It's happening! Nature School is on, with familiar faces and some new ones. We're happy to welcome returning families and new families, as well as a few new volunteers. We had a long break, and everyone seems excited to explore the wintery forest. The young tykes have been coming well-prepared by their keen moms and dads for the (ever changing!) weather conditions. In one week we've already changed about a million mitts, a few socks, cinched up hats and neckwarmers and wiggled thumbs back into the right spots many times. All this finagling doesn't seem to bother the kids much--as soon as mitt is back in place, they can get back to playing again!
Even cloudy days serve up a beautiful view from the front of Canyon-Lister Elementary School. When everyone has arrived, we start the 200 metre trek down to our basecamp in the forest. But first, slipping, sliding, snowballs and a silly acorn song in the gazebo. First imperative--help the kids stay active and moving!
At the moment, our trek across the field is probably the most physical part of the Nature School day--navigating snow in so many forms, different each day, and carrying a backpack at the same time. We've had heavy, cement-like wet snow, soft snow and hard/icy snow to learn about. We have a snow-plowed mountain to scale in the parking lot, and a 200 metre field to cross. I can see the wheel turning as kids try out different paths, walking in frozen footprints or creating their own path...children who were accustomed to helping us pull the wagons in the fall have valiantly tried to help pull the sleds, which has proved much more difficult!
It has been wonderful to introduce new children to the tipi, to share songs, laughter, tea and stories about our day. These children love our morning 'name song' so much, and passing an Eagle's feather, that they ask for it at the end of the day as well! To introduce our tradition of 'sit spot' time (where the children will be invited to find their own special spot near the tipi, for a few moments of quiet observation), we came together as a group to sit silently, still our bodies, and use all our senses to notice the natural world around us.
With snow on the ground, our free play time has been slower paced. Changing seasons, changing gears. We witnessed collaborative castle-building, while the other children did some sliding. Around this time we were visited by a chatty squirrel and a big, healthy Stellar Jay.
I (Kristina ) had the lovely opportunity to follow some deer tracks with these enthusiastic boys. Well,we started out following lion/bunny tracks. With the tracks so nice and clear in the crusty snow, we noticed the stride, how the prints were pretty far apart, and I suggested maybe a forest animal with nice long legs? Deer! We were off to the races following print after print, until an exposed tree root grabbed their attention. As I was following behind the boys, I just enjoyed listening to their conversation, as one wondered why the 'stick' wouldn't come out. They finally realized it was an attached root, with one boy excitedly shouting, 'It's attached to the whole Earth!'