Here at Fresh Air Learning Vancouver we have been embracing and exploration winter's elements in the forest: mud, cold, rain, and this year, snow! We've also been deepening our knowledge of and affection for our treasured play spaces, and discovering new ways of playing.
One of our spots has several downed logs and lots of trees pieces of varying size. Given these materials, some children have been experimenting with constructing seesaws. Sometimes this is a two-child endeavour, and we've also seen mega-seesaws with three children on each end! A seesaw is one of the simplest machines one can build, being essentially a giant lever. Children experiment with this machine by shifting their weight to different points on the seesaw, or adding, subtracting and trading friends between the two ends. What an amazing delight to feel oneself suddenly lifted from the earth as your friend sits down. And how interesting to find you have the same power, to life your friend off her feet!
We've also discovered new opportunities for climbing and moving as the children have challenged themselves on trickier and more imaginative climbs. I've noticed children are so motivated to climb and explore their edges, especially with regards to doing things on their own versus with an adult to help. In our program we don't assist children to climb higher than they are able to themselves. Without the experience of having executed a particular climb up, it can be difficult to know how to climb down. This could lead to a child being higher off the ground that they feel safe. Instead of assisting physically, we provide lots of verbal encouragement, saying this like "you can do it!" and "every time you try, you get better at it," and so building the psychological link between effort and progress. Not to mention the amazing feeling of confidence and success a child can experience after they complete a challenging climb on their own - we see it in their big beaming smiles once their feet are on the ground!
The rain and mud continue in the forest, providing lots of opportunities for creative and soothing water play, and even the occasional mini-waterfall! This season we experimented with using mud as a painting material. A white bed sheet, brushes, a rope, water and mud were all we needed to set it up. It was a satisfying way to explore the action of painting in the forest, as well as experience the particular textures, colours, and smells of the soil and mud in our particular forest. The white sheet can simply be washed for use another day.
Our practise with tools continues through the winter months, as we try using wood with our hammers and nails (In October we used pumpkins!) This activity can be physically and emotionally cathartic and satisfying, and also builds hand-eye coordination and hand/arm strength. In this activity, children practise being both active and still, as they must stay seated and on the blue tarp with tools in their hands. We've brought this popular and challenging activity back several times over the season, as the children build their skills, and their sense of how much force to use.
We had a snowy week at the farm, and we took some time to visit our animal friends, this month getting especially close to the horses and goats.
We also celebrated winter and the return of the sun with a solstice candle holder craft. We talked about how it's been getting dark so early lately, and how in the morning it stays dark for a long time. It's even dark when we wake up! We then explained how the days will now begin to lengthen, and that people in many cultures celebrate this time by lighting candles and stringing up lights.
We ended our days at the farm by singing "This Little Light of Mine," and making a winter wish as we blew out our candles. A bit of winter magic for this chilly and quiet season!
We hope you all have been enjoying the snow (more to come!) and finding lots of time to be outside. Happy Winter!