Friday marked our final day for the year. Another 60 days of exploration, play, learning, laughter, tears, stories, crafts, invented games (our favourite kind!), sliding, climbing, digging, caring for tiny creatures and for each other. Here's to an equally awesome year three, coming up in September!
Our closeknit little group gathered in the sunshine outside of the Tipi for a celebration, to honour the graduates moving onto kindergarten, and to say 'goodbye for the summer' to the kids who'll return. We always recognize the strengths and gifts of each child aloud in the circle, and we also sang a fun song in honour of Melissa--our fearless and wonderful leader who unfortunately broke her ankle last week!! What a special group of kids who have grown so much over the year--in size and in confidence as they climb and trek over logs and run and test their strength. We are sure going to miss our time in the forest with this gang.
Before the parents come we embarked on a mission to find Ollie, our stuffed owl who occasionally goes 'missing' and needs finding in the forest. Armed with compasses and maps, the children followed clues that led them around to their favourite spots. We eventually did find Ollie, lounging in the 'hot tub' and waiting for the party to begin. There was a 'honey factory' that somehow involved honeysuckles (I was elsewhere in the forest), and kids lounging in the sunshine playing an animal track game.
With each Nature School day that flies by, I feel more and more reaffirmed in the magic of a play-based approach--especially in a forest where there is no doubt that the children are learning about nature as they play. They constantly amazed us with their powers of observation, from noticing the tiniest bugs on leaves while hiding out or making a fort, to learning over time where the best worm locations were (and where dry and wet soil was), to being able to identify plants like thimbleberry, wild strawberry leaves, honeysuckle, cedar, rose and the little blisters on fir trees were sap hides. A few times Melissa and I caught the children thanking critters for the work they do (shouting thank you a worm's 'ear') and thanking the bees. Right in the middle of our year-end snack and ceremony, a child jumped up excitedly and said 'Look, those bumblebees are pollinating the rose flowers!'
We forgot to sing our goodbye song! Maybe for the best, as I would have shed a few tears for sure. Here it is....Can't wait for September and getting to know a group of new kiddos! Thanks to all the parents who have been so incredibly warm and supportive, and excellent at making sure the children are ready for their time outdoors.
'The day is done,
The day is done,
Thank you for today.
Let's pack our bags,
and give big hugs,
and sing thanks for the day.'
We are continuing to have great amounts of fun in the forest, and have been blessed with a fairly low-mosquito spring so far. We braced everyone (after a fairly intense mosquito season last year!), tucked our shirts in, got bug spray prepared, had the 'let's talk positively about mosquitos and their role in the ecosystem chat,' and so far, so good. We've barely had to do more than swat a few away here and there.
The forest is alive with birds, bugs, worms and small critters, much to the delight of the children. We've seen centipedes, woodpeckers, a vole (not alive but interesting none the less), an actual ant nest with eggs and a queen, and a plentiful amount of flower. Burdock might swallow up the Tipi, but it's ok because the kids are always finding creative uses for the huge leaves (umbrellas, wands, plates etc) so the periodic pruning will help.
In the past few weeks we've also decorated and drilled (with a hand drill) wood cookies to take home, created a great big fort in the woods, and learned a silly new animal song (secret, for the parent Tipi party!)
And, amidst all of the fun, lots of life lessons about sharing and co-existing in the forest (in response to worm-hoarding, 'actually, worms belong to the earth, not to any of us and so we need to take good care and leave them here!), listening to each other for show and tell and sharing time an all of the other good skills children learn in a group setting at this age. Melissa and I have witnessed some sweet moments of gratitude from the kids, overheard thanking bees for the work they do, and (loudly) directing thanks into the (ears?) of worms who also perform important jobs.
Here is our Spring gang heading to the Tipi for morning circle!
This is the 'kitten raft.' A horde of hungry kittens accompanied by one wolf, and a kitten owner, sail away on a grand adventure--periodically jumping off into the 'water' to catch fish (cedar sprigs) and then jumping back on. What a well coordinated play event this was (a hive mind kind of thing).
In the 'burdock forest,' at the 'clay store,' accidentally uncovering an ant colony with queen and eggs. After a quick look the kids decided to cover it back up so they could go about their work undisturbed. This is what Nature School is all about--little lessons based on inquiry and wonder and joy right in the middle of play!
These flowers were positioned with great thought and care, and it was amazing to hear how many new plant names the children learned as they cooked these beautiful creations up in the mud kitchen (rose and thimble berry were new ones, to name a few!) Mud kitchen day (about once a month) is super exciting for the kids, and they get right to 'work' in their stores and restaurants...
Creating chalk signs to name their restaurants and open/closed signs. I love helping children spell words for their signs, and they love seeing their words come to life!
Be still, my heart....the kids sitting in the bubbly 'hot tub' listening to a book full of bird sounds, patiently taking turns to pick a bird and adding their own knowledge along the way, about hummingbirds, blue jays and woodpeckers...
A joyful, giggly, fun episode of .....dirt sliding down the hill where we usually slide in the winter. Enjoy the silliness and inventiveness of kids together in the forest : )
Here's a great article about nature play schema (the repetitive play urges that children experience), many of which we see daily at Nature School and you'll probably noticed with your own preschoolers. Our outdoor leaders are aware of these different schema, and we do our best to allow time and space for them to unfold in the huge variety of ways they do, noting that some children stick with a certain 'play urge' for a long time, and some move on quickly as their learning/development progresses. Some of the 'schema' the article mentions are: positioning, transporting, trajectory, enclosure, enveloping, rotation etc. One that I think we've invented at Nature School is 'raising and lowering buckets into trees,' something which seems to occupy the children for hours.