“It is a serious thing
Just to be alive
On this fresh morning
In this broken world.”
~ Mary Oliver
Hello to our dear forest school families! We wanted to send you some ideas of outdoor-related things to do while you're having a bit of a different routine (maybe) than usual. For some of you, maybe your homeschooling continues as usual - although with less interactions with other homeschoolers. For the schoolers, it's perhaps a bit of a summer-holiday-but-not-quite feeling. And for you parents! Blessings and all good things to you right now. :)
Over the next few weeks, I wanted to give you some ideas of routines that we do in our forest school sessions. Perhaps after reading these posts, you'll say: hey! I can do forest school easily from home! Exactly. You can! I encourage you to make these routines part of your family's practices - for you as adults too. They are good for any age's soul.
I'll also include some ideas for what to spot outside this time of year, and some crafty/maker ideas. Feel free to play along and send photos of your creations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Routine #1: the sit spot.
Maybe you've heard your child recount a sit spot experience at forest school. Or maybe when you ask about what they've done in forest school, the answer is "nothing." I assure you, the nothingness that is cultivated during a sit spot experience can be quite magical. Often, when we review our time together as a group, several children will point to the sit spot as their favourite time.
This often takes adults by surprise. The sit spot is quiet, introspective, calm, un-moving. Not always how we picture young children.
Here is the recipe for our sit spot routine: find a place in nature where you can sit for several minutes and open your senses. We give the guidance that this is not a climbing or a building time, or time to make silly faces at your friends time, but an opening your ears and eyes and noses and feelings and thoughts time. Some children choose to use a nature journal to record things; others just take it all in.
Sometimes we will have a story that leads in to a sit spot time. The Quiet Place by Douglas Wood is one great example. But most often, we will either sing a song to start it, or put down our "veil of silence", lifting our hands up to the sky, then lowering a pretend veil or curtain as we count backwards from 10 to 0. When we get to zero, everyone is quiet and finding their spot to sit.
Then we wait. Like a turtle, or moss growing on bark, or like us, quiet and still.
After a few minutes (or longer, depending on many factors), we gather. We use an owl hoot most often to call the group back. Sometimes we use a "singing bowl" and we hit it three times like a chime to call people back to the circle. We then lift the veil of silence back up, and then sometimes share what we saw/smelled/heard/felt/thought about during that time.
The sit spot encourages us to really get to know a piece of land. To notice the little things around us: the movement of wind, the call of a bird, the colour of the light through the trees, the buds or leaves or bare branches, the feelings that are inside of us today. It allows us to sit with ourselves and with the land, cultivating closeness to both.
Explore: make a sound map.
As part of a sit spot, you can introduce a sound map. This is a way of recording the sounds you hear around you. Take a clipboard, piece of paper, and pencil. Make an X on the page that represents you. Then sit quietly, waiting for sounds. When you hear one, record it on your map in relation to you, using a picture or word or letter as representation. Listen for several minutes, and see how many sounds you can hear, and from which directions they are coming from.
Create: make a map of Huron Natural Area.
Kids! Make a map of Huron Natural Area. What do you remember about the land? Some things to consider for your map:
This week, outdoors:
Brought to you by our friend Josh Shea at the City of Kitchener, here are some exciting things to start looking for this week outside. See how many you can find, and let us know!
Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play