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!
Sometimes, on a beautiful day (or a wet/cold/rainy one) we're just too busy with the wolf cubs to take pictures. This one captured a hunt for the elusive apples--way, way up the tree and practically impossible to get! I don't like to say many things are impossible, but we have tried to shake, shimmy, sing, whack and beg these apples down, to no avail.
There are a great many burdock plants in the forest, and it's one local plant the kids can easily learn to identify. I think I saw Zavallennahh picking burrs out of someone's hair, this week, and somehow a game started of 'making the biggest burr ball.' I love talking with the kids about the cleverness of plants, and how these seeds like to hitch rides to new places on unsuspecting shoulders and pant legs.
On Friday morning, Creston woke up to a heavy downpour, and I wondered what kind of adventures our Nature School morning would bring. Thankfully, the rain was pretty much finished by the time we go there, but we decided to throw up a tarp just in case we needed some shelter. The kids were really keen to help tie knots and hang out underneath, and it was a fun challenge as a teacher trying to figure out how a slew of 4 year olds could help. When they come to you with a rope in hand and say 'what's my job?' you find them a loop to tie to, pretty quickly!
It's a bit hard to tell in this second picture, taken at the end of the same day, but there are three different bucket-pulley systems hanging around the tarp that the kids rigged up. It was a busy dance, avoiding ropes and buckets going up and down. They were proud of their work and buckets and pulleys is always a very collaborative, problem-solving filled activity.
Take care till next week!
The Nature School Team
We've had two days back in the forest, dodged torrential downpours and hailstorms, and I'm already feeling a buzz of excitement. These kids are keen nature nuts. So many questions and observations, readiness to 'go exploring' down the trail. New friends being made, and old ones reconnecting. We've played 'eagle's nest' hide-and-seek, read stories, looked at our field guides, shared tea and listened to a story about the 'legend of the mice and the Douglas Fir tree.' Several kids spent their free time the first week collecting snowberries, teaching the new kids not to eat them, and showing them how to pop them (satisfying under your boots!)
Some of the boys started a game of running down the hill in funny ways, taking turns going sideways, or backwards, or as fast as they could. I love watching kids make up their own rules and games and collaborating.
We started a weather journal, noticing what was happening with the sky (literally looking up into the tree canopy to watch the clouds), discussing the rain we've had, how the earth felt under us (wet, slippery) and how the air felt on our cheeks. I'm so excited to pursue this further, as it's a wonderful chance for inquiry, observation, group sharing, questions and so much more! Someone volunteered to draw a picture of. the weather.
Several kids played in what they call 'the pit' near the Tipi, just a hollow depression that's a bit tricky to walk down into. I observed that they were 'very brave' to walk in there, and one new fellow looked up at me thoughtfully: 'Hey, I guess I am a pretty brave guy, aren't I!" I love when kids display such confidence.
A small group of kids helped create these nature patterns. It was a fun chance to use the real names of some plants not in 'lesson format' (Oregon grape leaf, now aster, now fir cone...' I made one quietly without saying anything and some of the kids joined in. The one on the right was their idea.
Much wondering about the tracks on these trees, under the bark, and no conclusive answers reached yet. Worm? Beetle? Once the first one was noticed, kids were pointing out the patterns on trees all over the place.
Early literacy in action--it's alive and well in our forest! (Kids love clipboards). This girl (twice) wanted to write down some of our Nature School rules so no one would forget. She traced over my letters for the first rule and asked me to write out the rest. 1: Don't get lost 2: No hurting people 3. Walk with sticks 4: Climb with adults. During this drawing/writing episode, a lady bug larvae flew in to land on someone's clipboard. Some of the kids were afraid at first, until I explained what it was, and then they enjoyed watching it crawl around on the paper. Gotta love open air classrooms!!
Towards the end of the week, the kids were milling a bit aimlessly around in one one those moments that sometimes makes me feel squirrely (like, do something, teacher!). We watched the kids for a bit, me wondering if it was time to pack up and change course. Just in that moment, someone came up with the idea to build a bird's nest out of sticks, and that led to a whole interesting play episode about birds, with a nest being made, 'forest string' being brought over to tie branches together, a pile of snowberries for bird food, and 'forest cheese,' for bird snack! The kids had all kinds of ideas about what kind of materials birds might need for a nest, and how they might weave things together or add mud to make it hard and tight. Beautiful emergent learning moment.
Much joy in watching the two old friends in the back reconnect. The wolf cubs love helping to pull the wagon.
We are so happy to be back in action, sharing pictures and stories from our week. There are a few spaces available, if you have a 3-5 year old who might like to join in. Don't forget that Canyon-Lister School is having a Corn Roast potluck event on Wednesday, Sept 19, 6:00 pm, and we'll be there with a fun forest scavenger hunt (and a chance to win some neat things by participating!)
Bye for now,
The Nature School Team
It’s almost time to welcome in September and a new year of learning, adventuring, children going back to school and post-summer routines. How has your family spent the summer months? As a family, we’ve been busy renovating, moving and trying to sneak in as many trips to Twin Bays and the Goat River as we can. My 5 year old never seems to notice the smokey skies, especially when there are frogs and minnows to catch! We discovered (new to us) the wonders of Moyie Lake Provincial Park: trails for biking on, meandering creeks to explore (more frogs and minnows) and interesting rocks to collect by canoe.
As a Society, we’ve used this summer to assemble a new board of directors, plan a new program (Nature Explorers for Homeschoolers), apply for grants and ready ourselves for a new year of forest play and learning. I couldn’t be more excited to start a new year of Nature School, getting ready to meet new children and introduce them to the trails, Tipi and forest plants and critters. The apples are ripening, and blue autumn skies are here.
This year, with some our grant funds, we’ll be able to lend rain gear and backpacks to a few Nature School participants who might not have their own (thank you CBT!). We’ll be creating a very special library of nature stories and field guides, acquiring our own fire bowl for the winter, not to mention other exciting things! We have a few new staff who I hope to introduce soon. As always, I feel so appreciate of Creston’s wonderful community, which has been very supportive along the Creston Kids Outside journey.
As always, if you’re curious about any of our programs for 3-5 year olds, or K-4 Homeschoolers, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you haven't signed up yet, there are still a spaces left in both programs.
P.S. Here are a few pictures of both our families (Zavallennahh's and mine) enjoying the outdoors this summer.
Our last week of nature school, can it be?! What a fabulous year it has been, thanks to each child, all the parents, our dedicated volunteers, Canyon-Lister School and the notable cooperation of Mother Nature.
What better way to celebrate the end of our Spring Session than set up a full-on mud kitchen?! The kids loved mixing, stirring, pouring, scooping, splashing, spilling and sharing as various concoctions were made. Some children worked in pairs or small groups, while others were content in their solo work of creation. Elaborate soups, deadly poison elixirs, chocolate smoothies and snail stew were all on the menu.
We have noticed that there has been a delightful increase in collaborative play and spontaneous group expression this session. One such moment happened this past week when a couple of the young lads were wearing birch bark sleeves on their arm and playing “robot”, and as they stiffly walked through a group of other students one of the robots stalled, turning into a statue. Another child came over with a special tool (stick) to help “fix” the stopped robot, and when the robot came back to life, he began robot dancing! Within moments a whole group of kids were breaking out in amazing dance moves and song. What a joyful and hilarious forest celebration!
Tuesday was our last “sit spot”, and everyone said goodbye to their personal little piece of the forest. This routine practice of silent observation has been such a special journey for our wolf cubs, who by now eagerly run to their own spots when the little brass bell is rung, reminding each other to be quiet, and then sit silently for 2-3 full minutes with owl eyes, coyote noses, and listening like a deer. Each time we meet for Nature School, the forest has changed in some big or little way and “sit spot" has been a special time to for each child to experience that personally from his or her own special place of observation. Ask your child about their sit spot, (what did they love most about your sit spot? What are some of your favourite memories during sit spot? What was your most favourite season? etc.) You might also consider having your child find a sit spot of their own in your yard at home, to continue this meditative and grounding practice of nature observation.
By Thursday, our densely green enchanted forest was blanketed in a soft layer of fluffy white. Snow?! No no, it’s too warm for that. Blooming cottonwood?! Why yes, and what better thing could we possibly find to make into pillowy soft bug beds or fairy hair wigs? Some of the children spent a magical morning collecting downy cottonwood while others made rope traps (hey, when did you kids all learn to tie knots?) or rode pirate boats (a.k.a. tree rounds) on the stormy seas. And they also climbed trees, went on mushroom finding adventures, balanced on logs, made maps, played super hero games, dug for bugs with shovels and tied ropes into webs. Oh, and ate snacks! (Wolf cubs always eat lots of snacks).
Last week we said 'farewell!' to our dedicated volunteer, Conch. Conch came to us from the ocean, and to the ocean she is returning. The children so enjoyed her big smiles, patient manner and silliness on the trails...And us adults appreciated the extra eyes and hands! Thank you, Conch, for your all of your ideas and energy! If Nature School were continuing over the summer, I know the kids would faithfully ask each morning, 'Where's Conch?' Safe travels!!! Maybe we'll see a Bella Bella Nature School pop up soon--who knows : )
We were fortunate to have been in the forest when CLES's Gr.2 class came down to release the painted butterflies they had been raising. Presto, 12 very excited wolf cubs! They were gentle (mostly) and very curious.
Nature treasures. Is that an egg? A rock that looks like an egg? Gold from the monkey temple lair?
I thought I'd share a bit from an article this week ('15 Reasons to Climb a Tree'), as it struck me as quite useful reading! Sure, sure, we can all nod our heads in agreement, but how do you actually support a young tree climber? Well, look no further--here are some good ideas! It might also shed some light on why we do things a bit differently at our Nature School (i.e.: we won't actually help a child who's looking for a boost up).
HOW TO CLIMB A TREEHelp your child learn to climb a tree with the easy tree climbing tips below:
When your child starts trying to climb trees this is usually an indication of readiness. Support their first efforts, then step back and allow them to do it on their own.
Start with small “easy” trees to climb and progress as your child gains mastery. Support your child’s first efforts, then step back and allow them to do it on their own.
Whenever you feel unsafe about your child’s safety calmly ask, “Do you feel safe?” If they do not feel safe
It won't be long before your child is beaming--'Mom, look at me!' And you'll hopefully be able to relax a bit at the bottom (haha). You can still be proud of your child's accomplishment, strength and growing flexibility!
Kids--'I want to be a scientist! 'No, *I* want to be a scientist.' 'Me too, I'm going to be a scientist!'
Me--'It's ok guys, you can all be scientists if you like.'
As Grandma Lois donned her scientist coat last week to help us inspect owl pellets, the wolf cubs were inspired and apparently pondering their future careers. I was touched! The kids, braving swarms of mosquitos, enthusiastically and patiently took part in a rare 'lesson,' complete with diagrams of rodent bones, owl insides and animal parts, dissection tools and gloves.
We learned about owl digestion and how their food, after some processing, ahem, comes out both ends. From the mouth end comes.a compact little mystery pellet, a perfect inquiry project for inquiring young minds! Owls eat all kinds of interesting critters, like birds and rodents, and the pellets were packed full of shrew bones, mouse parts, fur and feathers! There were many exclamations of amazement and surprise as we passed around the tweezers and tools, helping the kids to pull the pellets apart. The kids were curious as can be, asking great questions, and lots of 'oohing and aaahing.'
It's hard to climb trees and swat mosquitos, but they stuck with it!
We love big burdock leaves! Plates, hats, masks, dancing props...
Stay curious, kids!
Spring is literally unfolding before our very eyes, and our forest is now dense with lush green foliage and the fresh scents of new plant life. There are more birds singing more songs than we can even keep track of, and where just a few short weeks ago a bug or worm was a rare find, they are now under every rock, log, and stick. But wait, what is that buzzzzzzing in my ear?! Ah yes, the mosquitos think out forest is quite wonderful too.
There was a lot of forest play adventure focussed around the various “temples” on Tuesday. I spent a long time “spotting” kids at the leaning tree near the monkey temple (which we re-named mosquito hollow) with an ever changing cast of climbers going up and down throughout the morning. As I watched these very able bodied little feet and hands maneuver up and down the partially fallen tree, I thought back to the fall session when this same activity was rare, and seemed almost impossible or too scary for some of the kids who were now sitting on the log above my head chanting monkey sounds. The confidence, strength, and comfort levels of all the students at Nature School have evolved so much, its awesome to behold it in action.
“Grandma Lois” came out to volunteer on Tuesday, and she was a wealth of knowledge when it came to identifying the birds that we were seeing and hearing in the forest. And the kids were a wealth of creativity when it came to identifying the various pieces of bark, sticks etc that they came across on their nature walk. “This is a special curved TV screen” about a large piece of bark from a rotting fir tree, or “This is my laser gun that makes people freeze if I shoot them” about a stick, and “This is my special map” about a rolled up piece of birch bark.
Thursday morning the sky was filled with ominous clouds, and predictions of thunderstorms. We assessed the situation and decided to head for the forest, as the clouds overhead were all billowy white and even seemed to be teasing us with some glimpses of blue sky. We had a good discussion about thunder and lightning with the wolf cubs before heading out to play, and everyone agreed that we would stay close to the tipi and keep our stuff packed into our back packs so we could leave quickly if we heard thunder or saw lightning. The kids were impressive, they knew a lot about thunder and lightning— from how to count to figure out how far away it is, to the science of electricity. Sure enough, less than an hour passed before we heard the deep rolling clap of thunder— everyone quickly gathered and we headed to the school. Our first time indoors the whole school year!
On our way to the music room, we passed by Laurel Ewashen in the Aboriginal Education room and she invited everyone to come and pick out a lovely wild animal stuffy to enjoy for our time inside. Once we gathered in the music room, we tried to make a collaborative story using all our stuffed animals as characters but some kids were just too excited about being inside the school to stay sitting in a circle. So I played the piano and sang the sleeping bunnies song while the kids curled up or bounced around like rabbits and then we followed that one up with a Russian song and dance called “Sasha” and a game of musical chairs. We also read a wonderful story about strawberries, reminding us to be sweet to each other. Then we got to go to the gym and play with the big kids! Thanks CLES for inviting us in and to all the kids at the gym who played so nicely and showed such care and kindness to our wolf cubs.