The first week of Nature School has been wonderful, and the cool weather hasn’t gotten anyone’s spirits down. With kids running, spinning, bushwhacking, digging and walking like moose and bears through the forest, no one has had a chance to feel cold.
While we’re still developing routines and rhythms for our time together, the kids have been quick to form a great, positive minded group. They love ‘wolf howling’ to bring the group back together after playing, and ‘tweeting’ like birds to come together for snack.
At our first morning circle we started to think about the life of our forest, closing our eyes to hear all the sounds around us, and to smell all the fresh, fall smells in the air. We were gifted right away with the sight of two squirrels scampering behind us, and the call of a Blue Jay close by. Our hope is that the kids will be able to expand their awareness of the natural world around them, and delight in the endless discoveries and mysteries of the forest!
We established a spot for our home base/meeting area, where we spent time snacking, digging and hunting around for bugs with magnifying glasses. A few of us worked on hammering holes in lids for bug containers, but with the cold weather settling in, we’ve noticed the bugs are starting to tuck themselves away and are harder to find. The children who helped hammer were excited to help with this important job and took the safety considerations very maturely.
While we explored the trails, we talked about one of the local plants--snowberry--and how while it's interesting to look at, it's not good to eat. The kids are fascinated with the berries and enjoy collecting and popping them with their feet on the ground.
For the second class, the children seemed to feel more comfortable with us as mentors, with each other, and with the forest site. Imaginations were in full swing! Listening to the forest sounds at our morning circle, someone heard sharks in the ocean, and lions...Out on the trail, a small opening in thicket became a ‘squirrel door’ for one child. Zavallennahh noticed some deer scat here, and so we wondered together if a deer had been bedding down nearby. Getting down on our hands and knees a few of us crawled through--the start of a long bush-whacking hike off-trail, where the kids worked very hard to clamber over logs and through thick shrubs. This was a good time to pretend we were moose, lifting our legs up high to step over the shrubs! These children will hopefully develop great strength and independence for forest-walking...A nuance of taking young kids into the forest is that they can very quickly become dependent on adults for hand-holding and help up/over/around obstacles. With patience, gentle, support and encouragement, though, kids can quickly learn how to test if a log is slippery, hold branches away from their faces, and generally manoeuvre around without a lot of adult-interference.
The children are clearly excited about hide and seek in the forest, so we introduced a game called ‘Eagle Eye.’ Everyone helped to build a circle ("nest") out of sticks, and a few kids climbed in as the eagles. Everyone else picked a hiding spot nearby, and waited to see if the eagle would spot them. Many more hiding games to come!
It was fun to see the kids start to make discoveries--snail shells (anyone home?), fungus, animal scat, rosehips and ‘rainbow’ leaves, to name a few things!
Next week, the children will have a surprise (ssshh!!) as a tipi will be standing in our meeting spot. In October we’ll have a visit from Laurel Ewashen (aboriginal educator at Canyon-Lister), who will share a bit with the kids about Ktunaxa culture and maybe tell a little story.
In only two short days, we’ve been thrilled to see how naturally the kids have adapted to their forest classroom. It’s been fun, energizing, and heartwarming to get to know the children and what makes each one unique!
Thank you for dressing your kids well for the wet and cold--we had warm, happy kids as result!!
Again, here is a link to our calendar so you can see what's happening and who will be volunteering. If you could possibly complete a criminal records check and help on a Tuesday (or know someone in the community who would be a good fit!) we would be grateful.
Also, look out for I Love Creston magazine in the first few days of October, for our story!
Until next week,
Kristina and Zavallennahh