The last few Nature School days have been full of precious memories, joyful laughter, sliding and discovery. I've been reminded of the work of early child educator Diane Kashin, who talks about a 'knowing in your bones:' "To know something in your bones is an idiom that refers to feeling something intuitively. For early childhood educators to support outdoor play they need to feel the power of nature for themselves...there is one childhood and one chance. When we know it in our bones we value outdoor and nature play, we see the benefits and will provide children with the necessary experiences."
I've been feeling a 'knowing in my bones' about the astounding effect of play in nature, and have just been relishing in it....
-sitting at the bottom of the 'otter sliding' hill and watching the play that emerges, sometimes raucous and giggly with piles and tumbling, sometimes orderly with lines and turn-taking.
-watching a child discover a special 'branchy' spot in a tree where he loves sit quietly and observe around him....
-hiding behind a stump and waiting for wolf cubs to come find me, overhearing their conversation as they followed my tracks through the snow.
-discovering woodpecker feathers near the school, on the ground, and engaging in a 'mystery-filled' conversation about what might have happened to the bird...
-discovering a hollow cedar stump in the bushes, and rolling it out to the trail for play. A treasure-holder, a hole for filling, a magical home for creatures...
-watching the spark in a 3 year olds eyes as she watched some older boys tree climbing, and her excitement to one-day climb in trees too...
-listening to emergent conversations between Melissa and some of the wolf cubs about animal tracks they discovered
-observing the stillness, seriousness and calm focus as the children drew pictures in silence during a sit spot time...
-running down the trail after a group of children, and shaking trees together to create 'snowstorms' on our heads. Pull your hood up tight, get ready for the snow to come!
-warming up together by the fire, sharing tea, stories, jokes and laughs.
We have been reading 'Over in the Forest--Come Take a Peek,' and 'The Animal's Winter Sleep,' both of which provided us with plenty to learn to about forest creatures and lots of counting opportunities.
The final opportunity of the day for teamwork and collaboration...it almost always emerges, and here the wolf pack is towing our gear back to the school. A lil' bit of uphill work, and little bit of downhill silliness when the sled overtakes their little legs!
Last week at Nature School we had kids who knew what they wanted to do, and got right down to business. The giant snowball has been a continual work in progress by a few of the wolf cubs, carving out holes, sliding in and out, attaching sticks and many more variations.
On Wednesday, we had a date with Mr. Mitchell's Gr.7 class, who joined us in the forest. It's always an interesting time when the big kids join the littles, and by the end the Nature School kids are talking about their 'special buddies.' The Gr. 7's spent some time dreaming up original stories to tell aloud to their buddies, and while I didn't catch entire stories, I heard whisps about forest animals, aliens, pirate ships and trips to the moon. There's something about storytelling in the forest that never gets old! After a silly song, the Gr.7's were finding ways to play with the wolf cubs--hide and seek, running and sliding on the trail--more than one Gr.7 expressed amazement at how some of the younger kids can climb!
It was a special moment that stopped a group of our kids in their tracks, when a squirrel appeared not 10 feet away, frozen to it's tree, and staring right at us. The kids stopped what they were doing and immediately wanted to sneak quietly and closely towards the squirrel. We talked afterwards about some of the reasons a squirrel might sit so still, not even twitching (maybe fear, protecting a food stash...)
Some of the newer wolf cubs learned about the common berries we see in our forest--rosehip, mountain ash and snowberries, and how some are ok to nibble and others definitely not! They got to see my exaggerated 'yucky' face while I sampled a mountain ash berry--edible by not enjoyable by any stretch!
On Friday, we tried an experiment to exercise our peripheral vision, imagining that we could see the way an animal could--with great awareness as to what is happening on the sides of our vision. The kids were invited to choose a tree to 'glue' their eyes to, while seeing how far they could see around them. Sit Spot is a great time to practice these kind of observation skills!
Last week our older group, the Nature Explorers, had the chance to see our new group 'Tipi Tent,' which we learned takes a few people to set up and requires some different pegs for the snow! We can't wait to cozy up inside with some books on a rainy day.
Hello and thanks for reading the first blog our of winter session! Both our programs-- Nature Explorers for K-4, and Nature School for 3-5's--have kicked off, thankfully with a fresh snowfall to start things off!
At Nature School this week, the children would have been content to stay on Canyon School's front field and roll giant snowballs the whole morning. Instead, we gobbled our snack and headed to the forest to explore the fresh snow there. The 200 metre walk across the field is sometimes a long haul for the new 3 year olds. They put in so much effort, wearing those special magic packs that help build strong muscles. We hold hands and sing and look at animal tracks along the way, and I know that by spring those same 3 year olds will be galloping and running to the gate with their longer legs newfound confidence!
The wolf cubs hauled our sleds to the Tipi, and after morning circle we were busy, busy, busy--building castles, digging tunnels, sliding, making snow popsicles, following Gruffalo tracks (and some real animal tracks too!). We re-discovered our sit spots, enjoying the quiet of the forest, and 'stretched' our owl ears to hear all of the sounds around us.
On Friday, we looked as a group at some pictures of traditional Ktuxana tipis, to appreciate how people from Creston once lived in them as shelters. The children were quite interested to see a picture of a whole village of tipis. Then, a short and sweet story/legend about 'how owl got his big eye,' even practicing making big silly owl eyes ourselves, and making owl hoots. A few kids helped create big star out of sticks, which we tied up with yarn, decorated with sprigs of cedar and hung on the fence. So, so happy to be back in the forest with the kids connecting with nature and each other.
At Nature Explorers this week, with our K-4's, we visited our much-talked about and anticipated winter site, an area of Community Forest land in Canyon. It was a winter wonderland of fresh snow, and kids were sliding and romping before we even started our hike to basecamp. What should we call this place, we wondered? The children are thinking of names for this place that will come to be special to us....Everyone in this group has a unique animal name (squirrel, elk, owl, raccoon....) that we call each other by, and the children really come to identify with their names, considering which traits of the animals are similar to their own personalities, and learning about them over the session. Some days you might find 'Hawk' building herself a nest, or 'Fox' sneaking up on someone. We challenged the kids this week to learn--'What is life like for your animal in the winter?' The kids will research at home and informally share with the group about their findings...
We played a game that involved being very quiet and sneaking up on a blindfolded 'fire tender' guarding a pile of sticks, and spent some time preparing our site: tromping down snow for a fire area, laying and lighting the fire, hauling logs for sitting on...The kids were so very eager to help!!
And then, play in the forest....running, climbing on upturned tree roots, making up games, creating a melty snowman...
We enjoyed hearing Byrd Baylor's book, 'The Other Way to Listen,' at snack time, having some wonderful conversation about special spots where you can sit and be still, tuning into all of the small and wonderful lessons nature can teach you..