“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find
reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
(Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder)
Before this week began we made sure everyone would be prepared for rain, wind, storms--whatever Mother Nature might throw at us. I'm chuckling now, thinking back on how well the kids were dressed Tuesday morning (thank you, parents!!)--battened down in sweaters, rain coats, rain pants, gloves, wool hats...to greet one of the warmest, most beautiful days we've had yet. It was great preparation for Thursday, when the skies really did let loose.
Even before we get to the forest, our mornings are active, We play running and jumping games to keep warm and be silly. Games are invented, constantly. Kids help tow the wagons. We balance on the slackline, sometimes. And then we hit the woods....
This week we were fortunate to have Kim volunteering, a local biologist who believes strongly in the importance of kids spending time in nature, imagining, climbing, learning as they play...A big thank you to Kim for bringing a collection of skulls for us to learn about herbivores and omnivores. Despite some initial 'I'd rather be playing' comments, the kids were quite interested to pass around the skulls, checking out jaw bones and teeth and the feel of smooth bone...
We continue to visit our special 'sit spots' most mornings, and this week introduced a candle to gather around after as children shared about their noticings...One child heard 'the ocean in the trees' and loved following a 'river of leaves' to get to her sit spot. Others enjoyed watching the clouds...
Active play follows quiet moments...a week of discovering new trees to climb around in, of chasing, running, and boisterous play. As facilitators we continue to notice the wide variety of types of play the children engage in. There is calm, 'sitting around' imaginary play, like pretend fires and there's pet doggy and doctor and vet and monsters and scary dinosaur and fishing with sticks. There is climbing around play to supervise closely and chasing play to keep up with.
And there is play that we're continually reflecting on as facilitators, such as when sticks become guns or laser shooters or any other variety of imaginary weaponry. Besides our strict rules enforced (no poking, hitting, not in the tipi, no 'shooting' at someone if it bothers them), it is clear that the discussions and reflection with the children will be ongoing--is it bothering those around you? Do you have enough space around you to wave the stick? Would you like to make a target and practice aiming those sticks over here? Is that a 'water shooter' you have there? Can you help me put out this 'fire' with it? It is clear that boys (so far) just do this as part of their play (as any parent can tell you). At Nature School we're choosing to engage in ongoing discussion about this kind of play instead of enforcing a ban, as we believe that these kind of 'risk assessment' discussions will ultimately help the children to grow and make thoughtful decisions as they get older.
"By it’s very nature this sort of play involves struggle, chase, competition, noise! It is often adrenaline -fueled play, there is a high level of thrill for the children taking part so it will be fast and loud. We cannot penalize children for that. If we accept that this sort of play is going to take place then we need to make provision for it..." (https://abcdoes.com/abc-does-a-blog/2017/03/11/i-hope-thats-not-a-gun/)
And when the rains came, my camera disappeared (try managing 10 preschoolers romping in a driving rain and taking pictures?), except to capture two sweet shots of children deep in concentration as they practiced sewing. Over the cold/rainy months we'll have more quiet 'indoor' activities to offer the children if they feel like slowing down for a few moments.