Musings from the Educators

Heather: I really can’t believe it’s over. All the bonds we’ve created – child to forest, child to child, child to teacher, teacher to forest and forest to families, have all been very impactful. Especially in this program’s inaugural year where we set the stage for years to come. Both for the program and for part of the Root’s futures. I am so grateful for this journey we’ve shared together – through sun, rain, snow, wind, frost, dust – through it all. Climaxing with our hike to a lookout over the Comox Valley, everyone could appreciate the positive attitudes, strength, team-work and love of adventure we’ve earned together this year. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for sharing an important, integral year of your child’s life with us. You should be proud, they should proud. We’ve accomplished a lot – now imagine what kind of summits they will conquer after this!!

Alix: I found myself spending much of June reflecting on the year, and celebrating all that we have achieved since September. How much each child has grown. How much we have grown together! How the children have grown to love and care for the forest. And how much I have grown to love each of these children! In so many ways I can’t believe our first year is already over, and that these children are moving on to the next stage in their lives! In other ways, the beginning of the year seems so far away – we accomplished so much over the course of the year.  I am so proud of this group of children, who have come so far since the fall, endured many elements, conquered challenges both within themselves and externally as well, and gained uncountable skills that will be with them for the rest of their lives. I really cannot say thank you enough for believing in this program, and us, and helping to get the forest preschool ball rolling in the Comox Valley! Please know that your child, as part of the first Roots class, will always hold a special place in my heart. Have a fantastic summer!

Themes from June

Extended learning on Plants
This month the Roots took their understanding of plants even further. They learned about the edible and medicinal properties of many plants, and the guidelines for picking and eating such plants such as how many to take and to ask an adult if it’s okay. We made tea, skin salve, ate berries and expanded our knowledge of specific species. They really have really developed a keen sense of what differs one plant from another – and even sometimes how different plants are connected through their lifecycles or interdependency! (Although the Roots would probably describe their understanding differently than me)

_ Edibles

Dawson’s found some young Oregon Grape leaves. All of the Roots can confidently identify it now, but to be safe and sure they ask if it’s okay to eat from a teacher or adult.

_Aloe's tree

The spruce tree that Aloe brought in a month earlier is alive and well! The children studied the prickly needles of the spruce and compared it with other trees we’ve found in our classrooms to help them recognize that it is a different type of tree.

_Black berries

Berries!!! June was a wonderful month for harvesting an array of berries. Here Kieran shows us his find of a creeping blackberry and wonders if it is ripe enough for him to eat.

_huckles even better

Huckleberries were another favourite forest treat this month. This tall bush was a fun one to pick from once Aloe bent it over to make grabbing the berries of the high branches feasible. I also saw children picking enough to share with their friends who were playing, great examples of teamwork and collaboration and care!

_mint tea

On one walk off the path we stumbled across some mint growing wild. Many Roots knew that mint made great tea, and some put some mint in their water bottles on the spot. Later that week we made sun tea by putting the mint in a jar in the sun, with some honey, and crushing it up to make a refreshing beverage for the end of the day!

**Huckles on the hike

Jaylynn shares with us her find of yet another juicy huckleberry! Finding food in the forest comes natural to children, and it boosts their recognition of different plants while nourishing their bodies. I think this action of gathering and eating is a powerful connection children will forge with their environment for years to come.

Care for the forest, and for each other
There have been countless examples of the Root’s sensitivity to plants and animals needs over the past month. This deeper understanding of life has been extended to their friends through compliments, helping hands and inclusive play. I love to see how once children’s own needs are met they

_Care for tiny plants

The children took to placing cones by young plants, such as this tiny maple tree. They use them to indicate dangers, boundaries and found a new use to protect budding plant growth.

_inch worm

Trevor delicately holds a little inch worm as it tickles him! He was enthralled at this little beast, and reminded his friends to be careful of the inchworm’s soft, squishy body when they checked it out too.

_Pi checking out spiders

Pi checked out these tiny baby spiders without disturbing them by bringing a magnifying glass very up close to them! She got to investigate the little web they were resting in, and see just how many were making their home on this plant!

_Learning the salmon song

We had two visitors come to our class to talk about the fish we asked the Streamkeepers to rescue from Perseverance creek. Heather (not teacher) and Joanna Finch shared information and a song about a salmon’s lifecycle, and another song about biodiversity here in Cumberland. The Roots really love the action of the swimming salmon and it became a favourite song to sing for the month.

_SAYing goodbye

In our final week we had to say goodbye, and sometimes it took the form of hugs. We’ve learned this year how to ask if it is okay to hug a friend and if it is okay, to show affection through this loving gesture!

_Aloes bday

To celebrate and show care for our friend Aloe we had the birthday celebration for her at the bridge classroom, near where her tree was planted. I heard many compliments from the forests friends on Aloe’s photos of her growing up.


Soap making
We were lucky to have Debbie Bowman (from D. Bowman Nutrition Services) join us to make soap. The children found the process very interesting and really enjoyed being able to participate by stirring ingredients together.

_Smelling soap ingrediants

First we learned about all the ingredients that go into natural soap. We sniffed the olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, herbs and essential oils. Then we watched as Debbie mixed Lye and water to make it hot! To the hot lye she add the coconut oil to melt it. Finally she mixed all the ingredients together with a giant mixer….

_Soap consistency

…Untill it looked like this! The Roots noticed how the consistency and colour changed. They began to understand how the once dangerous lye was undergoing a change as well, and with time it would become safe!

_Pouring soap

Finally she poured the thick mixture into cream cartons to harden, and put them to bed by putting a dish cloth over them. Then we got to take home our sample of completely hardened and ‘saponified’ soap. She put pine needles in the sofa we got to take home and called it Community Forest Soap!

Salve making:

20160513_113905 IMG_6111Back in May, we collected Yarrow and Plantain to to dried for use in a salve. Yarrow we could identify because of its make poke ad fuzzy looking leaves and its distinct smell. Plantain we could tell because of its wide, broad leaves with  all the veins running from the stem to the edge of the leaf.





That week, we put all the dried Yarrow and Plantain in a jar and cut it up into small pieces. We then poured grapeseed oil over the herbs and let them soak into the oil for about 5 weeks.





To make the salve less liquid and oily – easier to put on your skin – we had to add bees wax. Here Aloe is helping James by holding the grater for him as he grates little shreds of bees wax to be melted into the warm oil.


Next we drained the oil into a pot by pouring the infused oil through a cheesecloth, then using a strainer and cheese cloth to squeeze as much of the remaining oil out of the leaves as we could. Then we heated the oil on a little stove and added the bees waxs. Once enough bees wax was melted we poured it off into little containers to harden and to take home a week or so later!

The salve is great for bug bites, skin irritations, staunching bleeding, acne, excema and more!

Accomplishment, Pride, Reflection and Celebration
We have accomplished so much this year. Here are some examples of what kinds of challenges and work the children did in June.

_Aloe and large log

Carrying heavy rocks and logs is good for children’s bodies and self confidence. Then at the end of the day a whole new fort has been built and they have a product to show for all their hard work!

_peaceful sand play

Play at the log jam was elevated each and every time we visited. From simple sand play to structures and incorporating different natural elements and teamwork and more, the children would get a lot of the return to this favoured site.

_slide on rainyday

The big slide classroom was discovered near the end of our year, and it proved to be the perfect time as the Roots had basically mastered their technique for descending steep slopes safely – while still having a blast. Each kid had their own way, and often they would try another child’s method. Even on this rainy day, big smiles and strong hearts we’re the result running down, and up, this hill!

_Trevor challenging himself

At the waterfall classroom Trevor discovered these two parrarell logs that had fallen into the creek bed. He then challenged himself to climb up with his feet on the lower log and hands on the top logs and shuffling along to the top. It was a slippery log and tricky to move in such a way but he did it! And he inspired other children to try it out too.


Returning to the maples was so interesting in that the children seemed to want to return to the projects and play story lines that they had been doing in the fall. James really wanted to work on the house again, and it really showed that he had learned a lot about building over the year as he knew what to look for to built it back up again!

**Daring children slide

On our hike we all took turns sliding down this steep slope! They really gained some speed but had enough control to stop in time and be safe. What fun!


This one says it all!! We were all so proud of having made it to this look out on Found Link trail. It was a long walk on a hot day but we were hydrated, had lots of huckleberry snacks and we marched on down the hill afterwards, albeit we were a little late to the pavilion.


Celebration And then it happened. We had our last day – for this year! What an amazing first year Hand-In-Hand has had! We brought both groups together for a celebration at Kin beach, and to mark the passing of each group on to new things. (all celebration photos credited to Pieter Vorster of Pod Creative)


We started off by thanking the parents for involving the children in our program by giving them a flower, grown in Alix’s garden.


Then we thanked Jarrett for organizing the program by giving him a card signed by and drawn on by all the Roots. We also decorated a ‘snake’ or ‘wizard’ stick for him all together, it was a magical beautiful thing!


To mark the passing of the year at Hand-in-Hand and leaping off into new adventures, the Roots walked across and leaped off a log to receive their card and leaf crown.


Each child has truly earned their crown – as intrepid adventurers with experiences that strengthened their character, their stamina and dexterity, their emotional understanding and their connection with the earth.

We finished off by having a potluck and playing on the beach and a LOT of goodbyes. I was teary-eyed to be sure, you’ve all been a very big and important part of my life this year. I truly hope to see some (i.e.: all) of you again in some capacity. Please stay in touch 🙂 Have an amazing summer and good luck in all your lifelong learning ventures!!!


Heather, Alix and Jarrett