“Once upon a time…”

We learned this week that this is how stories start when we aren’t sure if they’re real or not. The children learned of the story of the Blubbergumps. Dreadful, irresponsible, and mean, the Blubbergumps were a scourge on the forest. They broke branches, scared away the animals, and left garbage wherever they went. One day a Wise Old Tree decided to do something to stop the Blubbergumps, and so the Knights of the Forest were born: Sagebrush and Flicker and Goldenrod. The Knights used their magic to trick the Blubbergumps into leaving the forest, and soon the forest was safe and at peace again.

The children were enthralled, so much so that the story will be back next week!

At forest school, we use stories to inspire the children and to educate them. While listening to the tale of the Blubbergumps, the children learned names of some of the plants and animals in the park. They were encouraged to consider what was appropriate and expected behavior in the forest and what was not. They were introduced to new vocabulary–do you know what wise means? The children also worked on their social skills. They practiced sitting at a table and listening quietly. They were given the opportunity to empathize with the Wise Old Tree, and reflect on the consequences of the Blubbergumps behavior. So many opportunities for learning in this one moment! This is one of the ways in which we teach at forest school.

How else does your child learn at forest school?

How do we encourage children at forest school to learn the rules about safety? 

We play!

When we play games such as the one we played this week, “1, 2, 3, Where are you?!” We introduce children to the idea of using “owl eyes” to observe the world around them. Where might they, or those they seek, hide? We introduce them to the idea of using “deer ears.” Can they hear the sounds of their classmates in the brush? Or the footsteps of a teacher drawing near? We also introduce children to an important concept of safety. When the teacher calls out, you must reply. Here I am!

How do we encourage the children at forest school to learn the rhythm of the day? 

We sing!

We sing songs that create community and relationship between the children and ourselves. We also use music to orient children to the flow of the day. We howl like wolves to bring the group together. We sing to learn names and to move our bodies at the start of the day. We sing to signal snack time and hand washing. We sing to clean up and to say goodbye. Apart from morning circle, our transition songs remain the same, so the children learn the rhythm of our day in a very real sense!

How do we encourage children to focus their inquiry and imagination?

We inspire!

We start our day with the nature museum. Our teacher box is always filled with interesting tidbits.  What is this insect/animal/plant? Can you name it? Have you seen it? Does it live in this park with us? The nature museum also tells the children what our weekly focus is, and when it changes. We cycle through four themes that inform our questions, our games, and even how we interact with each playsite.(We begin with Insects).

And how do we encourage children to form their own, personal, intrinsic connection to the natural world? 

We “Knight” them.

Pygmy Nuthatch, Mountain Cottontail, Rubber Boa…

When children are encouraged to have agency in taking ownership of their relationship to nature, they come to value nature, to cherish it, and to love it. By giving each child a nature name in the manner of the Wise Old Tree of the story, they are connecting the story they heard with the reality they are experiencing. We use the daily ritual of our closing circle and just a little bit of nature magic to plant the seed of the Love of Nature within each of their hearts, a seed we will continue to water and tend and help grow through the upcoming weeks. This is the work of forest school.

“Obligation grows from love…Love isn’t just a state of being, it’s a way of acting in the world. Love isn’t a sort of bliss, it’s a kind of work. It is the natural shape of caring.”

                                        -Kathleen Dean Moore

Saying Goodbye and Thank you.

This week we invited parents and guardians to join us on our adventure. We are so grateful to have these opportunities with your little ones it is a joy we love to share. The children were eager to show their parents the spaces we’ve visited, the games they’ve played and mishaps they recovered from. Sharing put a big proud smile on every child’s face and watching the parents enter play at their level was such a treat! Slipping and sliding down the hill, wolf howling loud to our friends across the way, and racing through fir forest in our biggest tree tag game yet, were all opportunities for the kids to lead the way and demonstrate wholeheartedly all that they have learned. Continue reading Saying Goodbye and Thank you.

Rain, puddles, mud and magic

Today was a cloudy, drizzly day which meant that our newfound hideout under the huge Willow tree in North Bank was the perfect place to be! FJ conjured up a train to get us all there, with him and SH hand in hand playing the slow rear engine the whole way there!  Many stops were made to let passengers on and off at all our favorite spots and to clean up the creek a bit as we went, but eventually we made it across the low road and into the grassy field at the foot of the willow.

Continue reading Rain, puddles, mud and magic

Putting on the k

June has been such a special time in our favourite Peterson Creek Park! The creek babbles away back to normal levels, the flowers are out, and the trees in full bloom and cover. Our every morning musical bridge has a full canopy shading it and bringing out the magic of the place even more! Our 1.1km journey to South Bank saw us crawl like beavers through the thick grown Juniper on the lower paths, stroll quietly like deer under the tall wide Hawthorn tree, bounce around the big Willows by the creekbed like foxes, take a quick detour to see the tall Cottonwood that fell into the creek earlier this Spring, and finally meander like bears through Fir Forest and down into our beloved South Bank creekbed. Our morning forest song continues to be a great way to put ourselves in the animals shoes, and really connect with what’s around us! Continue reading Putting on the k

Climbing Hills and Trees

Ponderosa Palace felt about that big today once we made our way over the big hill and tucked our things under the big nurse Pine. As our Thursday group gains confidence and independence, we take up more and more space to roam, and each child selects their own preferred mode of play. AL lived true to her dad’s words by showing off her impressive climbing ability on the big Ponderosa, and even stayed tough and brave when her climb down caused a bit of a scrape. NS also took his turn at the climb when he craved a little quiet time on his own later on. Continue reading Climbing Hills and Trees

Forging Friendships in Fir Forest

Fir Forest was not only our destination, but also very much a theme for our play today. The kids are now embracing our early morning Forest Song, and IB was so excited to sing along and pick which animal we were to be today – rabbits and bears are always on the list! It gets us on all fours and feeling and sensing what nature brings us each day. Continue reading Forging Friendships in Fir Forest

Slowing Down and Seeing More

Our group is getting very good at slower nature walks that allow us to notice things around us first thing in the morning and today really put that to the test! We started the day with the Forest Song for when the people are gone. We transformed into a herd of quiet deer who moved, so quiet, attentive, listening and ready to be quick. We noticed the river was lower, the grass was high, and there were beautiful new flax and rose flowers on our sandy digging hill. CS couldn’t believe that no more water overflowed on the trail as we crossed the bridge and traveled North down to the creek bed.

Continue reading Slowing Down and Seeing More

Ponderosa Palace Play

This Thursday was a great chance to take advantage of the slightly cooler weather, to head up high and check out Ponderosa Palace; a beautiful place we only go to on extra special days! It was up to the kids today to find their way back to this place we haven’t been since there was snow on the ground, and SH-F led the way with the confidence of a true explorer. EF, CD and JH picked a different route approached the palace from above and tried to sneak up on the rest of the group. They were foiled by CS who used his owl eyes and deer ears to spot their movements from below.

Continue reading Ponderosa Palace Play