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Marjan Oakeson
Feb 01, 2018
In Delight in Simple Things
Have you been looking for a fun indoor winter gardening project to do with your child? Try planting an amaryllis bulb. This enormous bulb is easy to plant and bring into flower. The large, trumpet-shaped blossoms that open atop tall stalks are perfect for livening up a windowsill when the garden outside is at its bleakest. These bulbs can be found in garden stores and come in shades of red, pink and white that will burst into bloom about 6 to 8 weeks after planting. A perfect welcome to Spring! Help your child pick out a bulb at a local gardening store, then choose a pot that is about two inches bigger than the diameter of the bulb. Using a light potting mix that drains well, have them set the bulb in the pot so that the top third of the bulb is sticking up above the level of the soil. Let them water it well and move the pot to a sunny windowsill. Allow the surface of the soil to dry out before re-watering. A child who learns through a garden... Scores higher on scientific achievement tests; Increases social and emotional well-being; Is more likely to eat and prefer fresh fruits and vegetables; And will feel responsible to care for the environment. In about four weeks, your child will see a little green tongue emerging from the top of the bulb. After growth starts, have them keep the soil moist but not soggy. Remind them to rotate the pot a quarter turn every few days so that the flower stalk grows straight up; if they don't turn the pot, the stalk will bend toward the light. Add a little math fun to the activity by measuring the growth of the stalk daily and recording the measurements on a kid-friendly graph. In a few weeks, you both will enjoy the huge blooms that open at the top of the flower stalk. If your bulb is big enough, it will produce two flower stalks for a really big show. Fun Fact: The word “amaryllis” comes from the Greek word amarysso, meaning "to sparkle.” Plan now to add some floral “sparkle” to your home when the days are cold and short.
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Marjan Oakeson
Nov 23, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
The two days before Thanksgiving I subbed in a kindergarten class. Large sheets of cream colored paper, white paper plates, various colors of construction paper pre-cut into rectangles and one paper plate turkey model were laid out so I could instruct the children in a Thanksgiving craft. As I organized the items for the activity, I thought about a section in Erika Christakis' book, The Importance of Being Little. She gave an impassioned plea for educators and parents to put down the worksheets and flashcards, ditch the tired craft projects (yes, the hand Thanksgiving turkey) and double-down on one simple word: play. I knew it was important for me to change the focus of creating identical Thanksgiving turkeys and let the children "play" with their ideas. I gathered the children on the rug for a discussion about what they love most about Thanksgiving. Everyone (all 26 children) shared their ideas. The creativity was thrilling: Pilgrims, Indians, eating, no school, plates of food, blueberries, going to grandma's house, turkeys and more. I discretely put aside the paper plate turkey model and let the children play with their ideas. Scissors, glue, and markers transformed paper plates and construction paper into unique, personal, creative, self-directed works of art. Some children even chose to come in from recess early to continue working on their project. The most memorable project came from Leo who said, "I love thinking about animals at Thanksgiving." He put his all into creating a Thanksgiving giraffe. The kindergarten children left school that day with a personalized Thanksgiving craft project. I left school that day with a greater appreciation and understanding that children are powerful, creative and inventive when given the opportunity to re-imagine their learning environment. Our family will be enjoying roasted turkey for dinner on Thanksgiving, but we will express gratitude for every Thanksgiving giraffe. Please read Marty's follow-up article "Why the Thanksgiving Giraffe Changes the World." Happy Thanksgiving from Marbles Farm. (Oh, and by the way, try to find the giraffe in the picture.)
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Marjan Oakeson
Nov 21, 2017
In What the Experts Say
I recently read a TIME Special Edition magazine "The Science of Childhood - Inside the Minds of Our Younger Selves." I would highly recommend it. An article on screen time for children was of particular interest to me after an experience I had a few days ago. I arrived a half hour early picking my daughter up from swim practice. As I sat in the car, I observed a young mother and toddler on a bench outside the swimming pool. The toddler was fixated on the mother's cell phone. Never once in the half hour did the child look up, even when the older siblings exited the pool gleefully telling mom about swimming. The child on the cell phone then went into a complete tantrum when the cell phone was taken away to walk to the car. The TIME article mentioned that in 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provided guidance regarding screen time for children. Kids under two years old shouldn't be interacting with screens at all, and kids ages 2 to 5 should be limited to an hour of quality content each day. New research has found that for children under age two, every additional 30 minutes a day they spent using handheld screens, meant they were 49% more likely to have speech delays. At Marbles Farm, your children will enjoy "scene" time daily, rather than screen time. Children will view, navigate and explore scenery in our neighboring woodlands, paint scenery in our nature art area and construct scenery for their very own dramatic plays. We are cultivating authentic experiences at Marbles Farm.
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Marjan Oakeson
Oct 30, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
A few weeks ago, I came across a small black patent leather purse my great-grandmother, Nana, had given me when I was five years old. A million memories flooded my mind as I examined the contents. A tin Band-Aid box, an empty mini perfume bottle, 5 cent stamp books, order forms and envelopes for the Sears Roebuck and Co., a small leather wallet, empty Milk Duds boxes, and a petite pair of leather gloves. It was a collection of experiences—experiences with my Nana. She had immigrated from England to America in 1922 with her five-year-old daughter, Marjorie (my grandmother), to join her husband, Thomas Trow, in Helper, Utah. She was a loving, resilient, hard working woman. She loved her garden, the kitchen, black licorice, baking, reading, crocheting, knitting, writing, and, of course, me! I spent many summers at her home. It was surrounded by fields of wheat, corn, wild rhubarb and very few neighbors. Her cottage garden was a sanctuary. There were apricot, pie cherry, and plum trees. Lilacs, snowballs, iris, peonies, poppies, columbine, zinnias, and four o'clock adorned the flower beds. She taught me the names of all her flowers, how to water them, dead-head them and gather their seeds in late summer for planting the following Spring. She had a coal shed filled with old license plates, tires, hoses and oil cans—we call them "loose parts" at Marbles Farm. They became a gas station, a repair shop and car wash during those summer days. The high branches of the apricot tree were the perfect hiding spot during hide-and-seek. The root cellar, with its creaky door, was a haunted house at night. I found adventure in every room and every part of her yard. She provided opportunities for me to explore, to be curious and to problem solve. I played store, went on make-believe shopping trips, ordered items from the Sears catalog, made cherry pies from scratch, wrote letters, learned how to hold knitting needles and make my first hot pad, made up grocery lists, played Old Maid, Rook and Crazy 8's. I even memorized her phone number—NE7 3510. This small purse and its contents shaped my life. It is a part of who I am. I find joy in hard work. I love the outdoors. My garden is a sanctuary. Lilacs and peonies are my favorite flowers. Spending time in the kitchen is pure enjoyment. I can still make pies from scratch. Fifty plus years has not erased the tender learning experiences I had with my Nana. At Marbles Farm, the power of daily experiences and opportunities to explore, be curious, and to problem solve will shape the future of the children who attend. We hope your family will join us at Marbles Farm starting Fall 2018.
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Marjan Oakeson
Sep 29, 2017
In Creativity
The way children learn is completely different from adults, and to be effective, children's environmental educational environments and programs need to be designed to match children's developmental needs, interests, abilities and learning styles. Children are active learners. Their best learning occurs when the emphasis is on hands-on interaction, play and discovery rather than on trying to impart knowledge. Children have a natural curiosity that requires direct sensory experience rather than conceptual generalization. White, R (2001), Moving from Biophobia to Biophilia. Accessed from www.whitehutchinson.com/children/articles/biophilia.shtml Photo by Marty Oakeson. Location near the Provo River in Charleston, Utah.
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Marjan Oakeson
Sep 26, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
Summer has officially ended. Welcome Fall and the magnificent colors it brings. We love the cooler weather and the opportunity to reflect on the great Marbles Farm experiences we have had this summer. Our most memorable activity was sharing information about Marbles Farm with Wasatch County families at the Heber Valley Market. We had an impressive response to our nature preschool opening Fall 2018. During our conversations the most often asked questions were: What is Marbles Farm and what teaching methods will you use? Here's what we shared. At Marbles Farm we have the same child development goals that more traditional preschools have, but we are committed to accomplishing those goals through experiences in nature. We are a developmentally-appropriate, play-based, nature preschool that will provide children with a strong cognitive foundation in preparation for future school success. Children will develop problem-solving skills and approach challenges with innovation and creativity. Inquiry and self-direction will be modeled so students can nurture their capabilities. Children will be taught to develop a sense of belonging and contributing through relationship-based experiences and social interaction. Marbles Farm teachers will demonstrate and allow children to develop literacy and numeracy skills with hands-on experiences. A few days ago we observed a dragonfly in our backyard. We were fascinated by its color, beauty, and ability to hover in the air with ease. This dragonfly observation is a perfect example of a Marbles Farm lesson plan. The experience encompasses the study of: Biology (find a book about dragonflies in our library and we will learn more about them) Mathematics (calculate the wingspan and find the same measurement somewhere else in nature) Environmental stewardship (what can we do to provide habitat for dragonflies to flourish) Art (draw the dragonfly and find the color blue that matches its body) Drama (pretend to be a dragonfly - grab a silk scarf and fly, fly, fly) Literacy (write a fairy tale about the dragonfly or create a mini book about our experience today) A simple observation allows children to look at their surroundings and see possibilities. Henry David Thoreau said, "It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see." Marbles Farm empowers children first to observe, then to see what matters, which inspires creativity, supports intellectual curiosity, and most importantly connects them with nature. We loved hearing about your enthusiasm for Marbles Farm this summer, and we hope you'll share our message with your neighbors and friends. Happy Fall - Marty and Marjan Oakeson
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Marjan Oakeson
Sep 08, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
It's getting that time of year when the media starts bombarding our children with the latest books, toys, software, and gadgets to put on their Christmas wish list. These lists can be overwhelming and nearly impossible for most of us parents actually to afford all the cool stuff. We are here to solve your Christmas shopping woes with the list of. . . THE 5 BEST TOYS OF ALL TIME. All five toys fit easily within any budget and are appropriate for a wide age range, so you get the most play out of each one. These are time tested, and kid approved. And, as a bonus, they can be combined for an extra-super-fun-play experience. Enjoy! #1 A STICK This versatile toy is a real classic. Chances are you played with one when you were a kid. A STICK works well as a digger, a poker or a reach-extender. STICKS come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and you can amass a whole collection without too much of an investment. Larger, multi-tipped sticks are particularly useful as snowman arms. One warning, the STICK can also be used as a sword, so parents who avoid toy weapons might want to steer clear of the larger models. On the other hand, many experts agree that creative children will just find something else to substitute for a STICK. #2 A BOX BOXES come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Need proof? Depending on the number and the size, BOXES can be turned into a play kitchen, a fort, a house or a place to hide away. They can transform children into robots or an elaborate Star Wars costume. Add a STICK and use it as an oar for your box boat. One particularly famous use is a component of a time machine or a transmogrifier. Amazon can be one of your main sources for small to medium sized BOXES. If you don't mind second-hand BOXES, the grocery store, bookstores and furniture stores are great sources for this imagination stimulating toy. #3 STRING Kids love STRING. When used properly (not for use by babies and toddlers), kids can have a ball with STRING. There are so many things to do with STRING. Hang things from doorknobs, tie siblings to chairs, make a leash for your stuffed animals, connect cans to make a telephone, or tie to a STICK and make a fishing pole. STRING is what makes toys fun. Have you tried using a yo-yo or a kite without STRING? Try heavy duty STRING for skipping, jumping, climbing, swinging from a tree or just dragging things around. Kids are usually most happy with two or three feet of it. Just remember - STRING ties everything together. #4 CARDBOARD TUBES CARDBOARD TUBES are like the toy at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks—they come free with a roll of paper towels or toilet paper, but you have to wait until you get to the end of the roll before you can finally claim the prize. The small and medium sizes are most common, but the large versions can take a little more time to obtain. It may take a few birthday or Christmas gifts to get to the end of the wrapping paper versions. If you're really lucky, you'll find one at a carpet supplier. With CARDBOARD TUBES, the play opportunities are endless. Kids love using CARDBOARD TUBES as a telescope or taping two together to make binoculars or filling them with beans and taping the ends to make a rain stick. How about whacking wars? Let the wild rumpus begin. Who knows? Maybe your child will become the next CARDBOARD TUBE Samurai champion. #5 DIRT DIRT has been around longer than any of the other toys on the list and shows no signs of going away. There's no getting rid of it, so you might as well learn to live with it. The question is often asked - what can you do with dirt? Here are a few ideas -- it's great for digging and making piles. Use it with a STICK and create art. DIRT makes a great play surface for toy cars and trucks. Studies have shown that kids who play with dirt have stronger immune systems than those who don't. That alone might be worth getting your kids some DIRT. Need something a little more gooey? Just add water and—presto—you have mud. Mud pies anyone? DIRT is an outdoor toy, despite children's attempts to bring it inside. If they insist, you'll probably want to get some optional accessories: a broom and dustpan. There is nothing more fun and less expensive than DIRT! At Marbles Farm we call THE 5 BEST TOYS OF ALL TIME loose parts. They can be carried, dumped, dragged, painted, buried and sorted. They can become almost anything such as props in pretend play or enhanced play-based learning in a natural setting. Ruth Wilson, PhD and author of Learning Is In Bloom says natural play spaces can be greatly enhanced by adding a rich variety of loose parts to encourage exploration, creativity and inviting more complex play into children's lives. We hope THE 5 BEST TOYS OF ALL TIME will on your child's Christmas wish list. They will be on the Marbles Farm list. (Jonathan Liu, aka Geek Dad, originally published this list in January 2011)
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Marjan Oakeson
Sep 08, 2017
In What the Experts Say
Download a copy here.
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Marjan Oakeson
Sep 05, 2017
In Creativity
“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.” ― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants Photo by Marty Oakeson. Leaves lit by morning light on a trail in the Orem foothills. Copyright Marbles Farm.
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 29, 2017
In Creativity
“Such beauty, he thought, was too perfect to have come about by mere chance. That day in the center of the Pacific was, to him, a gift crafted deliberately, compassionately, for him and Phil. Joyful and grateful in the midst of slow dying, the two men bathed in that day until sunset brought this, and their time in the doldrums, to an end.” ― Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Photo by Marty Oakeson. ©Marbles Farm
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 29, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
On August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse swept across North America. Tens of millions of people looked skyward as the moon passed between Earth and the sun and, for a brief moment, daylight turned into darkness. Homes, schools, and office buildings emptied as people gathered outdoors to view the stellar event. There was great enthusiasm within my neighborhood as many families gathered on driveways and lawns to experience history. The eclipse was one of nature's spectacles. I watched the eclipse using a viewing box expertly designed and made from a granola bar box, duct tape, and tin foil and lovingly made by my neighbor Jenn. A few pairs of specially designed eclipse viewing glasses were also on hand. "Wow," "awesome," "this is cool" were the comments as the boxes and glasses passed from one person to another. I was mesmerized as the moon ever so slowly passed between Earth and the sun and covered the bright sunlight. I observed the partially covered sun filtering through the leaves in the trees and making crescent shapes on the sidewalks and even my arms. I noticed shadows altered; sensor lights coming on; a drop in the temperature; a cool breeze blowing through the trees; the green grass getting greener; and the flowers getting more vibrant. It was a visual feast, and it was spectacular! I marveled most that the children and adults viewing the eclipse were not in a hurry to take a quick peek through the glasses and then go back inside to pick up where they left off on the business-of-the-day or resume an electronic game. They stayed outside! They stopped, observed, and experienced this heavenly event. They asked why, how and what if questions and in the process discovered the answers all on their own. There was an emotional connection, and it was felt. This "once in a lifetime" experience was not to be missed, not even for a minute. Marbles Farm children will be given daily opportunities to connect with the wonders of the natural world in our outdoor classrooms. They will discover that experiences in nature are cool. They will be expertly lead to ask why, how and what if questions and discover ways to answer them. At Marbles Farm we know childhood only comes "once in a lifetime" and we don't want any child to miss out -- not even for a minute. To view some of NASA's amazing eclipse photos go to https://www.nasa.gov/eclipsephotos.
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 29, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
Most people won't find this photograph very appealing. It's far too complicated. It doesn't seem to have any particular place on which to focus the eye. For me, it is a compelling shot. I love looking at this scene with its complex variety of shapes, lines, textures, colors, temperatures, reflections, and elements. Looking at this is like watching a fire. It is mesmerizing and calming. The plants and trees are dormant, yet they are alive. The water curves and flows and sometimes slows and freezes. A human artist would struggle for hours to capture such detail. Here it is presented with such a vast array of unique details that one can't take it all in. Variety in nature can be a teacher for children. Ruth Wilson, PhD, said this: "Sand, soil, and sticks are examples of natural materials that make wonderful play props and are essential for nature-play activities. Children find many creative ways to play with natural materials, both indoors and out. Natural materials can be easily manipulated and are rich in transformability and flexibility. A stick can become a spoon for stirring soup or a tool for writing in the sand. Children readily use natural materials for building, for 'cooking,' for making collages or designs, for pouring and stacking, for burying, for transporting, and for many other imaginative activities." (Source - "Learning is in Bloom") Variety in nature can provide some surprising additional benefits: better vision and improved balance. Research has shown that outdoor time is a big predictor of whether kids become nearsighted. The exact reasons are not known, but some scientists believe that focusing on objects near and far is beneficial as opposed to focusing on a fixed object like a computer or television. Golden Harper, a runner and the inventor of the Altra shoe brand, recommended that I walk on uneven surfaces such as a mountain trail rather than strictly on even surfaces like a paved road. He said that the uneven surfaces help develop different muscles and lead to better physical coordination. Children also benefit from a variety of surfaces and structures. "Climbing a tree, chasing a friend or a bird, standing on one foot, falling over, hanging from bars, swinging, jumping over or into puddles, all help develop a child’s sense of balance, coordination and strength. Being outside, moving about and playing in nature, contribute to a child’s fitness. It isn’t planned or prescribed—it is child-centered, self-directed and spontaneous."* The variety of nature adds not only "spice" to life but also provides key developmental elements for growing children. Children at Marbles Farm will love getting outside and experiencing variety in nature. Marty *https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2013-children-and-nature
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 23, 2017
In Progress of Marbles Farm
This is the first draft of the layout of Marbles Farm and our outdoor learning zones. Nature Explore is a subsidiary of the Arbor Day Foundation. They provide professional landscape design based on careful research on the optimal way to organize outdoor learning areas for the benefit of children. Nature Explore has done work for Thanksgiving Point and other Utah businesses. We are excited by their work to help realize our vision. The next phase will be more detailed drawings.
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 17, 2017
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 17, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
I went for a hike recently and was amazed at all the worms and night crawlers on the road. I wondered why they came out to die like that. I picked one up and wondered why it was slimy. So when I got home, I googled "Nightcrawler" and found nothing but links to movies and videos. It wasn't until I got to page five that I found anything about Earthworms. I guess that's a reflection on how important Nature is versus "a pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles." I did learn that "Nightcrawler" or "Night Crawler" shouldn't be capitalized because they are the not names of the slimy things. The real name is "Jake Gyllenhaal" -- just kidding, that's the name of the nocturnal journalist with a slimy underbelly. The real—and capitalized—name is "Earthworm." Why are they slimy? So they can slip into the world of L.A. crime unnoticed. I mean, "Their skin needs to be moist to breathe. That’s because earthworms breathe through their skin. Also, moist skin makes it easier for earthworms to move through their burrows. If an earthworm dries out, it will die." Why do worms come out when it rains? Because crime scenes in L.A. are always misty and rainy and each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Oops! Worms come out when it rains because "It’s believed that they come out because their burrows are flooded, and the water is no longer fresh." Finding an earthworm at Marbles Farm will be the start of a learning experience. Here are some questions about worms that can start a fun discussion and might lead to researching the answers after returning to the indoor class: Do earthworms bite people? Why does a worm's skin sometimes feel rough? If an earthworm breaks in two, does it really become two worms? How long do earthworms live? Which animals eat worms? What is the most dangerous thing to earthworms? Where do earthworms go in the winter? What is that fat lump on the worm's body? Where do baby worms come from? What type of worm is in a "wormy" apple? Are there other types of worms? Why don't we see more worms outside during the day? How can you tell which end is the worm's head? Do worms have a top side and a bottom side? Does it hurt a worm to be put on a fishing hook? How can one little worm really help in a big garden? It's not hard to see how something as common as finding an earthworm can turn into a thoughtful lesson with lots of participation from children. Having in depth conversations is one of the great benefits of getting outdoors. Getting outdoors with a skilled teacher is what children will do at Marbles Farm. Marty Oakeson, Manager *Worm questions from "Wonderful Worms", by Linda Glaser
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 08, 2017
In Progress of Marbles Farm
I recently joined educators, administrators, researchers, and advocates from over 30 U.S. States and Canadian provinces for three days of nature-based early childhood education sponsored by the North American Association for Environmental Education and the Natural Start Alliance. Some of the conference topics were: How nature play supports STEM learning Documenting nature-based learning How to support and assess risk Curriculum design and implementation Best practices in nature based education Round-table discussions with research experts in nature-based education I was thrilled with the engaging, informative messages. There was so much to experience and so much knowledge to take home. This conference and others like it provide valuable support to the growing number of nature-based preschools around the world. However, my most memorable moment came from an encounter with a 4-year-old boy. He had come to Seattle University with his mother to pick up some university registration documents in the same building hosting my conference. He joined me at a water dispenser during a course break with a plastic cup in one hand and a very long-stemmed bright orange flower in the other. This conversation followed: "Would you like me to help you get a drink?" "No, I can do it," as the water began overflowing the cup before he could turn off the spigot. "What do you have there?" "It's a sword plant," he responded. "A sword plant? I've never seen one before." "This is the sword part," he said, pointing to the long, sturdy stem. "Are you going to take it home and put it in a vase?" "NO," he quickly responded with a look like "that's a silly question." "It's a plant, not a flower," as if I forgot that only flowers go in vases. "See, it has a seed at the bottom," pointing to the perfectly shaped white bulb on the end of the stem. "And see these things," pointing to the bulbs roots, "These even stayed connected. I pulled hard so it would all come out. Now it will grow when I take it home and put in my garden." Now it will grow when I take it home and put in my garden. My experience with a 4-year-old reminds me of what I can learn when I engage in the simple process of experience, wonder, inquiry, and conversation with a child. At Marbles Farm, educated teachers and a natural outdoor environment are ready for children to create wonder and inquiry and then take them home to grow in their gardens. Marjan Oakeson, Director For more information on Natural Start Alliance, click here.
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Marjan Oakeson
Aug 08, 2017
In Delight in Simple Things
I watched out our front window as Sam, our 14-year-old neighbor and avid mountain bike rider, spent over an hour cleaning his prized Fezzari bike. This was no cursory touch-up. Sam scrubbed the tires, frame, pedals, and gears. With a towel, he dried and polished from every angle. Finished, the Fezzari looked like it just came off the showroom floor. Since Sam seemed so contented with washing, we asked him to wash our car. He wanted no part of that project. Why would a 14-year-old boy be so dedicated to cleaning his bicycle? Would he have the same motivation if his mother asked him to go out and clean his bike? The answer is "ownership." Not ownership of "stuff" but ownership of the experience. Sure, Sam wants to take care of his nice bike. He paid for it—in part—with his hard-earned money. But what he loves more than the mountain bike is mountain biking. He loves the experiences that the mountain bike gives him. Owning the bike isn't nearly as fun as riding the bike. A short time ago, Sam's mother posted this photo of what happens when you go over the handle bars. Even a bad experience like scraping your elbow can be good. One of the great benefits is in reliving the experience and telling others about it. My brother loves to tell stories—and we love to hear them—of riding mules in the steep mountains with his uncle. The fearless uncle and the sure-footed mules were willing to try nearly any difficult terrain. My brother wasn't as enthusiastic. In fact, he was downright petrified. But after making it home in one piece, they laughed and told exaggerated stories about the experience to any who would listen. Decades later they still tell those stories. And those experiences with his uncle lead to a lifetime of outdoor adventures for my brother. We won't be riding mules or mountain bikes at Marbles Farm, but we will be having experiences. We will experience chickens and goats, gardens, climbing, playing, digging, singing, and warming our hands over the outdoor fire. Perhaps these experiences will lead to a child growing up wanting to ride their bike in the hills and to come home and spend an hour cleaning off the dirt. Marty Oakeson, Manager
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Marjan Oakeson
Jul 29, 2017
In What the Experts Say
1. Nature is everywhere! Every school, home and daycare has some kind of outdoor space nearby where teachers can take students for school work or play. 2. School grounds and nearby nature provide a low- to no-cost setting for effective teaching. Field trips do not have to involve buses! A ten-minute walk in the community can be a prompt for writing or art activities, and schoolyard gardens can be used to teach maths and science skills. 3. Nature enhances academic achievement. Studies show that students learn more when they participate in authentic, inquiry-based lessons in the natural environment. 4. Nature-based activities improve student behavior. Students who are engaged in authentic learning misbehave less than others. Also, recess in the outdoors gets the “wiggles” out of their systems! 5. Students are motivated to learn when content is connected to nature. When learning takes place in their own environment, students want to find out more, read and research, and truly understand the material. 6. Outdoor learning promotes communication. Students who participate in outdoor project-based or issue-based activities learn to communicate with their peers and community volunteers. 7. Students improve cooperation skills when they spend time outside. They hone their skills as they work out issues on the playground or try to solve problems related to natural learning. 8. Nature helps students focus, including ADHD students. Students are more engaged in learning because nature is real and relevant for them. 9. Students are healthier and happier when they spend time outside. Students get more exercise when they are outside, whether for recess, P.E., or even for student learning. 10. School grounds and nearby nature provide a wonderful setting for curricular integration. Teachers can connect and integrate content in all subjects with themes or issues in the natural world. (Thanks to Tamra Willis, originally posted in the Children & Nature Network) http://childrenandnature.ning.com/group/naturalteachers/forum/topics/10-reasons-to-take-your-students-outside/ to read the original article with links to the original research and studies to back up each statement.
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Marjan Oakeson
Jul 29, 2017
In Progress of Marbles Farm
Above is a photo of me circa 1960, with the family car, a Ford Fairlane. My dad loved taking photos of his cars, and if a family member happened to be between the car and the camera, then he or she made it into the slide show. In this photo, I'm pulling my red Radio Flyer wagon and looking for adventure. As I studied this photo, it became clear to me how dramatically life was different for me growing up than it is for children today. Traffic. That lazy road with an occasional farm truck is now a major four-lane artery in Salt Lake Valley. Sidewalks were rare.I regularly rode my bike on this road to my cousin's house about a half-mile away. Laundry day. The best way to learn intimate details about your neighbors wasn't on Facebook. It was by checking out their laundry hung on the "line" in the front yard. Our neighbors were our friends. We played outside with them every day until it was too dark to play any longer. Haystacks. These were ideal places for climbing, hiding, and building forts. Our neighbors had German Shepherd dogs that had a litter of puppies in the haystack. When I ventured too close, the mother ferociously chased me away. Our world today is most definitely different. The habitat for children has changed. Natural play areas have given way to manicured parks. Cars are both more abundant and in a greater hurry. It's not surprising that outside play for children is diminishing. One study said that prisoners get more outside time than children. Children need the benefits of being outside. A website for an outdoor school in England put it this way regarding their students: "Instead of breathing recycled stale air, they are running around gulping great big lungfuls of fresh air. Instead of touching plastic toys that have had lots of other sticky fingers over them, they are embracing nature play, collecting sticks, leaves and other natural bounties. Instead of sitting down all day, not raising their heart rate, our children are climbing, digging, rolling, jumping and swinging, a mixture of bone strengthening, muscle building, and cardiovascular exercise. Their physical development and physical health are sustained at a high level." The lack of outdoor time for children now is one factor that inspired us to start a school based primarily on creating outdoor experiences. Marbles Farm will provide the environment in which children play, dig, jump, swing, and run. Kids will play with other kids and develop the social skills that are sorely lacking in today's elementary school children. Skilled teachers will provide the scaffolding for developing cognitive and emotional skills. However, one thing that we are pretty sure will be lacking in our outdoor environment: laundry hanging on the line in the front yard. Marty Oakeson, Manager
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Marjan Oakeson
Jul 20, 2017
In What the Experts Say
Highlights of an article that appeared in Cleveland Magazine. The natural world is alive with spontaneity and unexpected lessons at every turn. Unlike predictable games, the surprises a young learner discovers outdoors promote problem-solving skills, scientific and mathematical exploration, language and preliteracy skills. “The first time children go out into the forest they are tripping over rocks and roots,” describes Audrey Elszasz, founder of Laurel School’s Outdoor Pre-Primary program on its Butler campus (complete with a yurt). “Eventually they are like little billy goats running up and down slippery slopes, coming back to the bus with muddy faces and rosy cheeks.” “The natural world is one of the most complex environments a young child will ever navigate,” she points out. “Exploring the natural world with teachers who are planning that navigation is wonderful for children’s brain development.” Outdoor classrooms and other nature-based learning experiences boost academic performance, according to a study by the American Institutes of Research. Students in outdoor science programs improved their testing scores by 27 percent. At Marbles Farm, nature-based learning is paramount. Rain or shine, the children will enjoy daily outdoor experiences as well as indoor learning experiences such as cooking, art and much more. To read the entire article, click here.
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Marjan Oakeson

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