“Quick, Miss Matthia, we need the binoculars to see the birds better!” A hawk has just flown over the field and the children are straining to see more clearly where he has perched and where the other, smaller birds have gone.
Our last week has come and gone and our fall session is done. There is something about the ending of a session that seems to bring leaps and bounds of growth out of the children. Or maybe some of that is just us teachers taking the time to reflect on how far they have all come.
The children arrived excited and happy for their last week. They went right into rolling snowballs in the meager snow that had fallen in the meadow. They had already perfected this skill earlier this season and it was remarkable how quickly they picked it back up and made impressively large snowballs. Each child strained to push their giant snowballs, at least as high as their waists, across the field. They shouted back and forth, “I need help over here please!” and traded their strength back and forth to all accomplish this rather monumental task. Their determination to finish the job pushed snack further and further back until they finally ran out of steam and needed a break, taking a moment to pose with their creations near the bridge. Some children noticed tracks in the snow. Without pause suggestions came in about what animal it may have been. Does that animal live in our forests? Can we follow the tracks and find out where it went? The lessons of these last weeks are written in their words and body language and keen interpretations.
Not only have the children’s knowledge and understanding of outdoor play skills and Peterson Creek Park’s environment grown, but also their tiny bodies have adjusted to the demands of forest school. Long hikes up tall hills are no longer the challenge they once were. The adventure is in the journey, in the discovery. Whether it’s a trail they’ve walked before or somewhere new that they are discovering for the first time, there is a confidence and surety in their steps. The have a good idea of the adventures awaiting them and point out interesting things along the way. Some may even gather a too-tempting stick as they go. Eventually, they know, there will be a time when that stick will be useful.
There is a mindful confidence in their play in these last days. They are comfortable and self-assured and certain. Each child has about them an aura of “I know just what to do.” Suddenly more reserved and observant children are directing play; Quieter children are making themselves heard; and children who have rarely sought each other out are engrossed in the same activity.
There is a beautiful peace and cohesion to the end of a session. In a few weeks time, it will all start again, and even with so many of the children returning, it won’t quite be the same as it is right now, in the moment. At least not right away. However, before long, we will once again be at the end of another session and this moment of peaceful reflection will carry us through to another.