Ever since March 2020, my dream life has been rich, I tell you, rich. I have always enjoyed the concoctions my sleeping brain creates, but this season has been extra-special. Here is a smattering of some themes:
The overriding emotions in the dreams were anxiety, fear of the unknown, worrying about making mistakes, not feeling equipped, not ready for change.
Each month since March we have wondered, “Will next season be the one when we re-start programs? Will this be over by then? Will we be ready?” And in the meantime, two whole seasons - spring and summer - have come and mostly gone.
We are now gearing up for fall, and I feel empowered. I have watched my oldest daughter work at a YMCA day camp this summer - and have seen the practices that they put in place. I have seen teenagers rise to the occasion, learn new protocols, adapt, and lead groups of children. I am confident that there are ways forward for our forest school programs in this COVID-19 era.
In June, we started drafting our “COVID-19 Guidelines and Emerging Practices” document, and I’ve actually enjoyed thinking through the various aspects of our program and coming up with workable solutions. My worries have been replaced with action, and I think I’ll need to just keep moving - one foot in front of the other - slowly continuing to take small, workable steps. I’ve come a long way from what I thought from March on, which could be summarized like this:
March: “This will all be over soon, I know it. Our spring programs will start in April, no problem.”
April: “What??? There is no part of our programs we could do in a distanced way. We are ALL ABOUT being close! Making connections! I am not sure how to run our programs without being close.”
May: I visited Huron Natural Area and cried. Especially about the fairy shrimp in the vernal pool. I’m used to observing them with a group of children. Maybe, going forward, we will just have sit spots and a game of Eagle Eye for the entire time we meet with groups - spread out, far apart. There could be worse things… but what about band aids? What about boots? What would we do if a child needs closeness - for putting on a bandaid, or for taking off soaking wet boots and socks, or comfort, or to remember they belong to a group?
June: We will break the “bubble” for band aids, boots and belonging. We will have small cohorts (like we always do), and we will keep distance when it is natural to do so, while still having fun and running a great inquiry-based, child-led program. We will use lots of hand sanitizer! We will create a list of games that can be played in a distanced kind of way. We will spread out our circle. Stretch ourselves a bit...
July: This feels doable. I’ve read through the province’s recommendations for day camps, the details for City of Kitchener-run day camps, Ontario childcare policies, and Canada Outdoor Summit Emerging Practices for Outdoor Led Programs. All of it is feeding a draft of our own COVID-19 Guidelines and Emerging Practices. It will be a mix of common sense, good hygiene and best emerging practices related to COVID-19.
August: I feel ready to welcome back families and children. We do not operate in a risk-free setting - ever. This will take a bit of courage, and I want that to spill over to the families and children. I have weighed risks and benefits and come up with strategies to mitigate the risks involved with gathering during a pandemic.
Yes, I’m very excited about all that the fall will bring. And I still have dreams of coughing foxes.
Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play