Musings from the Educators
Alix: Wow! Was it just me, or did May fly by?! We certainly had a busy month – the forest is so full of life and activity! As we are nearing the end of the school year, it is apparent how comfortable all of the children are in the forest! One of the goals of the program is to instill a love of nature in children, so much so they feel protective about it, and strive to protect it. This goal has definitely been reached, which was seen this month by the children’s desire to take care of the forest, whether through trail building, saving fish, or by reminding each other to tread lightly and treat animals with respect. The group was also proud to share themselves with the community as part of the Cumberland parade, which resulted in winning a small prize, much to their delight!
Heather: May has always been my favourite month here in the Comox Valley. With the leaves on the trees at their most glowing green, and the sun higher in the sky, and plants at your knee or over your head, how can you not feel embraced by nature’s glory? Like the first rays of morning shining through the trees, the children’s’ individual strengths and new growth really shone through. This month was full of opportunities to expand outward into the community and to deepen our connection with nature. Through stewardship activities like trail building and saving the fish trapped in a shrinking pond we showed our appreciation and passion for protecting the forest that teaches us so much; and gives us a place to play. The children’s general awareness of specific species and sensitivity of organisms seemed to develop this month as they are consistently calling out the names of plants and animals they know. They are learning to tread lightly around snails and fragile ferns. With each other they offer to help and play more than ever – each child respecting the differences and individual skills the others bring to the group. They’ve come so far. I’m very proud of them.
Themes from May
Hand-In-Hand really made our presence known in the community this month, joining forces with the parks and rec department, raising the alarm to the stream keepers, and heading into the community on field trips.
Our trail maintenance job was a big one, helping to repair the trail that leads to the log jam classroom. This winter, the creek spilled over onto the trail, and washed parts of it away.
Visiting the pond after the fish had been relocated, we were surprised to see how much the water level had dropped, and told the story of how the Stream Keepers did their work. The children feel very proud about saving the fish!
Over some of the winter months, we have collected a lot of broken glass, mostly from our Red Tree classroom, where the rains bring a creek into the path and carry/reveal pieces of glass that has likely been around for a long time. While cleaning up our classroom was the main objective, using this waste to create something beautiful was a real bonus. We would love to see photos of how your stepping stone turned out!
With the forest growing rapidly all around us, we decided a trip to a farm would be a meaningful way to talk about where our food comes from. The lovely Twila and Donovan showed us around their family farm The Pirates Pond farm. It was so fun to dress as pirates for the day, name a rabbit Parrot Butterfly, and walk the plank too!
Its hard to tell who is enjoying this experience more – the cat or the kids! We were fortunate to interact with many animals on the farm – rabbits, chickens, ducks, pigs, and the cats too! We also talked about the food grown on the farm, and helped out by planting pumpkins that the pigs will eat once they are grown.
The forest is brimming with life this time of year, and we have been seeing many animals as well as hearing many birds. The children care for the animals very much, and are constantly pointing out slugs (both banana slugs and “raisin” slugs) on the path so that it doesn’t get stepped on. In addition to slugs, we have seen many butterflies, snails, snakes and frogs (and fish!). The group realizes that we are visitors in the animals’ home, and want to take care of them.
Aloe connecting her knowledge to her play/work – She is making a flower for the butterfly to feed from.
As we sat to watch a frog, this one hopped onto Juniper, much to her delight!
Those baby spiders were so tiny we needed a magnifying glass to really see them well. Turns out there were too many to count!
With green things sprouting, flowering and growing tall all around us, the children have taken interest in identifying the many plants that make up our forest. From the earliest spring flowers, like dandelions, skunk cabbage, cherry blossoms, salmon berry flowers and forget-me-nots, to edibles like Oregon grape leaves, mint and salmon berries, dangers like devil’s club, as well as medicinal plants like yarrow and plantain.
Aloe brought in a small spruce seedling that we helped her plant near our bridge classroom, and a few days later we brought various evergreen branches in to see who could identify the spruce. Aloe was able to! This is a great example of child-led learning – Aloe brought the initial interest to the class and it became a shared experience. That learning experience was extended, and the “lesson” is more meaningful and therefore one that will stick with the children.
Identifying and collecting yarrow for use in a salve that we made as a class together. The children often point it out still or check if they are right in their identification. As the children learn more and more about wild edibles, we discuss the importance of checking with a teacher before putting anything in our mouths.
Theo correctly identifying Devil’s club. This is one of the biggest dangers in our classrooms, and the children take great pride in pointing it out, and placing a cone near it to warn others of its presence. This desire to ensure the safety of the group illustrates the respect and care that the group has for each other.
As the need for many layers has diminished, the children have been able to move their bodies more freely. Combined with their natural development, they love challenging themselves physically in our classrooms wherever possible, whether it be by climbing (hills, rocks, trees, stumps), sliding, lifting/moving, running, jumping, bouncing, or balancing. The uneven surface that wild spaces provide make the development all that much richer.
We often look for classrooms that have ample running space. A gentle slope is a great test to balance, agility and speed, as well as for being able to “put on the brakes” when needed.
When one child has an idea and needs help from friends to see it come to fruition, all children involved are growing their social skills, cognitive skills – to find the best way to deal with the problem – as well as physically developing from the sheer difficulty of the task. These three are finding a large stick that can be used as a seesaw. When they finally freed this stick, they put it through the crotch of a tree, and took turns bouncing on either end – until it broke. Although we educators could guess that the stick could break, having the children experience it for themselves makes their gain much greater than if we had told them beforehand.
Although blurry, you can see how high Theo is able to jump here. The strengths of some children often inspire others to try similar things, but its amazing how other children can push themselves, but within their abilities. The most timid jumpers start off by sliding first and testing the landing area, or by jumping from partway up the hill, and advancing from there. Of course, taking turns is a valuable skill that is practiced in a situation like this as well.
Although blurry as well, this photo demonstrates how each child can make the challenge their own. Juniper initially discovered this “trampoline” stick and enjoyed jumping off. Soon other children joined her and it wasn’t long before they were trying to make things even more challenging by changing where they were landing.
We are so lucky to have the Cumberland Community Forest as the setting for our forest preschool. This collection of old stumps is a much more dynamic and challenging climber than you would find in any traditional school yard. This is a favorite spot with both groups, providing challenge across a spectrum of abilities.
We finished the month off by celebrating biking. We got some practice in by being in Cumberland’s Empire Days Parade (which was SO much fun!), and then took our show on the road and went on an adventure together through Cumberland.
We looked great as we paraded down Dunsmuir Street with our nature decorated bikes and wild things costumes! So great that we were the recipients of a prize! On our bike to play field trip day we biked to Tarbells downtown to have our picture taken for the paper!
Bikes and kids – like peanut butter and jam – just meant to be together!
These kids were so impressive on their wheels! We had lots of fun at the pump track, going around and around non-stop!
We also celebrated Pi on the last day of the month, having our Passage of Time ceremony at the pump track. Here she is showing her friends a beautiful painting of herself as a baby.