While this fall has been quiet on the blog front, we've definitely been busy with our forest-based nature programs--beginning year three! Each Thursday the Nature Explorers (5-10) meet behind the Wynndel Hall (a big group of 17 enthusiastic mostly homeschooled children). On Wednesday and Fridays, the younger Nature Kids (3-5) meet at Canyon-Lister Elementary. Both groups show no limit to their excitement, energy, silliness, and keen interest in the natural world.
I have loved blogging about our experiences during the first two years of programming and have also made a personal commitment this past fall to spend a bit less time on the computer (hence the quieter blog & social media updates). Mid-way through this fall session feels like a good time to update the community, families and anyone else interested. I'll start with a post about Nature Kids, and create another one soon about Nature Explorers for Homeschoolers (so much exciting learning has happened that it deserves it's own post!)
It is a privilege to be able to observe the endless occasions of play and learning, which are so deeply interconnected. Here are a few of my favourite pictures from the past few months.
Here Melissa is sharing some interesting nature knowledge with the children, pointing out a berry or leaf... Magnifying glasses for extra exploration and baskets for collecting. With many of these children being new to Nature Kids, and young, our trail exploration has included lots of learning about safety and boundaries, the importance of staying with the group, and sometimes compromising if children want to go in various directions.
The sun was streaming into through the trees, and children were rolling, climbing, clambering up and down the hill. 'Dirt castles' were made, collaboratively, and this teacher was chased around and around by silly animal children! There is a popular 'honey factory' at this spot.
The 'white forest mystery' was a compelling inquiry for a few days. When the forest became damp, and mushrooms were popping up, the children were turning over logs to hunt for bugs. They were surprised to find the soft white stuff under many of the logs. We felt it, smelled it, wondered, asked many questions. What is it? Where did it come from? Is it fairy fluff? Look, it dissolved in my fingers! The children were so curious, and Melissa and I made a point of letting the inquiry ride out...
A few days after the initial discovery, a child was down low on the ground and noticed a log with a mushroom, and the 'white mystery' very close by. His eyes lit up as he exclaimed, 'I know! The white fluff comes from mushrooms!' Which was a pretty close theory. Decomposition, fungus, wet wood were all things ripe for discussing! Some of the children enjoyed looking at a mushroom field guide to try and identify the fungus/mould, and we went down a rabbit trail of reading all the funny mushroom names (turkey tail mushroom! fairy cups!)
We have enjoyed many books this fall. Thank you to the Creston Library for a wonderful recent new selection of books with nature themes. This is a sweet story with beautiful pictures, and a nice lesson about how everyone has their own strengths and uniqueness!
Our meeting/snack/tea/song circles are special times. We discuss all kinds of things, and the kids grow in their coordination skills as they manage lunch boxes, mugs of tea, mitts, water bottles etc. When it's cool enough to bring out the fire bowl, everyone is reminded to slow down and move very carefully.
In the forest school philosophy, there is a leaning towards helping children become independent...Adult help and intervention is offered as needed, and we also practice being thoughtful when children ask for help; sometimes pausing and watching before jumping in; trying not to solve problems for children when there is an opportunity for learning, trial and error, or children helping other children.
Lifting buckets on ropes (improvised pulley) has been a favourite activity for the past year or so, to the point where sometimes 3, 4, 5 kids would be asking us to help tie ropes to buckets, throw sticks over the branch, and all wanting to raise and lower their own into the trees. Fun, but also very reliant on adult help. After a few weeks in September of bucket and rope madness, we reflected on how our 'overhelping' wasn't really serving anyone (adults or kids!) very well. One morning we went cold turkey on making the pulleys for the kids, letting them know that from now on, we were confident that they could find a way to make their own pulleys. The world didn't come crashing down--the kids surprised us (as usual) with their ingenuity, discovering this low branch that was perfect kid-height. They also used nimble fingers to tie more of their own ropes on (of course, we still helped a bit...). The activity became much more kid-driven, and Melissa and I were freed up to help & observe in other ways. And they were so proud!
Making treasure maps and drawings to take home....
Kid conference on the dirt pile! These moments when children are playing together could be times for adults to gab and tune out...For us, they are precious times for observation and reflection on the play and learning. Sometimes they'll be creating imaginary worlds, sometimes theorizing about a bug or aspect of nature they're noticing...sometimes engaged in elaborate negotiation and rule-making about a pile of sticks or a pretend campfire. By considering ourselves observers of the children at play, there is so much to be learned about their interests, strengths, group dynamics and learning that can be extended...
The climbing tree provides endless opportunities for gross motor play and strength building, and awareness of 'where your body is in space,' your feet in relation to your friends face, or someone's fingers, or whether it's safe to walk under someone who's climbing, or the 'traffic jams' that happen where turn taking becomes important...
Binoculars, a simple craft that helped the kids feel like feel explorers for a morning.
Collecting snowberries (or, 'NOberries,' due to the inedible nature of them)
These guys wanted to feel strong. They were lifting together and moving long, heavy branches, huffing and puffing. I love watching kids test out their muscles and where the limitations of their strength lies...
See-saws appear in various parts of the forest, whenever the right logs line up.
Cooking in the mud kitchen. A once a month special event that everyone loves. Endless creativity, imagination, sharing and collaboration.
Thanks for stopping by to read! Stay tuned for a few more blog posts before the end of the Fall Session!
Friday marked our final day for the year. Another 60 days of exploration, play, learning, laughter, tears, stories, crafts, invented games (our favourite kind!), sliding, climbing, digging, caring for tiny creatures and for each other. Here's to an equally awesome year three, coming up in September!
Our closeknit little group gathered in the sunshine outside of the Tipi for a celebration, to honour the graduates moving onto kindergarten, and to say 'goodbye for the summer' to the kids who'll return. We always recognize the strengths and gifts of each child aloud in the circle, and we also sang a fun song in honour of Melissa--our fearless and wonderful leader who unfortunately broke her ankle last week!! What a special group of kids who have grown so much over the year--in size and in confidence as they climb and trek over logs and run and test their strength. We are sure going to miss our time in the forest with this gang.
Before the parents come we embarked on a mission to find Ollie, our stuffed owl who occasionally goes 'missing' and needs finding in the forest. Armed with compasses and maps, the children followed clues that led them around to their favourite spots. We eventually did find Ollie, lounging in the 'hot tub' and waiting for the party to begin. There was a 'honey factory' that somehow involved honeysuckles (I was elsewhere in the forest), and kids lounging in the sunshine playing an animal track game.
With each Nature Kids day that flies by, I feel more and more reaffirmed in the magic of a play-based approach--especially in a forest where there is no doubt that the children are learning about nature as they play. They constantly amazed us with their powers of observation, from noticing the tiniest bugs on leaves while hiding out or making a fort, to learning over time where the best worm locations were (and where dry and wet soil was), to being able to identify plants like thimbleberry, wild strawberry leaves, honeysuckle, cedar, rose and the little blisters on fir trees were sap hides. A few times Melissa and I caught the children thanking critters for the work they do (shouting thank you a worm's 'ear') and thanking the bees. Right in the middle of our year-end snack and ceremony, a child jumped up excitedly and said 'Look, those bumblebees are pollinating the rose flowers!'
We forgot to sing our goodbye song! Maybe for the best, as I would have shed a few tears for sure. Here it is....Can't wait for September and getting to know a group of new kiddos! Thanks to all the parents who have been so incredibly warm and supportive, and excellent at making sure the children are ready for their time outdoors.
'The day is done,
The day is done,
Thank you for today.
Let's pack our bags,
and give big hugs,
and sing thanks for the day.'
We are continuing to have great amounts of fun in the forest, and have been blessed with a fairly low-mosquito spring so far. We braced everyone (after a fairly intense mosquito season last year!), tucked our shirts in, got bug spray prepared, had the 'let's talk positively about mosquitos and their role in the ecosystem chat,' and so far, so good. We've barely had to do more than swat a few away here and there.
The forest is alive with birds, bugs, worms and small critters, much to the delight of the children. We've seen centipedes, woodpeckers, a vole (not alive but interesting none the less), an actual ant nest with eggs and a queen, and a plentiful amount of flower. Burdock might swallow up the Tipi, but it's ok because the kids are always finding creative uses for the huge leaves (umbrellas, wands, plates etc) so the periodic pruning will help.
In the past few weeks we've also decorated and drilled (with a hand drill) wood cookies to take home, created a great big fort in the woods, and learned a silly new animal song (secret, for the parent Tipi party!)
And, amidst all of the fun, lots of life lessons about sharing and co-existing in the forest (in response to worm-hoarding, 'actually, worms belong to the earth, not to any of us and so we need to take good care and leave them here!), listening to each other for show and tell and sharing time an all of the other good skills children learn in a group setting at this age. Melissa and I have witnessed some sweet moments of gratitude from the kids, overheard thanking bees for the work they do, and (loudly) directing thanks into the (ears?) of worms who also perform important jobs.
Here is our Spring gang heading to the Tipi for morning circle!
This is the 'kitten raft.' A horde of hungry kittens accompanied by one wolf, and a kitten owner, sail away on a grand adventure--periodically jumping off into the 'water' to catch fish (cedar sprigs) and then jumping back on. What a well coordinated play event this was (a hive mind kind of thing).
In the 'burdock forest,' at the 'clay store,' accidentally uncovering an ant colony with queen and eggs. After a quick look the kids decided to cover it back up so they could go about their work undisturbed. This is what Nature School is all about--little lessons based on inquiry and wonder and joy right in the middle of play!
These flowers were positioned with great thought and care, and it was amazing to hear how many new plant names the children learned as they cooked these beautiful creations up in the mud kitchen (rose and thimble berry were new ones, to name a few!) Mud kitchen day (about once a month) is super exciting for the kids, and they get right to 'work' in their stores and restaurants...
Creating chalk signs to name their restaurants and open/closed signs. I love helping children spell words for their signs, and they love seeing their words come to life!
Be still, my heart....the kids sitting in the bubbly 'hot tub' listening to a book full of bird sounds, patiently taking turns to pick a bird and adding their own knowledge along the way, about hummingbirds, blue jays and woodpeckers...
A joyful, giggly, fun episode of .....dirt sliding down the hill where we usually slide in the winter. Enjoy the silliness and inventiveness of kids together in the forest : )
Here's a great article about nature play schema (the repetitive play urges that children experience), many of which we see daily at Nature School and you'll probably noticed with your own preschoolers. Our outdoor leaders are aware of these different schema, and we do our best to allow time and space for them to unfold in the huge variety of ways they do, noting that some children stick with a certain 'play urge' for a long time, and some move on quickly as their learning/development progresses. Some of the 'schema' the article mentions are: positioning, transporting, trajectory, enclosure, enveloping, rotation etc. One that I think we've invented at Nature School is 'raising and lowering buckets into trees,' something which seems to occupy the children for hours.
Sometimes themes emerge at Nature Kids, and we just go with it. Some of the children have been pretend 'directing movies,' gathering friends to fill the roles of princesses or monsters, assembling an audience. Sometimes the show unfolds, and sometimes, 'It's cancelled. Come back next Tuesday!' And we all run down the trail, finding something else to explore or climb or inspect.
Last week we introduced some beautiful, brand new animal masks (thank you Lauriane for your mad sewing skills!) and the children became wild foxes, wolves, hedgehogs, bees, lady bugs and more.
Introducing curtains for performance...
Inspecting a fir tree for the blisters that contain sticky sap....We poked a few to smell the wonderful smell, and tried a mini-experiment (to drop a stick with sap on its end into a bucket of water, with the idea that it'll be propelled around the water. More experiments to come!)
1, 2, 3, ready or not, here I come!
The kids found 'Canada leaves,' as they called them, and did you know the leaves even 'smell like syrup? Everyone smell them!' There was great excitement about the Canada leaves. I really enjoyed watching this unfold, knowing they were on the right track to identifying the tree and even making associations about where maple syrup comes from (of course, the sugar maples aren't here!). This was a foray into a 'new' part of the forest this group hadn't explored yet. So, much opportunity for adventure and getting to know new climbing logs and fallen treasures.
Earlier in the day we'd gone on a hunt to find our 'lost' missing stuffed owl, Ollie. In the morning we usually take Ollie out of our bin for morning circle, and Oh No, he was missing today! Thankfully, he'd left us a note with some clues to help find him (I'd scattered feathers along the trail with the hopes that the kids could follow them). We did eventually find Ollie, even though some of the Big School Kids had picked him up and moved him.
In other unphotographed moments, an umbrella store was created, a former fort was turned into a kitten-raft, and burdock leaves became meals at a restaurant. Children are coming out of their springs shells, so to speak, bursting with energy.
The days have been full of giggles, squeals of laughter and all kinds of imagination.
The older Nature Explorers took a field trip to the Kootenay River last week, to help with the release of the sturgeon. Thanks to the organizers for including our group and sharing all kinds of neat facts about these super interesting fish.
One of my favourite times of year at Canyon School is when the grass hasn't been cut for a few days, and the dandelions are everywhere. 'Weeds,' maybe, but also colourful, beautiful, important for the pollinators and ripe for collecting and playing creatively with. We tried a craft this week called 'Hapazome,' (aka hammering plants into cloth to transfer the dye). The kids created some sweet hanging decorations to take home!
This week jackets were off, sun hats were on, and we revelled in the just-right-warmth. We laid on our backs and looked at the clouds and watched a woodpecker. The kids tried out our new binoculars. They are a pretty cool kind of children's binocular that 'auto focus' so there's no need for fiddling with a focus dial. You can check them out here. I would recommend!
There were games of hide and seek, which, if you've ever played hide and seek with 3 year olds, you know it's guaranteed to be hilarious and very cute.
The bucket-pulley activity continues to dominate play time. Incredible cooperation and now we have to walk down the trail as if through a minefield, around ropes and buckets going up and down. Sometimes the kids just sit calmly and hold their buckets up in the air for a while (an interesting way to relax and contemplate life?)
Just holding buckets in the air!
Kid conference. I love when this happens, and you can just keep an eye out on the children but leave them to their own hilarious conversation, invention, imagination. I think they were roasting marshmallows. It was the end of the day and every cluster of kids was giggling and being very silly.
At snack time there is always a chant of 'story, story, story!' and this week we added in the animal guessing game--a challenge of these youngsters to a) not reveal the name of the animal on their card b) think about the answers to the questions posed (i.e.: is your animal and land or water animal? and c) to actually pose questions for their friends to consider. It's a longish game when 9 kids each choose an animal, much patience required, and when the energy is right everyone loves it!
On Friday we embarked on a treasure hunt of sorts, to notice small, beautiful things that caught our eyes. Some of the children kept the same things for the whole walk, and some changed their items up many times. Everyone felt very proud of their collections!
Just lounging in the trees...
This week our older Nature Explorers embarked on a 'small square study,' picking a very small patch of ground to fence off. They turned into great observers, writing down or drawing everything they could find in their plots. Oregon grape, deer scat, feathers, tiny tree sprouts, bits of fir needles...We plan to keep tabs on our plots to notice what kind of changes take place. The big kids also practiced with flint and steel, worked on their shelters and tried out a 'nature scategories' group game. See you next week!
Hello! There were so many pictures from this week of the children in their colourful coats, that I've put them into a slideshow. We've continued to learn about worms, making a 'worm hotel' in a jar so we can watch the tunnelling and decomposition. The kids are really excited to share all of their knowledge about the role of worms in the soil. One nature-schooler educated me about the difference between earthworms and nightcrawlers.
Lots of singing this week! Thanks to Sally for the excellent Strong Start resource package with songs, jokes and activities related to Ktuxana culture/language. 'Did you ever see a grizzly bear, grizzly bear? Did you ever see a grizzly bear, catching a fish? Did you ever see a squirrel, a squirrel, a squirrel ? Did you ever see a squirrel, gathering nuts?'
We read books about a 'Golden Apple,' birdwatching, and another book took us on a bear hunt--what a fun and silly reading experience that was!
We have been finding bouncy logs in the forest, collecting treasures in baskets and climbing on our 'leaning tree.' The new students are getting used to our way of supporting tree climbing (not boosting/helping up), rather helping the younger ones to find lower down places that they are capable of climbing while bigger kids make their way up higher, independently. One Nature Schooler who has been with us for almost 2 years now finally made it to the top of the leaning tree--and wow, was she ever proud! One of my favourite things about being a nature school leader (there are many!) is watching the kids grow over time, how suddenly their bodies can do different things, climbing higher, jumping further, running faster than they could weeks/months/years ago. Certain things are possible in the forest when a child is 3, and different opportunities arise when a child is 4, 5...Ever changing kids, ever changing forest classroom-playground!
The children collaborated in the mud kitchen on Friday, cooking up a storm...there were water muffins, chocolate everything, fish...There were bigger kids helping younger ones find ways to all work together...
The children were baby chickadees up in a tree, and asked me to be a big eagle swooping in to look for their eggs...
One child became a bear, and needed a fishing rod to catch fish for her dinner. This evolved into a whole lesson-chalk-drawing activity about the salmon cycle for her...
Out on the trails for an 'adventure walk,' another child drew a 'map' and helped make sure we were going the right direction. Together we added N/S/E/W to her map, and she was an excellent navigator because we didn't get lost.
At Nature Explorers this past week, the bigger kids were dissecting owl pellets. They were encouraged to wonder, wonder, wonder--ask questions, be curious and make guesses about what kind of small animals their owl had gobbled up. The kids were excited to find tiny skulls, teeth, ribs, leg bones....
The kids continue to create. whole variety of different shelters, each improving on the one they started a few weeks ago. We read a book that encouraged us to keep wondering some more, and some of the kids shared stories of courage and survival that had happened to their friends and family.
See you next week!
Hello! Our second week of Nature School was comprised of only one 'school' day, and so we made the most of it. The children were feeling more adventuresome and so we ventured further afield, using our 'moose legs' to climb up and over logs and brush. With a slow pace a little patience, 3 year olds can hike too! We started out out morning with a 'mystery box' full of nature surprises (fluffy cattail, crinkly leaves, scratchy birchbark, soft catkins, spiky pinecones). The kids each reached in with their eyes closed and gave us a few words to describe the textures they felt.
The children must have been squirrel or woodpecker-watching, taking a break from play to check out the local creatures.
This Nature Schooler hunted and hunted for worms...we turned over logs, dug holes and just could not find one!
The forest was our playground as the children tried out bouncy boughs. Often when a 'good one' is discovered, a line up will form as everyone wants to try it out. Great opportunity for turn-taking and exercising patience.
Collecting nature treasures in baskets...
Trying out different places to climb! There are many sideways leaning trees in our forest, perfect for getting started in the world of tree climbing...
This week our older Nature Explorers were fortunate to have a visit from Heidi, a Huscroft silviculturist. The students had the opportunity to plant their very own fir trees, and learned a lot about different types of soil, ecosystem requirements and witnessed some interesting soil tests--that involved squishing, squeezing and even tasting the soil. Thanks for visiting, Heidi!
See you next week!
Hello! There has been great anticipation about the spring session of Nature School, with 11 keen children, new families and an excited team of mentors who have been getting ready! Some of the children know about Nature School from their older siblings, or friends, and for some it is their first regular program away from home. Amazingly, we only had a few tears on the first day and the kids have been keen to carry their own packs, dig out their lunches, and explore the forest.
We started out our week with a group trip to see the 'forest potty,' and quickly moved onto play, exploring, drawing pictures, and having exciting conversations about all manner of things: What are these fuzzy caterpillar-like things on the ground? (aspen catkins!) Let's collect some for our buckets! Why are these snail shells broken, and is anything alive inside? What happens to snails when their shells break? What does camouflage mean and what kind of animals use camouflage?
There was fun with magnifying glasses, hiking the trails, experiments with jumping off of logs and climbing low trees, and logs were turned over to find the first worms and spiders. We enjoyed two books about spring and seeds, learning about how animals often poop out seeds, which helps spread them around (to great giggles!)
On Friday, Melissa and I introduced a nest building activity, by talking as a group about what kind of things birds like to use for their nests (and listening to a particularly excited bird outside the Tipi, at the same time). We started out by mixing up some mud, and using grass, sticks and mud to form our nests. After the kids got the hang of it, they were off to the races, forming their eggs out of clay. A few children moved their nests to the ground, and were mother birds for the rest of the day protecting their precious eggs.
Mother birds protecting their eggs.
Story time! Also a time of learning to be independent and responsible, with opening lunch kits, eating snack and tea and packing away again at the end. Definitely a learning process!
Routine is an important part of the Nature School. When it's time to play, it's child-led, and our routine helps the group to bond and learn social skills together (sitting in a circle, taking turns to share about the day, respecting the candle, singing together).
Getting our bush legs comfortable with climbing over logs, on the much loved 'leaning tree.'
Expressing curiosity, asking questions and wondering about those funny fuzzy worm-like aspen catkins all over the ground!
Children LOVE drawing in the forest!
Waiting to head home, and a little eye spy! It's a really special time, introducing these very young nature-schoolers to the forest, to their community of friends and mentors and knowing that over the next few months their legs will sprout and they will grow and develop into confident explorers, inquirers and imaginative beings. Thank you to all of the families who have been so supportive and eager to pack their kids up for mornings of play in the forest!
Catching up from the past few weeks!
We have been counting everything. How many kids? Boys? Girls? Seat stumps? How many Tipis? Suns? Adults? Children? What's our magic number today?
These Nature Schoolers are examining our first bug of the season--lady bug larvae! We see these on the same log every spring, mainly in this one part of the forest. Quick, someone run and grab the magnifying glasses!
Ropes! Sure sign of spring. We put them away for the winter because the handwork involves taking off mitts, leading to cold fingers. Today there were pulley systems rigged up, a swing, a mini zipline and all kinds of creative rope inventions.
Our gang thrived over the winter, and sure deserve the sunny days that are coming!
Each time the children discover a 'new' tree they'd like to climb, it's like entering a whole different world...Many of the trees we 'climb' are actually sideways, branches that have bent or grown outwards instead of upwards. The thrill is big and the risk is minimal. Where to put my feet? Which branches to hold? Oops, my foot got stuck there, I'm tree tangled! Will this be strong enough to hold me? Look, I can jump off here, I can hang on and swing down to the ground. As leaders we are cautious when children are exploring a new tree or jumble of branches. We often break off branches that look weak, but that a child might not notice are week. We elicit many conversations with the kids, ensuring they test branches out before placing their full weight on them. The ongoing dialogue pays off.
There have been many stories, featuring all manner of kids having adventures, silly animals, discoveries, dinosaurs, birds, frogs...The cries for 'more stories!' ring out in the Tipi each time we meet. We enjoy searching for well-written nature-themed stories that can spark questions, elicit awe and wonder, that children can relate to, and that just plain old encourage adventure and exploration.
Forest tea! This was an exciting change from our usual routine (we bring tea in a thermos each day). Today we went on a group walk to collect edible bits (douglas and grand fir and rosehips) for our very own tea, and sampled needles along the way. The kids were ecstatic to be given permission to taste the needles, and shared along the way (funny faces, yum, yuck, that's lemony etc). We steeped the tea together with some honey over the fire while we were reading books. It was touching to see how proud the kids were of the tea, how enthused and how they drank each and every drop up!
For our final day of the Winter Session we welcomed the parents to the Tipi, which is always a highlight for the kids--they love to show their parents and grandparents around the forest, share muffins and welcome in the new Nature Schoolers. See you in April, wolf pack!
I'll leave you with an interesting article from 1000 Hours Outside, about how puddle play helps to develop a child's sense of balance. By experimenting with the amount of force they need to create a splash (or not), children are developing an an important sense (proprioception) that can help them become aware of where their body is in space (leading to the ability to regulate the amount of force needed for physical games, like tag, later in life!)
February has been a busy month, with grant writing and administrative tasks taking over some of our time for blog writing. So now we can catch up about the past few weeks.
This cold snap has barely phased the young Nature Schoolers, who've pulled up their neck warmers and doubled up on socks. It has meant that we generally stay closer to the Tipi. Here, some of the kids have managed to wedge this interesting piece of tree root inside a stump (I have no idea how they did it--heavy!). It became a dinosaur (which I thought was creative because well, I could imagine it). The kids love these gnarly piece of root that can be manouevered/manhandled around for play purposes.
We had an excellent hot dog roast the CLES's Gr. 7 class, who were great helpers for the young ones around the fire. Everyone was patient while I brought out a flint and steel and a bundle of tinder, and we managed to light the fire from a spark. It was fun spending some time with the Gr.7's after wieners practicing with them. Mr. Mitchell flew his drone camera overhead, which really excited the preschoolers!
This Nature Schooler had a great plant question, which Melissa was happy to discuss. He asked, 'Why and how do trees grow hard bark?' With Melissa's plant/botany background, they had a great discussion about how trees grow and how tree rings can show growth changes. I love spontaneous nature questions that stem directly from the children's interests and curiosities.
Right afterwards, we were sliding near a fence, and noticed animal hair scattered around the snow. It appeared that a deer had jumped the fence, had hair snagged and left a little bundle for us to feel and explore. Nature surprise!
Melissa brought a great book last week, all about feathers--how they can have different purposes on different birds, which was really interesting for the kids (and me!) I truly love reading times with the kids, hearing all of their questions, thoughts, ideas and connections.
These Nature Schoolers are having fun in the 'snow kitchen,' which we bring out once a month for creative play. Today there were cherry muffins, snow soup, pancakes...Our icy sliding hill even became an 'oven,' where sliding the pots down meant that the food was cooked!
Friends helping friends along the trail (ahem...not that they really needed help. The middle child was pretending to be hurt, heading to a 'hospital.')
A close up snow mystery...My own son is a fan of ice crystals, and is always noticing spots amongst the trees where interesting crystals have formed. I love laying on my belly on the snow, kid level, wondering and being amazed along with them!
Just hanging around. I'm noticing a trend that several of the kids enjoy lounging in trees, not doing anything in particular except hanging out and enjoying the downtime.
During our sit spot time today, I encouraged the kids to be extra quiet to invite birds to come around, hoping that our silence would ease their worries about us being a threat. Melissa had shared earlier about the chickadees beginning their mating calls (Phee-bee..), which we tried out. And wonder of wonders, with just a few short minutes of silence we noticed a lot of bird activity--a woodpecker knocking, crows crowing, a small brown bird hopping right near us, and other tweet and trills nearby. I sometimes think the forest critters can tell a teachable moment and play along : )
The older Nature Explorers have been busy as well, exploring the snowy Canyon forest. We were grateful to Yaqan Nukiy school for lending us snowshoes this past week, which helped us venture further from our camp, and just get a sense of this winter activity which was new for many.
We had a real 'school' moment last week when we hauled in a chalkboard on our sled, creating the beginnings of a map of our forest. The kids identified different features, like their woodpecker tree, the log piles, shelter and campfire area.
We also collected cedar bark for tinder, learned how to make char cloth in the fire and did plenty of exploring and playing. The heavier snow these past few weeks has been a challenge at times, tiring out young legs quicker than normal. We see spring on the horizon!
This is a cannon. Battery powered. The kids took a piece of newspaper from our fire box and it became map. Love the creativity!