“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement...' (Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder)
Fall is definitely here, with winter nipping at her heels! After checking out Kristina's fabulous rock collection at the Gazebo where we are now gathering in the morning, Tuesday's trek to the "forest gate" was side-tracked by the excitement of a slackline set up between two trees near the playground. Every kid had to try it out, testing their balance and coordination as they walked (wobbled!) the line with help from staff. Freeze tag and chase games spontaneously broke out amongst the kids awaiting their turn on the slackline, against a backdrop of stunning fall leaves framed by a crystal blue sky.
Once in the forest, we gathered under the tipi for our morning circle, watching smiles emerge one by one as each child's name is sung in our welcome song. We are continuing to encourage each child to then find their own special "sit spot" where they spend a few moments in silent observation, eagle eyes open, listening with coyote ears and breathing in the smells around them as they transition into being in the forest. Then let's have a snack and enjoy free play, the most important part of our day!
We are delighted to see the kids taking "just right" risks in the forest; we explored a new spot with a nice clearing in the trees, and two leaning trees perfect for inching up, hanging from like sloths, or climbing like lizards! This was our first group climbing experience, and we explained to the kids that our help would be minimal, so that they can learn to move with their own abilities and develop their climbing muscles, strategies, and confidence.
In other parts of the forest kids were making a train along some horizontal logs, just a foot or so off the ground, and we offered encouragement as they struggled to lift their legs over high logs or climb over-- most persevered until successful or found alternate routes. When kids weren't climbing, they were cooking over a pretend campfire, gathering fir needles for soup, and getting into some deep imaginative play, including 'vet', 'doctor', 'leaf monster' and 'kittens'.
Thursday was a lot colder, and the kids were talking excitedly about the fresh snow on the mountains. When we arrived at the tipi another class was doing a project on bugs in the forest, and our little wolf pack of kids were offering their knowledge of where to find bugs to the older kids ("There's an ant hill over there", "I often see ladybugs in this bush"). We notice that new friendships are forming amongst the group every time we meet, and in addition to a lot of laughter and playful interactions kids are offering to teach games and songs to the whole group. During free play we discovered rosehip bushes as they snagged at our clothes, and we introduced the idea that soon, after a good frost, they will turn sweet and can be used for tea. One of our little explorers discovered a huge bone... is it from a moose? a deer? a cow? or a dinosaur?! We also greatly enjoyed finding big sticks to help us harvest the apples hanging high, and by the end of the day everyone was munching on wild apples.
We introduced a sensory-awareness game on Thursday where each child was blindfolded and then handed a natural object, and had a chance to tell us about the object...is it smooth, hard, soft, light, heavy? Another game we played was 'stargazer', where we laid on our backs, put our feet together in a circle and looked up at the sky to notice wind in the tall trees, clouds moving by, and airplane trails. Each day we are also continuing the sit spot ritual, encouraging the children to spend silent time alone in their special spot and observe the world around them.
It's great to observe so much independence and growth developing in the kids. During any given day their are many requests for help directed to the adults, such as 'I can't open this lid...' or 'can you help me put my pack on', and we are working on encouraging the children to help each other. 'Who can help Zoe with her lid?' 'Can anyone help with this heavy backpack?' and 'who would like to help pull this wagon?' It's been a great week, and it's hard to say whose having more fun, us or the kids!