Slug spotting on the trail.
As 2018 draws to a close, I've been tasked with the final blog post of the calendar year. I'm enjoying being back in our preschool groups again after some time away.
This fall, we had some particularly lovely days walking down the trails in Lynn Canyon and exploring slugs. At least, that's what we thought we were exploring. It turned out that most of our fascination landed on mushrooms, and what a variety there were - great big thick russulas, tiny delicate fairy mushrooms, and our favourites, the puffballs.
One of our students was a puffball expert, because he had them in his yard. He helped us assess the puffballs, and on the first day we deemed them far too hard to squish. The second week when we returned, we discovered that the puffballs had turned puffy, and they were ready to spread their spores everywhere! We poked them and they puffed all over the trail in a cloud of brown spores. We talked a lot about how the puffballs were eating some of the dead things underground and how this helped them grow and make new mushrooms.
A puffball mushroom (Photo: Morguefile)
That same day, we did manage to find some slugs as well. The trail we walked down is one that I often call "Slug Alley" because it's one of the sluggiest parts of the park. On this day, we saw a big yellow banana slug and a smaller yellow banana slug side by side, and the children thought that they were probably related.
We also came across a slug that had recently been squished. The children were fascinated. What had happened to the slug? We discussed how it might have died.
They were sad for the slug, but most of their attention was focused on giving it a proper burial. They decided to find some leaves and small rocks and created a cairn over top of the slug to bury it so that other people would not step on it and would know that it was there. This was completely initiated by the children.
In our elementary program several years ago, we had a similar honour - one of watching a lamb being born. I remember a group of 6-year-olds standing and watching in almost perfect silence for about an hour as we watched the mother labour and then lick her new baby. We were so glad to be able to watch, and we didn't know what would happen. Would the baby be all right? We all took a deep and glad breath when the baby was born.
These sorts of experiences are part of life - knowing that there are cycles in nature and realizing that you can do something to respect all of the beings involved in them. When the children are able to encounter these cycles and participate in them in some small way, this prepares them for those changes that they will experience in the rest of their lives as well, whether it's saying goodbye to a pet or finishing up a year at forest school. Participating in honouring the changes helps them feel like they are an important part of those cycles. They learn to respect the shifts that life brings and see how something new or something meaningful can come out of the old.