As Spring tumbles gracefully into early Summer, we have been enjoying some hotter weather in Lynn Canyon. This inspires us to visit our favourite spots for water play, where the children get to work creating soups, potions, and brews of all kinds.
We've also enjoyed exploring the rocks and water with paint brushes. A paint brush, a stream, and a large rock provide the children with a self-cleaning canvas to explore. The small stream in which we play is very well-shaded and a lovely spot to play on a hot day. Some of the children even dared to dip their bare toes into the refreshingly cool water. What a delight!
The earnest summer growth of the shrubs and trees has inspired curiosity in what one can, and cannot eat in the forest. I am continually impressed by the depth of memory which can be activated when the children are motivated by their inner curiosity to learn about a plant. Some plants we've explored include hemlock, plantain, and salmon berry. This kind of exploring also brings up much wonder regarding the alive-ness of plants and trees, and an awareness that when we pick a leaf, we are removing part of the plant's body. Asking permission of the plant first, listening for an answer, and being careful to leave most leaves for the plant's use, and berries for the birds, creates a culture of gratitude and awareness that binds us together in shared understanding and interaction with the plants around us. Recently, the children enjoyed picking plantain leaves to create a salve for future summer bug bites.
In Lynn Canyon we are lucky to have a special place called Secret Garden, which is so shady and wet, we are guaranteed to find mud there at any time of the year. Many of the children enjoy squelching into the ankle-deep mud in their boots, or exploring it with a favourite spoon and bowl. Other children find the mud play unpleasant, and prefer to explore the drier forest soil or watery puddles with the our kitchen tools. And still others prefer the totally immersive mud experience!
At Fresh Air Learning we have a set of fundamental tools we bring to facilitate exploration and play in the Forest. These tools include ropes, kitchen tools, magnifying glasses, whittlers, compasses, and drawing supplies. Having had the opportunity to work with these materials repeatedly throughout the year, the children have been using them in ever more creative ways. Some children use short scraps of rope as jump ropes and lassos, while longer ropes are used to create elaborate climbing gyms and spider webs. Such open-ended materials provide rich opportunities for both exciting collaboration and contemplative solo play.
Lately we have noticed a certain social ease emerging in our groups, as they enjoy the fruits of all their interpersonal work and play throughout the year. These groups have met in the forest, twice a week, in rain or shine, for the last 9 months. During this time, they have had the freedom to make ongoing choices about the direction of their play, and they have also gotten to know each other on their own terms, without any pressure or obligation generated by adults. We have noticed our groups' interpersonal understanding, thoughtfulness, and reflection blossoming recently. Even at this late point in the year, we notice the children making new and bright connections with one another over shared passions and ideas.
As our program wraps up for the year, we'll be visiting many of our favourite spots for the last time. We will take time to say goodbye to our favourite special places (for now), as we reflect on our year together and all we have learned and discovered.