by families. Right away, the children got to work trying to break them apart. As they created tools for hammering, chopping and prying and worked to lift the pumpkin to higher heights for dropping, (a technique that worked in the forest) I noticed that children were coming together in different dynamics for this experience. Children who choose to play with particular friends for many experiences, were choosing to work with other friends, sharing ideas and methods about the common interest in and goal of breaking the large pumpkin apart. The entire morning was spent working together and every child joined in at different stages of the process to test their ideas about getting the pumpkin apart. Notable was their interest and joy in the process, in the try, fail try. Together, the difficult task was a whole lot of fun. Also, while I suspected it was so, I was delighted to find that, without any conversation about the “end result”, the children divided the pieces amongst everyone to spread behind the skating rink as an offering to our animal friends.