Learning How to Explore Safely (Sept 11-15 2017)

A new year of Forest School is finally upon us and the children couldn’t have been more excited about this (teachers too!)  We have been talking about our forest and about going there to learn and the day had finally come. We talked a little bit about being safe while walking to the woods and then we were off!  The maple trees were massive and lush and we could hear the sounds of animals moving all around us and we quickly learned that the mosquitoes were abundant! We gathered at our meeting area where we had a LOT to talk about.  

We listened, at first, about what the word “boundaries” meant before being shown which areas were safe for us to play in. From there we moved on to talk about how to move safely in the forest, how to make sure our play areas were safe and what to do if we found something that shouldn’t be there.  With our bellies rumbling for snack, we also talked about how some of the things in our forest are beautiful enough to eat but that nothing from the forest should ever go into our mouths. We listened to the story “Bugs For Lunch” by Margery Facklam and then filled our bellies with the snack we had brought along with us.  We were very thrilled to be sharing our snack and conversation together amongst the trees.

At last it was time to explore our surroundings and we, at first, all stuck together as we made our way to a fallen tree that seemed to be beckoning for us to hop on and that is exactly what we did.  Some of us timidly crawled along the tree while others stood right up and tried to balance along its trunk. We turned it into a train and then a boat which needed to be fueled and operated and also needed passengers to ride along. Some of us were even brave enough to jump from the fallen tree while others opted to wait and try another time.

As we slowly made our way in different directions, we discovered all kinds of wonderful things!  We happened upon different bugs and caterpillars and discovered a hole in a tree that contained water which R decided “came from the rain” before turning it into “paint” as he used a stick to transfer the water from the hole to the tree trunk. He shared this discovery with his friends and they experimented with different sticks and found tree bark as “brushes”.  Chelsa helped them to print their names with the water which they thought was kind of cool! (river with the water in the tree .

Some of our friends moved on to find other objects to climb. C tested her  balance, strength and persistence as she tried to climb all the way around the bottom of a large maple

while others climbed the boulders before leaping off them.

When the ropes came out, R discovered a whole new way of climbing as he grabbed a rope that was tied to a tree and tried to use it to pull himself up the boulder.  When he found that the angle was all wrong, he asked the teacher to help. While Chelsa held the rope, he grabbed on and made his way up the boulder, using his arms to help pull him up.

At the top, he beamed with pride. “I did it!” he said. They decided to move the rope to a different tree and then he practised this method of climbing, over and over and even introduced his idea to his friend.

While we used the ropes in a million ways, we talked about how to be safe with them so that we weren’t tripping one another or wrapping them around ourselves and others.  Interestingly enough, a few of us were making attempts at tying the ropes to trees. Our teachers came to assist with this and we can’t wait to see our knot tying skills evolve as the year progresses.

Creatively, we cooked and baked with our mud kitchen pots, pans and utensils and some of us took some time to make our own journey sticks as we collected items from around the forest and attached them to sticks to bring home to our families.  We thought these were great treasures to have from our first day of forest school.

We couldn’t believe how quickly our first day in the forest flew by.  Before we knew it, it was time to leave the shade of the trees and make our way through the sunshine back to the centre for lunch.  

Wednesday morning we got ready quickly in order to have as much time as possible in the forest.  Once there, we knew right away that we had to sit together at our meeting spot for attendance to make sure we were all there and that we were all safe.  We listened to the sounds of our forest and could hear birds and leaves rustling. We were hungry already so we decided to share a quick story, “The Earth and I” by Frank Asch before having snack together.  We talked about how to care for our earth with regards to keeping it clean by not littering and by picking up garbage and decided that our forest could use a little help as we noticed that some people have not been respectful and have been littering in our learning space in the woods.  A little bit of a clean up would be on our list for our next visit!

It wasn’t long before we were back at the fallen tree that is so very interesting to us.  G crawled the entire length of it stopping to share with Lisa a “bump” which together they determined was a mushroom, while J & D took turns putting gas into and then driving the fallen tree “garbage truck”.

Creative representation also came to life as we baked and cooked in the mud kitchen after helping one another find more water through exploring each tree hole we could find.

Back at our meeting area,  we discovered some paper, clip boards and markers in the bins that had come along with us to the forest in our wagon.  R drew a picture for his family while J drew a picture of R beside a tree. He was excited to share this with his friend and with his teachers.

Curiosity found C once again trying to climb around a tree.  She was surprised to discover a hole in the tree while she was “up” there and tried to see what she could find inside.  The hole proved to be too dark to see into, however, and she moved on to play with her friends.

More climbing was occurring though, everywhere we could manage to climb, in fact!  R got out a rope to tie to a tree to use for climbing the boulder once again. When he was asked to try tying it to the tree first, he went to work, trying his hardest to secure the rope to the tree.  By the time the teacher arrived to make sure it was safe for climbing, the rope was tied. The knot wasn’t quite tight enough but it was certainly a start to a very well tied knot! Up the boulder he went, pulling the rope to help him climb.  Before long, his friends joined him, wanting a turn with the “climbing rope”. R shared the rope and each friend took turns until they became excited and were all on the rock at once, tripping over the rope. They decided that it wasn’t safe to have everyone on the boulder as they could fall or hurt one another.  R noticed also, that pulling the rope while someone was up there could cause them to trip so they agreed that no one could touch the rope until the climbing friend was off of the boulder.

Michelle wove a rope between two trees as we watched in wonder.  We asked what she was doing and and she told us she was making a web. We still didn’t understand what this meant.  When she was done, we stared at it, not knowing what to do then R approached it and grabbed one of the ropes while trying to step up onto another.  He held on tight, trying to keep his balance as the rope under his feet wibbled and wobbled and he started to laugh.

Seeing this, his friends joined in, bouncing and wobbling and holding on to try not to fall.  There was much laughter and, while some of of us fell, we were ok and got right back up.

Soon, the rope became pretty crowded and that wasn’t as fun.  We decided to take turns on the web and only have a couple friends on at once so that we would have plenty of room to climb and bounce safely. While some of us bounced on the ropes,  some of us were very content to relax in the hammocks nearby, laughing, watching our friends and enjoying the calm of the forest. Another morning in the forest came to a close all too quickly for us as we made our way back to the centre for lunch.

In light of the large number of mosquitos that have been greeting us in the forest each morning, we read and identified with the story “Blackflies” by Robert Munsch to start our Friday session.

Afterwards, we reviewed what we had talked about on Wednesday with regards to helping our forest stay healthy and decided to do a quick forest clean up before carrying on with our morning.  At the word “GO!” we set off in all directions to find five pieces of garbage or recycling each which we collected, bagged and brought back to the centre to dispose of later. We were pretty proud of our work when we were done and we washed our hands extra well before coming back together for snack.

With our bellies full, some of our friends decided to revisit using a rope to climb up a boulder. M found a rope and worked at tying it around the tree which would be the anchor for their climbing rope.  With a little assistance from friends and teachers, the rope was secure. P also took a turn at tying and was very proud when he successfully tied the first part of a knot all by himself before needing a little help to make it secure for climbing.

Our interest in ropes didn’t end there, however.  We started moving around our site with ropes, watching as they wrapped around and through the trees. As more and more ropes came out and more and more friends joined in, the forest was filled with a web of colourful ropes.  

We talked about how to move safely through the site with so many ropes around so that no one would get hurt.  At this, we likened our rope weaving to a “trap” which is exactly what it became. We initiated our own dramatic play experience involving ropes and “traps” and even created a game out of it in which we took turns being captive.  

When a large branch proved to be a catch point for the ropes as well as a tripping hazard for us, we decided it was time to get it out of the way.   We worked together to lift and then remove the large, heavy branch out of the way, making our space more safe for playing.

We put a lot of time and energy into this experience with ropes and can’t wait to see how this evolves in the days and weeks ahead.

Beside one of the large maple trees, D was sitting, manipulating some smaller sticks. When Chelsa approached and asked what he was working on he said “ I want to make steps”.  She watched as he placed a stick across two of the tree roots, and then another, and then another. He then realized that, as the roots moved farther apart, he would need longer sticks in order for the sticks to reach across.  They worked together to find more sticks and his project continued. Together they counted seven stick “steps” before going back to find more to add.

J came to observe this and helped to count the steps before decided to make steps of his own.  He, too, collected sticks and then moved around to the other side of the tree to work on his own project. They both worked with patience and celebrated after counting more and more sticks each time they counted!

Our “buggy” morning came to a close all too quickly on Friday and we couldn’t believe that we had already completed our first full week of Forest School together. We even helped to pack up the wagon for the trip back to the centre.

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