Hand-In-Hand December News

Musings from the educators…

What I noticed this month by Heather:
A chance to pause now, at the end of the calendar year. Taking a moment to reflect, all I can think is, wow, we made it – not just four months spent idly watching the days slip by but we absolutely kicked this program off to a great start! I am so grateful to all the families who took a leap with us and tried out a brand new early years program!! That takes some brave and creative parents to have faith in such an unconventional idea. You’ve probably noticed how your children have grown, in their social skills, their independence, their reasoning and curiosity, and their physical abilities! I hope it has transferred over to positive experiences at home too, and in this way we can build a strong community of learners. Speaking of community, watching the children form supportive and playful relationships this past month has been especially significant. The Roots will help each other with everything from buckling up backpacks to damming a ‘river’ with rocks or logs. Or assisting a friend with an imaginative car mechanical problem! This budding community has grown so much together, it will be a joy to watch where they go from here.

What I noticed this month by Alix:

We are halfway through our winter break – does anybody else miss going to school?! It has been what I would call an outstanding start to our program! Although we have only been together for a little over three months, the group has grown in leaps and bounds! These are no longer “little” four year olds – they are competent, confident and increasingly independent learners. These children have endured some challenging weather, experienced how familiar places change on a daily basis and have become comfortable in the forest. They have grown to respect and care for each other, as well as the world around them. They are adventurous explorers, inquisitive scientists, and avid learners – qualities we hope will stay with each child their whole life! I am looking forward to the New Year, to see where the children will take us, and to watch them grow even more! It will be interesting to see how the group welcomes our new Root- Jaelyn – to the group, and how they help her achieve all of the qualities the group has grown to acquire!   

Themes from December:

From ice and frost in November, to snow in December, the Roots weathered the weather well! This month we saw sprinkling and pouring rain, dramatic windy skies, frost tipped bushes, sun warmed earth and, on our last day, snow! These variable weather conditions exposed to us many phenomenon of nature, and taught us how to prepare and respond to this weather so we can continue to play and learn in it. Everyday brought a new  opportunity to challenge their bodies and minds. They worked hard by climbing frozen stumps or rocks, walking on slippery slopes, rolling down snowy hills, and going for long walks. They expanded their understanding of weather and seasons when they questioned the ‘rain’ on cloudless days or played in the curious new ‘creek’ that appeared on a path.

After weeks of a frozen pond, the Roots were surprised to splash their sticks in liquid water! Of course, it still provided for a lot of fun fishing and experimenting with stick size and length.

After weeks of a frozen pond, the Roots were surprised to splash their sticks in liquid water! Of course, it still provided for a lot of fun fishing and experimenting with stick size and length.

Early in Decemeber, we decided to explore further down the path that led us to the frozen pond. Here we found some great long puddles to splash in!

Early in December, we decided to explore further down the path that led us to the frozen pond. Here we found some great long puddles to splash in!

This water fall coming from a drain flowed under the road, noticed Theo. At the part of the road further down, James wondered where

This water fall coming from a drain flowed under the road, noticed Theo. At a part of the road further down, James wondered where the waterfall flowed to, since we were downhill of where we saw the waterfall initially.

Trying out Theo's track and jump into a shallow spot, Jared goes full force down the hill to see if he likes it

Trying out Theo’s track and jump into a shallow spot, Jared goes full speed ahead down the hill to see if he likes it too!

There is water there! exclaimed James and everyone went to check out a place that had water in it for the first time this year

There is water there! exclaimed James and everyone went to check out a place that had water in it for the first time this year

There's the ice pond! They exclaimed as they arrived at a new classroom with a new view of the ice pond from a different perspective.

There’s the ice pond! They exclaimed as they arrived at a new classroom with a new view of the ice pond.

Some beautiful rain art to represent the weather that week.

Some beautiful rain art to represent the weather that week.

The trip to Mount Washington accentuated our investigation of the changing seasons. We spent the day walking as best we could through the snow in Strathcona Provincial park guided by two long time adventurers! Discussions of snow, winter and animal habitat followed this trip to the top.

Our initial tumble through the less packed down snow was difficult! A test for limbs and balance.

Our initial tumble through the less packed down snow was difficult! A test for limbs and balance.

We trekked through the snow on a barely packed down cross country ski path for quite a while to get to where we would play, snack and enjoy a snowy classroom for the day. This was a test of endurance and showed that the Roots were capable and interested in going forward into Strathcona park so they could see more and immerse themselves further in nature.

We trekked through the snow on a cross country ski path for quite a while to get to where we would play, snack and enjoy a snowy classroom for the day. This was a test of endurance and showed that the Roots were capable and interested in going forward into Strathcona park so they could see more and immerse themselves further in nature.

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Nolan questions the stability of the clump of snow on the sign post!

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This pesky whiskey jack thought Maggie’s sandwich looked really tasty – and it swooped in to peck at it! She eyed it while guarding her snack after that.

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Delilah tries her hand at moving snow around with a shovel.

Snacking and hot chocolate at the snow table - a great time for bonding and re-energizing after our trek!

Snacking and hot chocolate at the snow table – a great time for bonding and re-energizing after our trek!

Jared and Keiran work at creating a little snow person. The snow was perfect for packing and constructing. We wondered about what makes snow ideal for sticking to itself like that.

Jared and Kieran work at creating a little snow person. The snow was perfect for packing and constructing. We wondered about what makes snow ideal for sticking to itself like that.

What a great perch!

What a great perch!

John, a director from the Strathcona Wilderness Institute, demonstrates some of the gear he uses to ice climb and play in the mountains. He and his wife Kama kindly joined us and shared their knowledge on our trip and for this we thank them!

John, a director from the Strathcona Wilderness Institute, demonstrates some of the gear he uses to ice climb and play in the mountains. He and his wife Kama kindly joined us and shared their knowledge on our trip and for this we thank them!

 

Here are some other ways we interacted with the environment to further understand natural processes back in Coal Creek Historic Park in December:

We measured the rise and fall of the frozen pond. We found when it was liquid it went almost to the sign post, but as it became more frozen and the temperature was colder it shrank back from the sign post. We used non-standard measurements to compare the distance from water to sign, ie: Nolan's boot!

We measured the rise and fall of the frozen pond. We found when it was liquid it went almost to the sign post, but as it became more frozen and the temperature was colder it shrank back from the sign post.
We used non-standard measurements to compare the distance from water to sign, ie: Nolan’s boot!

Day after day we watched the pond shrink and grow and freeze and thaw to varying degrees. Here is a perplexing example of an ice layer above the newly frozen surface of the pond.

Day after day we watched the pond shrink and grow and freeze and thaw to varying degrees. Here is a perplexing example of an ice layer above the newly frozen surface of the pond.

What caused this tree to fall INTO our picnic pavilion? This event helped us come to the conclusion that wind can be dangerous - for trees and humans alike. But that the consequences can mean lots of great sticks to play with!

What caused this tree to fall INTO our picnic pavilion? This event helped us come to the conclusion that wind can be dangerous – for trees and humans alike. But that the consequences can mean lots of great sticks to play with!

On a walk to explore further into the park, we stopped to listen carefully to the quiet sounds of the forest.

On a walk to explore further into the park, we stopped to listen carefully to the quiet sounds of the forest.

Near to the solstice we found our shadows - long and clear on a sunny day nearing 12 o clock. Short days and long shadows... hmmmm...

Near to the solstice we found our shadows – long and clear on a sunny day nearing 12 o clock. Short days and long shadows… hmmmm…

Sometimes animals leave tracks as evidence that they've been there. In this case, James found something else, deer scat!

Sometimes animals leave tracks as evidence that they’ve been there. In this case, James found something else, deer scat! He recognized it right away.

 

Throwing rocks into this pond, frozen or liquid was always interesting. It would make a neat ricochet kind of sound when frozen. We practiced throwing so that the rock would slide across, and worked making sure friends were out of the way so we could throw without hitting them.

Throwing rocks into this pond, frozen or liquid was always interesting. It would make a neat ricochet kind of sound when frozen. We practiced throwing so that the rock would slide across, and worked on making sure friends were out of the way so we could throw without hitting them.

On a day when the pond near the picnic pavilion was SO frozen that the strongest stick couldn't break the ice, Aloe was quick to find a large rock she would heave into the pond with dramatic and successful results!

On a day when the pond near the picnic pavilion was SO frozen that the strongest stick couldn’t break the ice, Aloe was quick to find a large rock she would heave into the pond with dramatic and successful results!

James wanted to know what would happen if we poured the hand washing water on his snowman. Many guessed it would melt, and they were right! It was fun to wash it turn into slush so quickly.

James wanted to know what would happen if we poured the hand washing water on his snowman. Many guessed it would melt, and they were right! It was fun to wash it turn into slush so quickly.

 

The Roots took on many physical challenges this month, from long walks to technical climbing! As they develop their gross motor skills, they also build self confidence and body awareness. “We did it!” and “We win!” are commonly shouted amongst the group and it is clear they share a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Near the creek path classroom we have this great dirt hill to clamber over, and slide down!

Near the creek path classroom we have this great dirt hill to clamber over, and slide down!

With a small class we were able to go a long way. Past the creek path classroom is a trail called Mama Bear. We ran, jumped and walked quite a ways down it!

With a small class we were able to go a long way. Past the creek path classroom is a trail called Mama Bear. We ran, jumped and walked quite a ways down it!

Walking and singing brings us to many new places to explore, like the bridge classroom. We noticed the changes that the frost brings to different plants and parts of the pond/

Walking and singing brings us to many new places to explore, like the bridge classroom. We noticed the changes that the frost brings to different plants and parts of the pond itself.

Climbing up this steep, frozen and loose hill was a challenge, but not too great for the Roots who went on all fours to make it up safely!

Climbing up this steep, frozen and loose hill was a challenge, but not too great for the Roots who went on all fours to make it up safely!

Another interesting development was the discovery and subsequent modifications of our Creek Path classroom. This dynamic little stream, that flowed following a decent rainfall, provided the platform for many experiments, discoveries and fun. We saw how water eroded the edges of the path like rivers do to their banks, we saw how a small waterfall produced frothy bubbles, we saw how undisturbed water cleared up and much more. Here is a sample of what the Roots got up to in this classroom.

It started with a gravel and dirt dam across the main stream. Maggie wanted the water to flow over the dam, so she's adapting the dam with her boot.

It started with a gravel and dirt dam across the main stream. Maggie wanted the water to flow over the dam, so she’s adapting the dam with her boot.

From gravel to logs, Nolan, Trevor and others worked together to reinforce the dam, and redirect the stream off to one side. They found that a deep puddle formed on the upstream side of the dam.

From gravel to logs, Nolan, Trevor and others worked together to reinforce the dam, and redirect the stream off to one side. They found that a deep puddle formed on the upstream side of the dam.

I wonder if playing with water, buckets, logs and friends is fun...I think Kieran's face says it all.

I wonder if playing with water, buckets, logs and friends is fun…I think Kieran’s face says it all.

Delilah and especially James worked on creating side streams, testing the ways to make it flow where they wanted it to go.

Delilah and especially James worked on creating side streams, testing the ways to make it flow where they wanted it to go.

The opportunities for collaborative projects and experiments abound. Here, everyone is watching as a bucket floats and how dirt gets stirred up as you pour water into the stream.

The opportunities for collaborative projects and experiments abound. Here, everyone is watching as a bucket floats and how dirt gets stirred up as you pour water into the stream.

Delilah and Maggie had great fun together on this day when they together filled their buckets with mud, rocks and water. Following this is a video of them playing. Delilah accidently splashed Maggie with a little mud and said "Oh sorry! But it's more fun when you're more dirty right?" Here's the conversation that ensued:

Delilah and Maggie had great fun together on this day when they together filled their buckets with mud, rocks and water. Following this is a video of them playing. Delilah accidently splashed Maggie with a little mud and said “Oh sorry! But it’s more fun when you’re more dirty rig

On our first day in this classroom, the kids got very very dirty. They had no inhibitions about trying out new ways to play. Below, Trevor gets on his knees so he can scoop up lots of muddy water and friends run by splashing and crying out:

 

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