Kristina, Conch and I were feeling especially full of renewed energy and enthusiasm about nature school this week, after having just spent two engaging days at a “risky play” workshop by Forest School Canada. And it was as if the kids knew, because they were all about climbing adventures!
The kids spent a lot of time in trees this week, and explored new ways to play in and around them that were both inventive and hilarious. A log with a kid at the helm can be a rocket ship zooming into space, a bucking bronco, a pirate boat on the high sea, a secret lookout… Or, a low leaning branch can be just a really fun bouncy sproingy thingy! All of this play in trees and bushes naturally led to conversations about safety: how to negotiate a “traffic jam” when some kids are going up and other coming down, or starting to talk more about being aware when climbing/scrambling around trees, watching who's under you and around you. Also how high can you safely jump down? Or just how do you come down… sometimes more challenging than going up!
The south west corner of the forest has remained relatively unexplored throughout nature school, until now that is! The kids were all drawn there in recent days, requiring some serious bushwhacking through dense brush and fallen logs. It was awesome to see how patient and helpful the kids were with each other, offering advice on an easier path or finding a walking stick for a friend. The smallest of our wolf cubs showed amazing ingenuity and determination as they persevered in getting their little legs up and over fallen logs. We as leaders tried to encourage their independence rather than dashing in to help, “Maybe try over here, where the log is closer to the ground”, “You can do it! What if you wriggle your belly up there first?" The little explorers efforts were rewarded by the discovery of two new leaning trees to climb and play on, and a wonderful stash of sticks for shelter building!
On Tuesday I (Zavallennahh) spent a solid hour with a group of enthralled kids digging on a little hill near the tipi, unearthing worms, bugs, snails, sprouting seeds, roots… what an exciting time! Kristina had a similar experience on Thursday (while I was spotting tree climbing). In our conversations, we are starting to use the word 'habitat' to talk about the kind of home a worm/snail/bug needs to live in (as opposed to staying in a bucket). The kids seem to have found a new level of cooperation as they work and play together in a small space, sharing discoveries and collaborating with their ideas.
Sometimes the kids are so goofy, and they are realizing that we adults like to have fun too! Kristina retold a memory from this week, playing a 'falling game,' where one real trip led to a game of pretending to fall, and helping each other up over and over again. At another moment, there were kids building traps all over base camp and I got to be the tiger caught in the tiger trap!
We as leaders are loving nature school so much these days! Sunshine really helps, I think spring has arrived at last. Thanks to the kids for letting us play too ;-)