'A buzzing we will go,
A buzzing we will go,
Search for flowers high and low,
a buzzing we will go...'
This week we enjoyed watching a few of the kids discover a birch log seesaw. Silliness, singing, playfulness and great cooperation followed. It’s exciting seeing the children’s discoveries of these ‘loose parts’ play things, ever changing from day to day...
On Tuesday we dug up some clay to make our very own decorations, small discs with leaves and bits of fir/cedar/leaves embedded. It was a fun learning process for everyone, adults included, to find the very best clay we could, and then patiently add water to get the right consistency, flatten the balls, add something beautiful, then wait to dry and handle them carefully so they wouldn’t break (some did, but that was ok). Sometimes I hold my breath when something a child makes gets broken or ruined (accidentally or purposefully), and was happy about the resilience displayed during the clay making...some who participated had to try and try again to get it all right.
A new factor and learning for the adults, during our first spring at Nature School: overheating from the warmth! We have been so attentive to cold and getting warm, that I (Kristina), at least, seem to have forgotten how uncomfortable I get when I get too warm, trapped in rubbery/rain proof clothing. A good reminder this week to remind the kids to shed layers, once the sun comes out.
This week we took our first field trip, meeting at the Kootenay River for the sturgeon release. We arrived early to play in the sand and climb on upturned tree roots by the bank. Boy, the kids got dirty and sure played hard, almost 3 hours for some of them by the time they left! I chuckled to myself helping a boy at the end, taking off his wet socks and seeing super muddy feet. I admit I put clean socks on overtop of those dirty feet, and wondered if someone at home would chuckle in the same way (or not!)
The kids had their chance to hold the baby fish, checking out their dinosaur-looking features. We learned a few things about them, like just how ancient a species they are, how big the fish can get, and how old! Also how their eggs have a hard time surviving, which is why all these fish are released in the first place. We said well wishes for the fish, hoping they’d survive in the river and have a nice long life...
This week I came across a great article, while doing some research into how nature learning during the preschool ages can help prepare kids for kindergarten. This article jumped out at me because it focuses on how life skills and self-efficacy are fostered in an outdoor setting.
How Learning to Put on Rain Boots Leads to Academic Success
Self-efficicacy, as defined by Wikipedia "is one's belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task.” This is something I LOVE about Nature School, where every child can find their own strengths, interests and ‘ways of being’ in the forest. This is evident to me every day, where one child might spend an hour collecting berries and singing to herself, another might draw a treasure map, and another might climb around in a tree. We try to honour each child’s choice for how they choose to spend their time, which is often fluid and changing depending on mood, season, interests... If one child is happily filling a bucket with leaves, I might be close by helping someone who is trying SO hard to get their leg up and over a log. I never get tired of seeing the pride on their faces once a small task is accomplished. And sometimes it’s not so evident, or immediate, in that a child might work at something for weeks, or try something, not succeed, and walk away to do something else. That’s ok too. Learning always spirals around and isn't always a 'light bulb' aha moment.
The article also talks a lot about life skills, which is another element of Nature School that I LOVE. I love that we have the time/space to help kids help themselves, whether pulling on a mitt, emptying dirt out of a boot, or working to put on a backpack. I would like to be even more patient in this regard, recognizing that it’s part of our ‘curriculum.’ Again, the children show such pride when they can help with a task related to their bodies, or even do it mostly themselves, with just a bit of encouragement (‘can you try wiggling the boot a bit,’ or ‘let’s see if we can open this lunch kit together; I’ll get this bit started, and you lift here...’
' ...we have seen that, as children gain confidence in caring for themselves, they also develop an increasing level of comfort and confidence in being in nature.'
Thanks for reading a bit more a rambling blog entry this week!
Kristina, Conch and I were feeling especially full of renewed energy and enthusiasm about nature school this week, after having just spent two engaging days at a “risky play” workshop by Forest School Canada. And it was as if the kids knew, because they were all about climbing adventures!
The kids spent a lot of time in trees this week, and explored new ways to play in and around them that were both inventive and hilarious. A log with a kid at the helm can be a rocket ship zooming into space, a bucking bronco, a pirate boat on the high sea, a secret lookout… Or, a low leaning branch can be just a really fun bouncy sproingy thingy! All of this play in trees and bushes naturally led to conversations about safety: how to negotiate a “traffic jam” when some kids are going up and other coming down, or starting to talk more about being aware when climbing/scrambling around trees, watching who's under you and around you. Also how high can you safely jump down? Or just how do you come down… sometimes more challenging than going up!
The south west corner of the forest has remained relatively unexplored throughout nature school, until now that is! The kids were all drawn there in recent days, requiring some serious bushwhacking through dense brush and fallen logs. It was awesome to see how patient and helpful the kids were with each other, offering advice on an easier path or finding a walking stick for a friend. The smallest of our wolf cubs showed amazing ingenuity and determination as they persevered in getting their little legs up and over fallen logs. We as leaders tried to encourage their independence rather than dashing in to help, “Maybe try over here, where the log is closer to the ground”, “You can do it! What if you wriggle your belly up there first?" The little explorers efforts were rewarded by the discovery of two new leaning trees to climb and play on, and a wonderful stash of sticks for shelter building!
On Tuesday I (Zavallennahh) spent a solid hour with a group of enthralled kids digging on a little hill near the tipi, unearthing worms, bugs, snails, sprouting seeds, roots… what an exciting time! Kristina had a similar experience on Thursday (while I was spotting tree climbing). In our conversations, we are starting to use the word 'habitat' to talk about the kind of home a worm/snail/bug needs to live in (as opposed to staying in a bucket). The kids seem to have found a new level of cooperation as they work and play together in a small space, sharing discoveries and collaborating with their ideas.
Sometimes the kids are so goofy, and they are realizing that we adults like to have fun too! Kristina retold a memory from this week, playing a 'falling game,' where one real trip led to a game of pretending to fall, and helping each other up over and over again. At another moment, there were kids building traps all over base camp and I got to be the tiger caught in the tiger trap!
We as leaders are loving nature school so much these days! Sunshine really helps, I think spring has arrived at last. Thanks to the kids for letting us play too ;-)
We don't take many group photos, but snapped this one up to send off with one of our excellent volunteers who is taking a break for a while. Mary Jean has been with us since the very beginning, and we have been so, so fortunate to have her on board!! I'm starting to appreciate these very 'alive' group and dynamic photos, where no one really sits still for a moment.
Yesterday and today 40 adults (teachers and educators of all varieties) gathered outside the tipi (we sure don't fit inside!) to talk about kids and play. We are grateful to have Chris Filler as an instructor, all the way from Saanich, on behalf of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and Forest School Canada. We are talking about, how can we let kids be kids? Quite often 'risky play' has benefits, as well, like when a child scrambles a little way into a tree, feels stuck, but manages to find her way down with just a bit of guidance. Oh, the opportunity! For building resilience, for problem solving, for feeling scared and overcoming...The chance to feel proud, to build muscle memory...We are learning how to support and encourage healthy kinds of risk taking, while mitigating hazards and involving the kids in discussions along the way. More on this in the weeks to come as we reflect on our learning.
Creating a send-off card for Mary Jean...
This was a moment captured during a complex game of 'we'll hide and sit here quietly while Markus sets a 'trap,' and then we'll run through it like banshees and go hide again.' I loved observing the patience--from the two kids sitting quietly (for around 5 minutes, sometimes), watching and waiting for the trap-setting to finish. The trap-setter worked diligently on his own, building a pile of sticks to perfection....when he was ready, he'd call out and the 'hiders' would emerge from their lair...
Kid conference. Not sure exactly what's going on here besides a lot of giggling!
Metal detecting for gold (pirate treasure, specifically). These two came and went from this activity for quite a while, special for me to watch because I hadn't really seen them play together in such an involved way, before. There were beeps from the 'metal detector' and lots of digging and excited noises when treasure was discovered.
This could just be a bump on a log. For real though, I was led on a hike by Pippa, who wanted to show me how this bug was guarding it's house. Nearby she pretended a couple of snowberries were it's eggs, and described to me a very elaborate story about what was happening....all influenced by a book we're read that morning about ants and their eggs.
Hunting for bugs. We did A LOT of this this week, the wet forest totally ALIVE with worms, snails, centipedes and ants. We found ant eggs, special because of the book we read on Thursday morning.
Someone actually screamed in elation beside me, 'I FOUND A WORM!!!' leaving my ears ringing for a while. There was a worm named Joey who got lost (and, we think, adopted by another kid). The enthusiasm was contagious this week. I witnessed one child holding a dangling worm, trying to show it excitedly to another child while that child held up his 'pirate map' on a piece of bark, and tried to show it to the other kid at the same time. I had three kids all trying to show me things at the same time, and a big huge smile on my face!
Jospeh Cornell, a famous nature educator, talks about 'awakening enthusiasm' at the first stage of flow learning in nature, leading to focused attention...It's all unfolding as he predicted...
We also made a discovery this week that under our forest floor is clay....lots of it, and perfect for digging and squishing. I'm pretty sure this is only the beginning of a clay extravaganza.
Bye for now!
Welcome to Spring Session! I know I know, we weren’t expecting more of that white stuff —but it sure can be fun if you love flopping down, face to the sky, making snow angels… or rolling giant snowballs as big as you are, or sliding down a slippery hill just one more time, or even rolling yourself down a hill on a soft snowy blanket.
There is a wonderful concept of “pack” emerging in our wolf cubs, and we notice that they work together on a new level after 6 months of friendship (for most of them), and have a real ownership and sense of place about “their forest”. Everyone takes turns helping to pull the sleds or wagons down to base camp, and we remind each other of how to stay safe in the forest once gathered in the tipi (ie, no running with sticks, don’t climb more than twice your height, always make sure you can see an adult). Out in the forest, what might appear as just another stand of trees to an onlooker is a fire station, a secret cabin, or a pirate ship to these kids. What looks like a mess of sticks is an imaginary bonfire, and twigs with leaves speared through on the ends are gooey marshmallows roasting over the raging inferno. Hide and seek is still a favourite game, although nobody truly hides in the leafless branches at this time of year— it’s still a thrill to play the part, to be the forest, and feel the rush of being discovered.
We have some new favourite activities as well; now that we are eating a snack before heading into the forest, the kids have a little longer attention span once at the tipi. We have been taking advantage of this by reading a book with a nature theme during our opening circle, and the kids just eat it up. This week the kids savoured “Sometimes I Feel Like A Fox” by Danielle Daniel, and as soon as we got to the page “Sometimes I Feel Like a Wolf” they all spontaneously broke out in a collective wolf howl. Love it.
Beautiful moments I (Zav) witness at Nature School are like patchwork snippets that come to mind throughout the week, and leave me feeling all warm and happy inside. For example, overhearing the discussions and witnessing the collective efforts around pushing the giant snowball (who had probably traveled 250 meters by this point) up the final hill to the tipi (that elusive destination for all forest travels in our little world behind CLES!). Sit spot has become a time of real listening and reverence, and we have changed the focus of our sharing to “what nature surprise did you experience today?” Another moment from this past week was the conversation between two kids, about how the earth is spinning and we are all spinning but can’t feel it. Or being at a pretend campfire where all the kids are thoughtfully picking their animal names. These are sacred moments, wrapped up in the gentle disguise of play and imagination, rooted in a nature connection which I can only hope will stay with each of these magnificent little beings for the rest of their lives.