Thank you again, to the Rotary Club of Creston for helping us to purchase books--that can be used with all of our programs. More on this to come, as we grow a sweet collection of stories and resources (in the Tipi, under the trees, under a tarp in the rain--you can read and learn anywhere!)
Last week, after Nature School ended on Friday, I called my mom and left a message that (apparently rather cryptically) stated, 'I had the BEST day of Nature School EVER today.' I didn't elaborate, but my mom called back later dying to know what on earth could have made it the best day EVER...
As I babbled on about the day, there wasn't anything overly thrilling to report (like, We discovered a whole deer skeleton in the forest!). It was the best day EVER (ok, I have lots of these days) because I'm in my happy place being outdoors with kids, playing, wondering, roaming, discovering...because of some sense of seeing growth in the kids, of feeling connected as a group and with the forest we call our classroom...
...the children amazed me over and over. Some with their spontaneous ecological insights ('Teacher, did you know rain has molecules?' and a story from a 4 year old about a tree that doesn't get enough water, and so it falls over, and hopefully more rain will come so the trees can keep growing....)
...they amazed me with their capability (proper use of the word?), taking care of their things, putting on their own packs, mitts and managing lunch kits with so little help...
...they amazed me with their growing confidence in the jumbly, thick forest and while climbing over logs (have we only been together a month, is that possible?), bold statements like "I can figure out how to get over this log all by myself!" While hiking and feeling 'lost,' they trusted each other (and me), showed bravery, to find the trail and return to a familiar spot.
...they amazed me with their care of each other (someone wants to go 'sploring on a hike, but wait, a friend first needs help untying a knot and someone comes to the rescue.
Not every day will be so easy or magical. Kids will cry, have pee accidents, squabble and get cold feet. But as mentors, we will keep on keeping' on, through the less magical-feeling times, knowing this is important work!
This Fall's goofy bunch raising their antlers!
Another mud kitchen bonanza. Wait, did it rain on Friday? I don't think anyone noticed. The kids got right down to work when the supplies came out, racing to start filling pots, pans, watering cans...It's bliss to watch this kind of cooperative play.
Chalkboard signs support literacy--kids love having things written down for them: recipes/restaurant names/prices, you name it. Sometimes we write, sometimes they write.
Back to basics--kids in apple trees. What more need we say, Creston? This is what we're all about in our beautiful valley!
I'll leave you with a video about the Ottawa Forest and Nature School. It's good to remember that we're connected with a world-wide community of similar programs!
This was a a short week for us, as two of us (Kristina and Melissa) were headed to an environmental education conference near Cranbrook at the St.Eugene Mission, Aq'am community. As we don't have many pictures from Wednesday, I thought I'd share a bit about my experience at the conference. I feel so fortunate that I stumbled into this event, which brought 300+ teachers and community educators together for 3 days to talk (and talk and talk!), attend workshops, hear keynotes and generally feel inspired about the work we're doing in outdoor, place-based learning programs. It's rare to have a national event of this magnitude located right here in the Kootenays! Melissa presented a workshop on her 'Beyond Recycling Program' at CLES.
I learned more about Ktuxana culture, language and the residential school system, which has affected so many generations of indigenous people. Chief Joe Pierre participated the whole conference and I was honoured to speak with him and witness his storytelling and warm, open leadership.
We listened to the Minister of Education speak about the surge of interest in outdoor learning around the province, and what the government is doing to support it. I connected with a teacher from a nature kindergarten program in Williams Lake, as well as teachers from the Maple Ridge Environmental School near Vancouver (if you know me, you know I was in my glory with all these networking opportunities!). I attended a workshop about bioregions and 'mapping your place,' considering your values and special places in nature. Other workshops were about place-based learning, how to teach science through inquiry and curiosity, engaging children activities about water, and on and on! Phew. Grateful for so much new learning and inspiration, and now for a few days of rest before Nature School swings back into action!
Back to Nature School--In this picture (one of my favourite from the year so far), there is great excitement in the air as the kids gathered horse chestnuts to roll down the hill. You can just see the excitement in their expressions! It all happened very fast (I was standing at the bottom of the onslaught of chestnuts) and they just loved watching the clatter. Some attempts were made to create tracks for the nuts, but mostly it was a moment of pure, blissful fun!
We also engaged in a bit of an experiment this week, and learned about elderberry trees in the process. One of our parents shared a video of an interesting craft (you can try this at home!) using a white candle, paper and leaves. By putting the leaf between two sheets of paper, and rubbing the candle flat over the ridges of the leaf, and then painting over top, you come out with a neat affect. We decided to try it with some natural dyes, and so my son and I gathered up elderberries the day before to boil, creating a deep purple juice. At Nature School, we all went over to the tree to look up at the berries (way high up!!). Armed with elderberry juice, beet juice and some paintbrushes, the kids had fun trying out the leaf craft. The experiment part came in here--I'd read that elderberry is very pH sensitive, and that by adding either baking soda, lemon, vinegar or salt, you can change the colour of the elderberry juice. When I'd tried this at home it was a bit more successful--the kids did create a green shade with the dish that we'd added baking soda to. If anyone has experience using natural dyes, we'd love to connect with you for a future activity!
Take care for now : )
Another week in autumn bliss at Nature School. The kids have some favourite activities, such as “pulley” contraptions in the trees. Simple machines—an enduring theme. Someone had the good idea to tie a stick to one end of a rope, and bucket to the other end; stick then gets thrown over a high branch. Sometimes things get loaded into the buckets (mores sticks, leaves, dirt, worms), sometimes they are lowered and raised empty. What is it about this activity that makes the kids keep returning to it over and over? Making something happen, controlling an ‘invention,’ raising and lowering… it seems they could happily do this for hours.
This week, some loose parts appeared in a milk crate (brown, shiny, round horse chestnuts! ) which became a favourite to raise and lower in the pulley buckets. But some of the kids had other ideas and were off, shovels in hand, to plant a new chestnut forest. Yet other kids were “feeding” the chestnuts to the baby bear in the den.
We also created a ‘swing’ this week; a stick-bar to hold onto, and rope attached on each end strung over a branch above. Just hold on, lift your feet and away you go (try not to hit the nearby tree!). The kids decided that everyone gets exactly one swing, and then—switch! The group participation, cooperative play and uproarious laughter were all magical.
Kids were climbing the ‘leaning’ tree, practicing those challenging spots again and again and again. Deeper in the forest a group of explorers re-discovered the ‘bouncing tree,’ a big leaning bough that would magically lower (ahem—adults involved here!) to let a wolf cub on the ‘elevator,’ and then the kids would bounce away. A great forest playground feature!
On Friday some of the big CLES kids and our Nature School kids worked together to paint apple crates—destined to become beautiful nature collection boxes for the gazebo. If you want to talk with your wolf cub about contributing some special items for our collection, it could be an opportunity for learning to share something precious with others, or just a wonderful excuse for some time in nature with your child searching out nature treasures.
On Friday we 'discovered' an apple tree near the Tipi that we'd never noticed before. And miracle of miracles, we could reach the apples! (if you've followed previous sagas you'd remember that we have another perplexing apple tree nearby, with VERY high up apples). This was a beautiful site, witnessing the kids climbing an 'easy' tree, ecstatic to pick their own apples!
Everyone is finding their happy place (pace?) at Nature School. The newer kids are definitely getting their ‘bush legs’ under them, learning to navigate stepping up and over tangly brush and logs. This can be frustrating when you are only three years old and vertically challenged, and yet with a little patience and very slow going, kids slowly gain their confidence. As an adult I have the benefit of foresight—fast forward to the spring, and I know without a doubt that these same kids will be bounding like deer around the forest. We are sure enjoying our time and already hear the kids talking excitedly about “when the snow arrives!” But for now, this crispy sunny weather is just perfect.
Until next week...!
Stories from the week of Sept 28:
Glorious sunshine streaming through leaves in every shade of golden welcomed us to the forest this week. The wolf pack is already finding a nice rhythm; a snack on arrival at the Gazebo, then a little play time or exploring a nature collection before getting packs on (no help needed!) and lining up for our trek to the forest. We have decided to walk hand in hand across the parking lot to the edge of the school before taking off towards the forest gate, where we line up and slowly enter the magical forest one by one.
Wednesday the kids enjoyed making their own “pulley buckets”, tying a rope around a stick and the other end attached to the handle of a bucket. We would then tell everyone to stand clear as we threw the stick up and over a branch in the tree above, and voila! Pull the stick and the bucket goes up… let go and the bucket comes down. Many treasures were transported and traded; leaves of every shape and shade, small sticks, rocks, moss, and even mittens.
Apples have been falling off our wild apple tree, so we went for a walk to the far fence to see if any horses friends could be found to share a treat with. We whistled and whinnied, but no horses came. So instead the kids took turns showing me their best horse moves, complete with gallops and leaping!
Friday was our first mud kitchen, way too much fun!! We were blown away by how engaged the kids were with mixing, digging, pouring and stirring. The collaborative efforts were above expectations— some helped get water for others, dig dirt for a friend, or pick snow berries for sharing. And the culinary creations were fabulous; chocolate cake, leaf soup, hot cocoa, snow berry muffins, and moist dark chocolate brownies!
There was lots of excitement about the tipi going up on Friday as well. Big kids from CLES worked with teachers in trying to get the ropes all strung to receive the canvas cover... we will find out this week how it turned out!!
We had a big surprise this past week to arrive and find a...Tipi! It's back, thanks to the hard work of Laurel and a gaggle of enthusiastic CLES students. We are so very grateful, and it feels wonderful to have 'walls' around us for shelter now that the weather is wetter and more fall-ish. It's time to start collecting cedar boughs, and to practice calm and slow movements while we're inside.
Last week the Tipi sheltered us during snack and story time, and provided a cozy spot to make some nature crafts, practicing sewing and threading with leaves. Some of the wolf cubs hung their 'leaf strings' by their sit spots, to make them extra-beautiful spots to sit and contemplate at the end of the day.
Sometimes serendipitous things happen, with our gang in the forest. Melissa had selected a story book about seeds growing, and we arrived on Friday to find soggy old plums scattered around the forest. Huh? What's the connection? Well, Mr. Mitchell and his class are exploring the idea of a 'food forest,' with the hope that by scattering plum pits, there will eventually be plum trees growing in the forest (to accompany the wild apples, rosehips, saskatoons and elderberry that already exist there!) It was perfect, to read a book about plums and talk about what happening outside--we buried plums to encourage them to grow, and talked about the different ways seeds can spread and scatter (poop! kids love talking about poop).
On Friday, I (Kristina) thought that I had forgotten our candle, and so the children had the splendid idea to create a pretend campfire for our closing circle. When I realized that I did in fact have one, we popped it in the middle of the 'campfire' and lit it as usual. This was quite special and the kids enjoyed what might be a new tradition : )
There were many, many giggles this week. Also, a scavenger hunt, squirrel watching, pretend 'fishing' and tree climbing. Kids became birds on their nests, hunkered up in the crook of a tree and hoping their eggs wouldn't be stolen by marauding wolves down below....
This week, I noticed kids coming out of their shell, relaxing and jumping up and down with eagerness to 'go 'sploring down the trail.' See you next week, Wolf Cubs!