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!