Wrapping up 2018

Fran DeFilippis RECE

The latter part of this year has been transformative for KOLTS. It began with Pam’s retirement and my shift to Director of KOLTS, and continues with an environmental transformation of our learning spaces. I am grateful for Pam’s work in preparing us for these inspired changes and aim to honour her legacy by working together to fulfill our shared vision for KOLTS. 

The renovations have offered us an opportunity to think deeply about KOLTS – to take a closer look at our guiding purpose, the learning that takes place both indoors and out, and our growing connections to the land and indigenous teachings. In the near future, KOLTS will be  participating in the Centre of Excellence for Early learning – an Ontario government initiative to address the changes happening in the education landscape. This transformation will assist with our future work as a partner with the Centre of Excellence, moving towards a research-minded approach that honours our lab school origins. In an effort to bring all these changes together in an intentionally way, I have reached out to Simone and Aviva, our partners at  ThinkinEd who have offered to support and guide us through this process while embarking on their own research journey – take a look  https://mailchi.mp/cef3448428cd/yz7c3bf46v-3377573?e=e75619318b

I am excited to embark on this incredible journey as we  work together to reimagine all of our indoor and outdoor spaces over time. Although this work will limit the time I spend with the KOLTS forest and nature school program, Cristina, Krystal and Kristin will continue to share their experiences with the children in the forest. 

And I will begin to share my reflections on the overall future of KOLTS as a place of possibilities – inspired by curiosity, wonder, and joy. More to come!


United by water

On November 1st we honoured the water that brings life to all living things. We gathered with First peoples@seneca who shared their teachings and ways of being while surrounded by our youngest citizens from Newnham, Denison and KOLTS childcare, their families, and the greater Seneca community.

As we develop relationships with the land our love for the earth deepens.

– DeFilippis

The children gathered water from the lake in copper vessels with intention and accountability. They walked a great distance with nany tempting obstaclalong the way, to the Grandmother and Grandfather tree who reside in the forest closer to KOLTS. Only a few wavered for brief moments, others were fully committed. 

Upon arriving to the common area, the community respectfully waited for Peggy and her partners as they travelled across the lake. Once Elder Blu and Peggy  arrived,  the children were invited to offer the water as nourishment to the trees.  We paused and  thanked the Grandmother and Grandfather trees   for providing the gift of  nourishment and shelter to living things that visit the forest. 

This traditional ceremony closed with the opening of the community medicine garden that will invite all members to reflect and honour the earth and each other. As we formed a circle around the medicine garden, I felt a sense of calmness surrounding me, yet a feeling of strength within me.   It was a grounding awareness:

“I belong here, with the land, and it brings me what I need to heal and grow. It is a mutual understanding that the earth offers an abundance of gifts to nurture me and in return it is my obligation to continue to care for this land for future generation. “

– DeFilippis

The landscape of nature calls to children and adults to connect with the soil, water, trees and all living things without predetermined intentions. As we begin to plant and care for the growth of the traditional medicines, we will  take the time to honour those individuals who have left this earth and use the energy of the garden to heal. This connection provides a space for freedom, individuality and courage.  It invites an equalization of voice a place of understanding and respect. 

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. 

Richard Louv

Land Acknowledgment Ceremony Friday October 5th, 2018

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”

A Path To Empathy

group sq

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.  IMG_1310

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).IMG_5520

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.






Caring for All Creation on Turtle Island

A Personal Reflection by Emma Greenfieldphoto of a painted turtle

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”

Sit Spots and Other Quiet Areas for Self-Reflection


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”

The Adventure Hunt


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”

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