The snow changes every time we meet up for Nature school these days— sometimes it has a hard crust we can walk on, other times it is soft or slushy. It makes for an adventurous track from the Gazebo to base camp.
Once we all make it to the tipi, we sit in our circle of stump stools and light the fire. The children have been so attentive and respectful of our fire, and have enjoyed holding and passing an object (eagle feather or large shell) as we sing each child’s name in our welcome song. By this time bellies are growling and snacks come out!
Then the plays begins… snow gardening for lichen in the bushes, snow queens casting magic spells with ice crusted twigs, or playing with the shadows on the Tipi.
There are many animal tracks to be found in the snow throughout our forest, and the kids are eager to spot and identify them. Most of the children can identify deer tracks, and there are always a few imaginative guesses about dragons or lions too!
As part of our closing circle time, we have had each new child pick their own “sit spot” and marked each place with their name on a piece of flagging tape, all located within sight of the tipi. Everyone uses their eagle eyes, owl ears, and coyote noses to silently and independently observe their natural environment from their spot for a few minutes; then the little brass bell is rung and we gather together in a seated circle around a single burning candle to share our observations. On Tuesday this was followed up by some fun songs about animals and spiders before packing up and heading out to meet parents at the snow pile mountain in the parking lot.
I checked the weather forecast when I woke up on Thursday, and couldn’t believe the amount of rain they were calling for. I had to check, is this mid January?! Although we had packed extra gear and were ready for it, in the end it didn’t rain much — instead the sun came out! Hooray! There was some real pent up energy needing to get out in a few of the kids, resulting in some loud and physical playing. Around the tipi snow forts were being constructed from blocks of snow cut out with our orange plastic trowels, and new fangled inventions were being created using various sized sticks propped between fallen trees in the snow.
A rope line was constructed back at base camp to help kids make their way up the icy incline as they return to the tipi; some children were making a chain of hands to pull each other up, while others were clearly wanting to make the challenging trek using the rope on their own. We changed a lot of soggy mitts and wet socks, but feel that the kids are improving in their ability to communicate if they are too hot/cold/wet and ask for help. Thanks for sending your kids so well prepared for mornings of outdoor adventure!
Over at the slip and slide hill, what cooperation! Two boys formed a bucket brigade, filling and packing down snow, even carrying the bucket together; the others, sliding down and checking in to make sure Kristina was blocking the fence holes; waiting their turn...calling out points of safety--'maybe we shouldn't slide down with shovels.' Kids were purposefully choosing the hardest, slipperiest paths for a personal challenge.
We changed a lot of soggy mitts and wet socks, but feel that the kids are improving in their ability to communicate if they are too hot/cold/wet and ask for help. Thanks for sending your kids so well prepared for mornings of outdoor adventure!
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
A rare moment this week where the sun poked through the trees, and the children started to branch out from the tipi to explore. On Tuesday, our ever patient Lois stood by and supported the children as they clambered over our 'puzzle logs' a jumble that while it tests their agility now, will be no problem in a few months!
'There's a spider is on the wall, on the wall...' One of favourite things about Nature School is hearing spontaneous song erupt, and these kids are sure enthusiastic about songs!
A lesson in wild edibles--definitely do not eat the white ones. The red rosehips, however, have yummy and nutritious parts! As you can see from the skeptical faces, there were no takers this time around. The best time to try them is late fall when they're soft and juicy, so we'll try again next year!
Our pace slowed down a bit this week, as we put away the sleds--our hill was getting very fast! Instead, the kids enjoyed looking at snow with magnifying glasses, on the hunt for beautiful crystals. In the drizzly moments, we spent some time drawing, talking and relaxing in the tipi.
Four-footed critters is the forest...we are fortunate to have a game-camera near the tipi, and every so often can look through the pictures to see if it captured any visitors. We've seen tracks of raccoon, birds and deer, so far!
See you next week, wolf cubs!
It's happening! Nature School is on, with familiar faces and some new ones. We're happy to welcome returning families and new families, as well as a few new volunteers. We had a long break, and everyone seems excited to explore the wintery forest. The young tykes have been coming well-prepared by their keen moms and dads for the (ever changing!) weather conditions. In one week we've already changed about a million mitts, a few socks, cinched up hats and neckwarmers and wiggled thumbs back into the right spots many times. All this finagling doesn't seem to bother the kids much--as soon as mitt is back in place, they can get back to playing again!
Even cloudy days serve up a beautiful view from the front of Canyon-Lister Elementary School. When everyone has arrived, we start the 200 metre trek down to our basecamp in the forest. But first, slipping, sliding, snowballs and a silly acorn song in the gazebo. First imperative--help the kids stay active and moving!
At the moment, our trek across the field is probably the most physical part of the Nature School day--navigating snow in so many forms, different each day, and carrying a backpack at the same time. We've had heavy, cement-like wet snow, soft snow and hard/icy snow to learn about. We have a snow-plowed mountain to scale in the parking lot, and a 200 metre field to cross. I can see the wheel turning as kids try out different paths, walking in frozen footprints or creating their own path...children who were accustomed to helping us pull the wagons in the fall have valiantly tried to help pull the sleds, which has proved much more difficult!
It has been wonderful to introduce new children to the tipi, to share songs, laughter, tea and stories about our day. These children love our morning 'name song' so much, and passing an Eagle's feather, that they ask for it at the end of the day as well! To introduce our tradition of 'sit spot' time (where the children will be invited to find their own special spot near the tipi, for a few moments of quiet observation), we came together as a group to sit silently, still our bodies, and use all our senses to notice the natural world around us.
With snow on the ground, our free play time has been slower paced. Changing seasons, changing gears. We witnessed collaborative castle-building, while the other children did some sliding. Around this time we were visited by a chatty squirrel and a big, healthy Stellar Jay.
I (Kristina ) had the lovely opportunity to follow some deer tracks with these enthusiastic boys. Well,we started out following lion/bunny tracks. With the tracks so nice and clear in the crusty snow, we noticed the stride, how the prints were pretty far apart, and I suggested maybe a forest animal with nice long legs? Deer! We were off to the races following print after print, until an exposed tree root grabbed their attention. As I was following behind the boys, I just enjoyed listening to their conversation, as one wondered why the 'stick' wouldn't come out. They finally realized it was an attached root, with one boy excitedly shouting, 'It's attached to the whole Earth!'