Nature in the news…

WorkSafe Staff Policies

Daily Health Assessment

Staff are not to come to work if you:

  • Have travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days.
  • Have been identified by Public Health as a close contact of someone with COVID-19
  • Have been told to isolate by Public Health
  • Are displaying any of the following new or worsening symptoms:
    • Fever or chills
    • cough
    • loss of sense of smell or taste
    • difficulty breathing
    • sore throat
    • loss of appetite
    • extreme fatigue or tiredness
    • headache
    • body aches
    • nausea or vomiting
    • diarrhea

Areas of Transmission: Risk Assessment

Pick up and Drop Off – staff potentially in close contact with parents outdoors
Be mindful to maintain distance.

Snack Time & Tent – confined indoor/outdoor space

Toys and touch items – sign-in clipboard, pencil, art materials, nature museum, children’s toys (mud kitchen, ropes, fabric, etc.)

End of day meeting – extended conversation, outdoors
Be mindful to maintain distance.

Encounters with other park users – staff potentially in close contact with strangers outdoors
Be mindful to maintain distance.

Transportation to work – close contact in confined space.
Staff travelling in a vehicle together must wear masks while in the vehicle.

Home Office – confined indoor space
Must run HEPA filters continuously. Staff will work on separate floors whenever possible.
Staff will wear masks when working together indoors.
team meetings will take place outdoors.

Home office touch items – keyboard, mouse, binders, pencils, scissors, etc
These items must be sanitized with alcohol sanitizer twice daily. At change of hands: 1pm and 5pm.

Office bathroom – touch items, handles & switches
Bathroom must be wiped down with fresh bleach solution at change of hands: 1pm and 5pm.
The toilet lid MUST be closed when flushing.

Cleaning & Disinfecting Policies

The following items must be disinfected with a fresh bleach solution at the end of each session:

  • Art materials: scissors, pencils, felts, crayons
  • Mud kitchen items: all metal scoops & plastic buckets
  • Clipboard: sign-in sheet is only to be handled by one person each day
  • Backpacks: staff are responsible for packing and maintaining their own gear. Staff are not to use each other’s backpacks to minimize common touch points.

Risk of Violence from Public

Due to our working in a very public setting there is always a risk of a member of the public becoming aggressive or violent. Kindness is king and most incidents are simple misunderstandings that can be diffused by remaining friendly and smiling.

Staff should direct an aggressive park user to discuss their issue with Krystal who is always on site. In the rare event she is ill and not on site, staff are encouraged to NOT ENGAGE an angry park user and to give them a Sprouting Knowledge business card should they wish to complain to someone.

A Cloud Viewer

Have you every watched the clouds as they float by?

Maybe you’ve looked for shapes and pictures. Maybe you’ve hunted for dark clouds heavy with rain. One of my favorite parts of summer as a kid was having the time to do nothing but lay in the grass and watch the clouds drift by. When I was really little me, my sister and our neighbour across the street used to pretend we lived in the clouds. On days where there were lots of large fluffy clouds we would swing as high as we could on our swing sets and pretend we were flying up into the clouds to play with the animals who lived in the sky.

Have you ever noticed the clouds? What do you think they are made out of?
Maybe this story will give you some ideas.

There are lots of books about clouds maybe you’ve got a favorite? I like this one:

This project is inspired by the beautiful printable made by Holdfast Beach School and is something you can build and make on your own but when you are done you should really take a friend or a grown up to share the magic with.

You will need:

  • A glue stick
  • cotton balls
  • scissors
  • tape
  • two popsicle sticks

We are going to make the clouds with our cotton balls like this:

Then we are going to cut up our picture and glue it to our frame like this:

And finally you can tape the handles on the back like this ^

Now find a cozy patch of grass and your parent and head on out to the yard to watch the clouds, like this:

To the grownup:

Having a teenager at home really gives you an interesting perspective on your parenting. I get a hyper critical window into all the things I’ve ever done as a parent, good or bad, and the insight on how they were received. One thing I have learned, the relationship you create with your children is built upon tiny moments and memories that build up over the years. For example…

The other day we stayed up late to watch the bats come out, something we do at least a few times as a family every summer.

All of my big kids childhood vacations were taken in cars with no plastic drink purchases allowed because a) I am pretty militant about single use plastics and b) we didn’t have a lot of money for flights and planes are super hard on the environment. It’s amazing how much impact that has had on my teens perspectives and our relationship. Positve impact πŸ˜‰

We also watched the clouds together.

Sometimes when I was feeling overwhelmed or I could see that my kids needed some time out I’d just go lie in the grass. Of course my kids would quickly follow and ask what I was doing. I’d say something like “I’m trying to figure out if this cloud looks like a dragon or a space ship.” which would immediately result in them lying down beside me to give their input. Conversations would follow and in a few minutes everyone was feeling better.

My teenagers remember those few minutes.
It kind of seems weird but when they talk about it I get the feeling that those memories are part of why they trust me with their stories.

Pebble Scaping

Building on our playscaping skills we can also use rocks and pebbles to add to our world.

Do you have a collection of rocks in your yard somewhere? Maybe there is somewhere you can find rocks. A couple weeks ago I build a bear cave out of large rocks over the course of the week. Stacking rocks takes a lot of patience and careful concentration. It doesn’t always work the first time.

Here are some ideas for things you can add to your world with rocks:

To the grownups:

At outdoor preschool I’ve added a small world play set and mat to the toys I’m hauling around in my wagon. I really love small world play and find it is a beautiful and valuable way for children to process emotions and experiences.
But like anything creating small worlds is a skill that must be built upon.

For more ideas getting started building with rocks head on over to Kid Activities blog and check out Tricia’s post.

Un-Natural Treasure Hunt

This weeks scavenger hunt is going to require a bit of pre-planning. Inside your kit is a card with a bag attached to it. Inside the bag are the objects printed on the card.

Your grown up is going to go hide the objects in the bag in your backyard for you to then go and find.

See if you can find them all.

Maybe you can hide them for your brother or sister to find. Make sure they are in plain sight!

After you finish your treasure hunt you can use them to add to your Found Objects Collage project.

To the Grown-up:

One of the best parenting tips I ever received was to start a random toys vase. You may have seen these on Pinterest, I’ve heard people turn them into lamps.

Anyway…the vase is just a glass jar, wine glass, vase, whatever doesn’t really matter so long as it’s clear and can collect the small random toys your child will inevitably bring home. It is really a genius tip for two reasons, a) it gives you somewhere to put all those random bits that will just drive you crazy because you don’t know what to do with them and b) now you have a collection of tiny toys that come in surprisingly handy.

Some of the things we’ve done with our random toy collection over the years:

  • created this scavenger hunt πŸ˜‰
  • made a box of trades and trinkets for geocaching
  • used them as game pieces for board games
  • found perfect tiny props for school projects

It’s also fun to dump out and use to remember and tell the stories of where the toys came from. Below is a photo of the one that sits on my dresser.

Stick People

Often when a new friend joins us in the forest I will make them a doll to carry around with them. Some of you might have received a doll made out of grass or sticks. Today you will learn how to make your very own.

First you need to find the all important Y stick. And a second slightly shorter stick for the arms.

You’ll also need the supplies from your kit πŸ™‚

My rudimentary photo instructions are below:

Properties of Mud

A Very Muddy Story

One summer a long time ago, when I was a little girl, my parents planted a hedge of large cedar trees. The trees had very big root balls and needed to be planted in very big holes. My parents dug holes for those trees for a week and my sister and I were allowed to jump in and out of them. The holes were so big that my 9 year old self could barely climb back out on my own. When I was in the bottom of one it came up to my chest. My little sister could hardly see out the top of them.

They were deep and dirty and the most fun we had ever had. Until planting day…..

Before you plant a tree you are supposed to water the hole it is going to go in. So those holes that my sister and I had played in all week now were being filled with water. Because we had jumped in them so much the soil was compacted and drained fairly slowly so we had several of the biggest mud puddles you have ever seen in your life to jump in. And oh did we jump in them!

Now that they were wet and slippery we couldn’t get out at all without my Dad lifting us. So my sister and I each jumped into a hole and that’s where he left us to play until we’d had our fill of fun. My parents planted the rest of their trees while we jumped and splashed and scooped and slopped and made a thick gooey mess in the bottom of our holes.

Eventually our parents were ready to finish their tree planting project and my dad hauled first my sister and then me out of our holes and replaced them with a tree. We had a sprinkler that sprayed tiny straight lines in a long strip into the air, my dad rolled it out along near the newly planted hedge for us to run through and rinse ourselves off.

Each time we came onto the deck to come inside he would come to the patio door and inspect us for mud. We had to run back and forth many times before we were clean enough to be allowed back in the house. Once we were inside, my Mom made us a tasty snack of grilled cheese and watermelon and my Dad sat down at the table with us so he could give us a stern talking to about the trees.

We had our fun and the trees were planted. We were not allowed to play in the mud around the trees anymore or they would die and my father would be very upset. He did however, leave us a pile of dirt in a corner of the yard that we were allowed to play with.

That week, playing in those muddy holes was so much fun that I think about it often, even as a grown up.

If you ask your grown up I’ll bet they have a very muddy story about that they could tell you.

Do you have a very muddy story?

What makes mud? What are the ingredients?

Project 1

I’d like you to go on a hunt and collect different types of soil so that we can learn about what kind of dirt makes the best mud and how we can make mud on our own.

You will need:

  • 3 clear containers with lids
  • A shovel or scoop
  • A stick to stir
  • A bit of water to mix

With your containers we are going to wander around your yard or neighbourhood and see if we can find three different kinds of dirt. Try to find more than one kind of dirt. Different types to look for include:

  • dry, hard-packed dirt
  • loose soil
  • gravel
  • silt
  • sand
  • clay
  • dirt collected from under a tree (in the leaf litter)

Mini Project 2

We are going to bring our samples home and fill our jars half full of water.

Give them a stir and then leave them for at least a couple hours.

Now you’re gonna come back to them and have a look.

  • What do you notice?
  • Are there layers?
  • Is the water clear or muddy?
  • Which one do you think will be the best mud?
  • Which would be best for growing plants?

Let’s go test it out in your backyard mud pit.

To the Grownup:

If you are really into this, as your child collects the dirt, encourage them to discuss what they observe.
The following questions come from Gwen at Preschool Science who also helped with the layout for this activity.

  • How does dirt differ from place to place?
  • Where is the ground hard?
  • Where is it soft?
  • If the dirt is hard-packed, what’s the best way to loosen it?
  • Is the dirt dry or moist?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it smell like?
  • How is dirt collected from under a tree different from the dirt collected elsewhere?
  • Do you see any leaves? Bugs? Twigs? Seeds? Clues that animals have been here?

If you have a child interested in gardening you can extend this into a seed sprouting experiment.

Cardboard Forest Animals

These are quick, light and easy toys that you can take with you in your backpack on nature hikes and adventures. They don’t weigh very much so they won’t weigh down your backpack and make it really heavy. You can use them to tell stories and play in your backyard.

You can draw on them, paint them and decorate them however you want. You can make new legs that are silly and ridiculous or you could even draw, create and ask your parent to cut out your own animal you made up!

How I made these ones is I printed out some animal silhouettes and then I cut them out and cut off their legs!

I traced the animal body onto some cardboard and cut it out.

Then I cut the little triangle slits (not too wide or your legs will fall off) that let’s the legs slide onto the body and fit snugly.

The inspiration for this project came from a recent post I read on Red Ted Art where she made her daughter some jungle animals.

What I love about this project is that you could make them pretty much anywhere. All you need is:

  • A pair of scissors
  • Cardboard
  • A pen

That’s it!

As a substitute teacher I look forward to using this new skill to make toys for the children I care for. Many child care programs don’t seem to have very good open ended toys that allow children to be creative.

Mud Scaping

Creating the Deep Dark Woods

Have you ever read the story about the Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson?
If you don’t have it in your collection of books at home and can read it with your grown-up you can listen to it here:

I have given you all the parts you need to make the characters from the Gruffalo except an owl. Do you still have your pinecone owl? Do you think you could make another one if not?

With your animals we are going to head into your backyard to create some deep dark woods of our own.

You Will Need:

  • A paper or plastic cup (foxes house)
  • A big-ish rock
  • A short stick as wide as three fingers
  • A pile of small sticks (snake’s house)
  • A stick with some branches (owl’s house)
  • Your seascape

You will also need your Gruffalo characters: mouse, fox, owl, snake and the Gruffalo.

To the Grown-ups

Small world play is a play skill I’m going to really start focusing on at our outdoor programs. It is such a rich creative process both internally and externally. The ability to visualize and create small worlds gives a child such a wide and deep opportunity to work through their experiences and make sense of their world. It is also a play skill that will occupy your child for many hours and so is a valuable one for parents and caregivers too!

Mud Zone

Here it is. The week you’ve all been anxiously anticipating.
The week where I tell you grown ups to stand facing your backyard and find somewhere you are willing to dedicate to mud.

The time I let all the children
paint themselves with mud.

I waited until week 9 to filter out all the less committed families. You’ve stuck with me this long so I know you are committed to your child’s freedom in playful exploration. You don’t need me to explain the benefits of mud play, you already know them. So….without further ado here we go.

First thing you are going to want to do (after you have picked an area) is to build a tippy tap. If you don’t know what a tippy tap is pause for a moment to feel grateful for never having experienced what life would be like without running water.

One…….two…..three…..we are so so fortunate to live in such an abundant place.

My daughter 12 years ago

Ok. Now head on over to these instructions and start gathering some supplies. They are pretty simple ones that you can probably find relatively easily.

The reason you want to build the tippy tap is two fold:

  1. Mud play is more fun with water and they will stay engaged longer.
  2. Your child can wash their hands BEFORE coming into your house.

Why build the tippy tap instead of just providing a bucked with water in it?
Because a bucket can get dumped. It will be contaminated with dirt almost immediately and unless you want to give your child access to your yard hose (which I DON’T recommend) you are going to be filling bucket after bucket of water for them.

So! Save yourself the headache and make one of these. They are awesome and you’ll love them. Camping in the forest will be forever changed. If you’d like feel free to watch one of my favorite Forest School teachers, Lee Cook show us how it’s done in his backyard.

So far we have:

  1. Chosen an area to be dedicated to MUD.
  2. Built a Tippy Tap.

Last thing we need to do is add some supplies.

After over a decade of playing with kids in the dirt here are my absolute favorite mud/sand/dirt play tools. Right now all of these things can be found at Surplus Herby’s for around $50.

  • Stainless Steel Buckets
  • Stainless Steel Bowls
  • Muffin Tins
  • Cake Tins
  • Ice Cream Scoops
  • Bulk Bin Scoops

Now as the pictures show, you really don’t need to add anything.

Dirt + water = mud = messy fun

In your kits this week are some muddy recipes for your children to be inspired to play with. I even laminated them so they will hold up for a little while longer outdoors.

Tiny Matchbox Treasure Hunt

This is a treasure hunt for your keen nature eyes.

How many different things can you fit in your matchbox? They have to all be different. 10 of all the same flower or stone doesn’t count. Take your time and see what you can find. I’d love if you brought it with you to show me.

You can take a magnifying glass on your scavenger hunt to help to investigate your discoveries. Can you see intricate patterns, subtle colour changes and interesting textures?

To the grown-ups:

I saw this idea from another Forest School program and thought it would be a fun one to try. I’ve wrapped your children’s matchboxes with plain paper so they can decorate or draw on them as they see fit.

This is an easily repeatable one and a way to keep that nature collection down to a dull roar.
When you go on a walk bring a matchbox along with you for your child to put their treasures in. If it doesn’t fit in the matchbox it can’t come home.