"Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's Party!' " (Robin Williams)
Laughter and silliness was in the air this week, as we talked about our impending break and geared up for parents to come down to the Tipi . Signs of spring? The children noticed melting snow, warming temperatures, more bird traffic. The laughter and silliness must be a sign of Spring, as well!
We explored new areas of the forest, found new 'climbing apparatuses' and continued to enjoy sprawling out in the snow with clipboards, to draw.
We were fortunate to have a volunteer-visit with Melissa Flint, this week, a good friend who has a background in conservation biology and permaculture studies--as well as a huge love of the outdoors and playing with kids. We hope to see Melissa around lots more at Nature School in the coming years!
During this snow-sprawling-drawing time, I pulled out a book showing pictures of birds hatching in their nests. As the kids were pretty busy drawing, I absent-mindedly flipped through, wondering if it would catch anyone's interest. Pippa looked up for a split second to ask what the book was about, and immediately went back to her paper...which became an opportunity for her to dictate a story to me, all of her own volition, about birds hatching and living in their nests...I thought this was such a beautiful episode of child-led learning!
Thanks to all of the parents who came down to the Tipi to share tea and muffins. We had a full 'house,' thats for sure! It's very special for us, on the Nature School team, to witness the children feeling at home in the forest and showing their parents around the trails. See you in April, wolf cubs!
As requested, here is Zav's yummy muffin recipe:
Orange Berry Muffins:
1 Cup quick rolled oats
1 Cup orange juice (I fresh squeeze the oranges I use for zest)
1 tsp grated orange peel
1 Cup Oil (I use coconut)
3 eggs (beaten)
3 Cups Flour
1 Cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3-4 Cups berries (fresh or frozen).
Cranberries, blueberries, cherries and blackberries are all favourites!
Mix oats, juice and zest (grated peel); blend in oil & eggs and set aside. In a separate bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Then add oat mixture & mix lightly by hand. Fold in berries, and spoon lumpy batter into greased muffin tins, filling each cup 2/3 full.
Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes. Makes 24 muffins
What a lovely wintry week at Nature School (perhaps the last of the season?!). Tuesday was show and tell day, and it was hard to miss the large goat (!!) standing in the gazebo as people arrived. Zeus was a pretty fun and interesting show and tell, but kids also really enjoyed seeing the various birds on foreign money, along with some treasured books and toys.
But the fun didn’t end there! Once we had sung our morning welcome song, Kristina pulled out a silly book about bird sounds ('Froodle') which I thoroughly enjoyed reading to everyone. My favourite part was hearing all the bird sounds the kids made up!
Outside the weather was warm, and mitts were abandoned at the tipi or along the trails. Ropes were gathered, knots tied by little fingers, and a group of 4-5 children worked together diligently for over an hour to create a complicated “trap”. This project also included an in depth discussion (totally kid initiated) about humane ways to trap animals so that they don’t suffer. Of course there were also kids at the sliding hill and throughout the forest. I heard that the fire station was very busy (more about that below!)
Thursday had a forecast for rain, but instead it was snowing! We talked about the changing weather as spring draws near, and were successful in imitating a rainstorm with our fingers and feet making all the sounds from raindrops to thunder. Something special! Kim brought her collection of bird skulls, and we each got our own turn to examine the skeletal structure of owls, loons, ducks and more.
We noticed that the kids seemed to be brimming with energy, and so we were extra glad to have four adults there helping, as it allowed for the children to break off into smaller groups and really spread out in the forest. We had a busy brigade of baby otters up at the “sliding hill”, working out a fair system for who gets to slide next and just what safe sliding entails. Not far below in a magical grove of trees where deer have been sleeping, a group of Tree Pirates were climbing a tree which had fallen partially over, into the V of another nearby tree. “Which foot next, and where are you thinking is a good place for it? Find a good solid branch to grab hold and steady yourself, or pull yourself up further…”. An adult stayed within arms reach at all times, but these industrious lads did not need any help climbing up or down, and very much enjoyed ruling their Pirate kingdom from up in their branched perch.
Further along the forest path was the “fire station”, (a lovely clearing beneath a large coniferous tree sheltered from the snow and elements), where a giggling group of fire gals could be found using curved branches for hoses, spraying out fires throughout the forest — rushing past others with sirens blaring and determination in their eyes.
If you left the main path to head to the south west corner of our forest, you would pass by a “cabin” where wood was being brought for a huge (imaginary) fire. Continue even further, and eventually you would come to a place of many sticks where a trap and a stick lean-to shelter were both being constructed. It is fun to see the kids becoming more bold in following their curiosity, including exploring new zones in the forest. We saw a lot of great cooperation and imaginative group play on this day. We loved witnessing it! Keep it up Nature School kids.
Who can resist this smiling gang? In a heartbeat they bounce between being firefighters, leaf monsters or chefs extraordinaire. Orange soup, snowman soup, anyone? This week we tried out some shared storytelling in the Tipi, passing a story from person to person and seeing where our imaginations could take us. This is a great activity for developing listening and respect and for children to express their unique ideas (even when it involved unicorns and wild tangents!).
Running between the fire and the fire station, returning for supper and restocking on water to put out the fires.
Rearranging forest furniture to build the fire station!
This week we embarked on a mini-treasure hunt in the forest...Wow, were the kids excited! They followed clues like, 'find the spot where two trails meet,' 'find the leaning climbing tree,' and 'the bench on the hill,' and 'the secret hideout meeting spot.' The children are starting to identify 'places' in their forest and to really feel at home!
Roasting snowball-marshmallows over fires! 8 children were playing here at the secret-hideout meeting place, in such wonderful collaboration.
I discovered this week that one of my favourite parts about Nature School is playing hide and seek. Not for the usual reasons though...inevitably, when a child says, 'Teacher, come hide behind this log with me,' we find ourselves crouching down and close-up to bright green moss, lichen, bug-beetle patterns on a log, deer poop or some other forest wonder. In the brief time it takes to hide and be found, there is beautiful opportunity to be still, to notice nature (very) close up, and to have a whispered conversation about our discoveries. This is emergent learning! It's fun, it's unexpected, it's real and arises in the moment from curiosity and questions.
One of several terrible monsters roaming the forest on Thursday...
As the tree monster game evolved, several children started to ask Zav if she could hold their sticks, to 'keep them safe.' Instead of agreeing to hold a whole bunch of big branches, Zav announced she would plant a sticks upright in the snow. Well, how does a garden grow? In the snow, of course! The branches became cherry, apple, and pear trees, with everyone suddenly wanting to plant one. Pears appeared, miracle of miracles, and were shared around!
Thank you to our special volunteer-guest Vicky, for helping out on Friday! Most of the children know Vicky from the Family Place, and were so excited to show her around the forest and introduce her to Nature School.
I'm glad Conch was there to capture this great video of some forest playground-equipment in use.
As my son and I were setting up for Nature School the other day, alone at the Tipi, we arrived to find a woodpecker working away. My son urged me to stop moving the sled around, to be quiet so we could watch and not scare it away. I confess I wasn't feeling really patient because our time is limited, before the other kids arrive, but I was touched that my son insisted on the quiet moment to watch the bird, and was proud and awed that he is developing this care and atunement with nature. If your child attends Nature School, he/she is becoming accustomed to sitting quietly and observing, noticing, feeling, relaxing. You can ask them about their sit spot time, and find opportunities for noticing nature together as you're out and about...I'll leave you with a few inspiring words from Rachel Carson:
If you are a parent who feels he has little nature lore at his disposal there is still much you can do for your child. With him, wherever you are and whatever your resources, you can still look up at the sky--its dawn and twilight beauties, its moving clouds, its stars by night. You can listen to the wind,whether it blows with majestic voice through a forest or sings a many-voiced chorus around the eaves of your house or the corners of your apartment building, and in the listening, you gain a magical release for your thoughts. You can still feel the rain on your face and think of its long journey...from sea to earth to air...And with your child, you can ponder the mystery of a growing seed, even if it be only one planted in a pot of earth in the kitchen window (A Sense of Wonder, page 57).