This morning all the Toddlers, Preschoolers, JKSK children, some parents and some Seneca students attend a special ceremony. When we arrive at our Forest School Classroom, we all gather round the fire. The Toddlers look at the fire very intently as this is their first time seeing one. Peggy (Coordinator, First Peoples@Seneca) starts the ceremony by reminding us of all the Indigenous people that have taken care of our forest for many years. Then she says a special prayer and blessing. She shows us all some cedar branches and asks us to listen to them as she puts them in the fire. Continue reading “Land Acknowledgment Ceremony Friday October 5th, 2018”
I set out into the forest to meet the children on a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon. As I walked through the forest I came across an extremely hurt squirrel, I wondered what the children would feel and think. As I approached the children and other educators it was clear I had come across something caused me to feel sadness. The children had rushed over, once Krystal said “I wonder what happened to Cristina”. I knelt down on the ground as the children gathered around. I expressed my empathy through my words and body language. The children naturally became eager to rush over and help the squirrel. As their excitement began to rise I expressed my thoughts and feelings on how I felt they needed to be bring calmness to the squirrel because it appeared to be in a delicate state. Continue reading “A Path To Empathy”
Our 2018 potluck brought together KOLTS families, friends and educators as part of a community circle. We filled our bellies with scrumptious food contributed by all, exchanged stories, laughed and planted a hearty garden thanks to the folks at Black Forest Garden Centre.
We closed the evening by uniting together in a traditional smudging ceremony lead by Emma our First peoples@ Seneca ambassador. We acknowledged the land with the understanding that we are guests and have a shared obligation to care for it as the future generations stood with us. Emma burned the traditional medicines of sage, tobacco, sweet grass and cedar (picked by the JK/SK children) and invited participants to bathe in its smoke as a symbol of cleansing: to think good thoughts, to see good thoughts, to hear good thoughts to speak good thoughts and to live in a good way (mino bimadiziwan).
This renewal of commitment in building a community of leaners is a crucial element that welcomes continuity for our youngest citizens, parents and educators. Our children will grow with the fundamental understanding of shared reflection, opportunities for exchanging and comparing, and learn to grow together and as individual in a community setting.
A Personal Reflection by Emma Greenfield
There are so many times when the Grandfather Teachings can be shared with young children. Sometimes we try to fit moments into the teachings, while other times it is the teaching that emerges from the moment.
From a First Nations perspective, turtles are very special. Turtles are one of the oldest animals of creation and are believed to have witnessed many truths of creation. North America is known as Turtle Island to the original peoples of this land. The turtle carries on its back a very special truth about creation. On the inside of the turtle’s shell, there are 13 circles. There are 13 moons each year! On the outside of the turtle’s shell, there are 28 circles. The moon circles the earth every 28 days! The turtle shares many wonderful truths with us. It teaches us to move slowly through life, to be careful, and to pay attention to what is around us. These wonderful teachings are sadly not reflected in what we see every year during the warmer months due to fast cars and incautious drivers. Continue reading “Caring for All Creation on Turtle Island”
My heart is filled with gratitude for the coming together of our community. Our youngest citizens participated in a traditional “dressing of the trees” ceremony honouring the the grandmother and grandfather tree of the tree nation. This validates the existing relationships children have established with the natural world around them and teaches respect and traditions of those who cared for the land before them.
This thoughtful reflection was shared by Emma Greenfield a student educator and ambassador with FirstPeoples@Seneca: Continue reading “DRESSING OF THE TREES”
Place-Based Learning is one of the key learning approaches the educators use when implementing a Forest and Nature School (FNS) program. This means that once we decide on a location for FNS we repeatedly visit this area with the children. “The ability to know a place intimately and to return to a natural space again and again, provides children with familiarity while honing their ability to recognize and understand processes of change” (Andrachuk et al., 2014, p. 31). One way to help children build connections to the land and a sense of stewardship for our FNS place is teaching them about sit spots and the importance of a time that brings them quietness and self-reflection. When participating in sit spots the children are encouraged to find a quiet, cozy spot near a tree where they can sit quietly and root themselves to the ground. We begin by listening to all the sounds around us during this period of time and hopefully in turn the children learn to be calm and listen to their bodies and mind as they are still. Continue reading “Sit Spots and Other Quiet Areas for Self-Reflection”
On this particular day in Forest school N was curious about the leaves he was finding on the ground, he was wondering their name and which trees they had come from. I suggested to N we go over and look at our leaf chart, “perfect! We can match the leaves now!” N then suggested we go on a “hunt” for more leaves and pine cones and we bring the sheets with us and use it as a “map”. M and another child overheard and were also interested in coming on a hunt for pine cones and leaves as well. The children were very engaged in matching the pine cones and leaves they found to their “map”. It was lovely to see the sense of belonging the children had in the forest and with each other and nature. They were hunting for themselves and each other “M are you still collecting pine cones? Because I found one you can have for your bucket.” It was clear to see the children felt safe, confident and skilled through their exploration and conversations with each other. They were supporting each other through words, actions their and shared exploration. I had asked the children what they were going to do with all leaves and pines they had collected. M responded “Well we could put them in the classroom and see what the other kids think.” “Yeah, I’m thinking we could look at the leaves closer” N added, “I’m not sure yet maybe the kids will think of something” N replied. The children expressed a sense of purpose as they participated and made contributions to KOLTS and specifically the JK/SK room. Children demonstrate a sense of belonging when they feel safe and included in their relationships with adults and the children around them. (HDLH, 26, 2014) Continue reading “The Adventure Hunt”
The winter months bring mixed reviews to our Forest and Nature school. The layers of clothes required to prepare for the winter weather can be a challenge for both the children and educators. However, the beauty of freshly fallen snow, the sun kissed snowflakes and the fresh winter air invite inquisitive minds to explore and engage in challenges that a traditional classroom cannot offer.
Place based learning invites children to make real connections with different areas of the forest. Children are very familiar and experienced with the “hill” and typically climb up to the top with confidence. The snow did not discourage the children from attempting the uphill challenge that encouraged whole body movements. Some crawled, others walked while intentionally distributing their weight in order to prevent a fall. These optimal conditions provided opportunities to strengthen muscle and core strength, increase flexibility and promote coordination. The physical benefits are obvious yet the underlying learning demonstrates enhanced determination and perseverance, the ability to challenge personal limitations, overcoming frustration and seeking out peer support to reach the ultimate goal of reaching the top of the hill!
Each successful climb to the top of the hill was celebrated by all with smiles and cheer. However the greater good is the internal feeling of accomplishment and success that is displayed by each child which clearly demonstrates natures invitation to develop a strong self efficacy for future endeavours.
Thank you mother nature, we are truly grateful for your beauty and affordances that support our daily growth!
Today was our first day out in the forest this month. The children were eager to walk down to our Forest and Nature School (FNS) spot. We gathered by the fire and opened our meeting with a song. Once we were done the children spread out and started exploring the forest. A few children headed over to our tarp where we set up an area for tool use. This was something new that our toddler group had not previously explored. Today there were two hand drills available with some tree cookies. M and L were the first to arrive. They watched as the hand drills were set up and wanted to immediately give them a try – without any help from the educators of course! In the end, it proved to be a bit difficult to turn the hand drills with puffy winter mitts on so Alyssa and I were able to step in and hold the drill so L and M could turn the handle more effectively. The children worked for a while to make holes in the tree cookies and spent a long time both focused and determined to turn the drill bit down into the wood. This learning opportunity is so significant to the children’s development because it highlights one of the key pillars of learning known as engagement in the document How Does Learning Happen? (2014). When children are given the opportunity to explore through play and become engaged in their play they “fuse intellect and feeling” which in turn “helps children make connections and develop the capacity for higher-order thinking” (HDLH, 2014, p. 35). As educators we know children are engaged in their learning when they are provided with opportunities to be “active, creative, engage in meaningful exploration, play and inquiry” (HDLH, 2014, p. 35).
When planning curriculum for Forest and Nature School there are some important elements the educators try and include to deepen the children’s experiences. Tool use, while an important piece of FNS, is something relatively new that we have finally been fortunate enough to start providing for the children. As discussed by Knight (2013), sharp tools require “tuition and trust” but as we establish safety practices and join in with the children to demonstrate skills and support their exploration there becomes “no reason not to use them” (p.103). Furthermore, “freedom to take risks that are managed, gives independence and a desire to explore further” (Knight, 2013, p.124). By viewing children as “competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, and rich in potential” we allow them the freedom to explore their skills and abilities (HDLH, 2013, p. 6). In turn, children develop confidence as they are given the important opportunity to experience success at an individualized level.
“[…] the one thing which truly makes children safe is their own competence, their own capability, their authentic skills in meeting the asymmetry, irregularity and unpredictability of life” (Griffiths, 2014, p.66).