In a previous post about our rock climbing classes I shared photos of the kiddos climbing in Red Rock Open Space. We really enjoyed our trips to Red Rocks Open Space through the winter, with it’s different terrain from our usual locations and the sun keeping rocks warm.
Recently, as the weather finally started to get warmer our forest school had a few rock climbing classes in Cheyenne Canyon, which offered a very different type of rock surface to climb. Here in this short post I wanted to share a few photos from our climbing classes in Cheyenne Canyon this past Spring season.
Our rock climbing classes are done with the guides from Front Range Climbing Co, and we couldn’t recommend these guys enough.
At the end of February after 2 months of learning about African Wild Dogs it felt like the kiddos were ready for a new topic to learn about. They still very much loved playing with our African Wild Dog stuffies and vet and ranger supplies, but yet it felt like their minds were ready for something new to learn about and absorb. So at the end of African Wild Dog learning block we had a little graduation and our aspiring rangers “flew” on our make-believe airplane-log back to their home base in United States. And so I thought learning about animal tracks would be a logical new topic to learn about, as what rangers don’t need that particular skill, right?
Learning about animal tracks however didn’t click with the kids from the first go. But I was determined to find a way to interest them in it. And so I kept trying few different approaches to find the one that would click. Eventually I got there!
Even though, there are a lot of beautiful supplies and curriculums out there, but they are of no use if we as parents or teachers do not find a way to interest our children in them. And getting there often takes more than one attempt before one succeeds. 🙂
And so I thought in this post to share with you the process of fine-tuning and tweaking of our learning projects that we go through in order to establish the connection that will engage the children, make it fun and enjoyable learning adventures.
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget” ~ Alfred Mercier
Learning about nature is an essential part of our program. Not only we believe in the importance of children learning about natural world and the need to protect it, especially in our times when species are disappearing so quickly. But also nature-based learning is a wonderful way to touch upon many disciplines while keeping them all tied in together, thus avoiding the pitfall of disassociated learning.
“… nature-based learning is a wonderful way to touch upon many disciplines while keeping them all tied in together, thus avoiding the pitfall of disassociated learning.
So this winter our nature learning was dedicated to African Wild Dogs. All of the learning activities were play-based and were so much fun for kids and us. I’m excited to share it here with you. In the process of this play-based learning we touched upon zoology, animal anatomy, geography, basic veterinarian tools, as well as learned how to use radios, compass and stethoscope.
Here is a little video covering some of the moments from our 2 months learning journey. And below it you can find more photos and details about our activities.
We are very excited to announce that we have added weekly rock climbing classes to our forest school program. It has been a dream of ours for some time. All of out students have always been so excited for any opportunity to climb — be it on a boulder, a log or a tree branch. And climbing onto things is often mentioned as one of their favorite moments of the day when they return home.
So after figuring out few logistics, I’m very excited to make rock climbing a new weekly activity in addition to our other exciting activities. The rock climbing is done under the supervision and instruction of professional rock climbing guides.
This post is about 2 1/2 months overdue, but I wanted to share an update about the new location for our forest school program. As of August 2020 we have moved the program over to the Southwest side of Colorado Springs. The move came as a result of a number of trail closures and restrictions in Palmer Lake where we used to operate. It was an ongoing and developing situation throughout the summer, and eventually we felt we could no longer offer there the beautiful outdoor experience that is the essence of our program.
Our new location for the forest school program is about the same distance time-wise for anyone living in Colorado Springs south of Monument, and is significantly closer if you live in the central part of the city and further South. In fact this location was our primary choice for a nature-based school when we first conceived of it 2 years ago, but due to zoning rules in Colorado Springs we could not set it up there the way we wanted at the time.
When it comes to curriculum I try to keep things flexible. Sometimes I will have a curriculum planned out concerning a particular topic I’d like the children to learn about, but most commonly I look to the children for cues about what we should be learning about.
I recently came across the following brief summary of the Reggio Emilia philosophy on education and found it expressing my own views very precisely:
“The Reggio Emilia philosophy values the child as central to their own learning, not simply an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. Children are able to pursue their own interests and revisit and build upon ideas at their own pace.” [source]
I usually bring a few books with us on our hikes and let the children chose which ones they’d like to read. Recently one such book was about snakes, lizards and salamanders. And surprisingly the biggest hit for all the children became the Gila Monster — a large venomous lizard living in Arizona. The children right away started coming up with different pretend games being Gila Monsters. One girl interpreted Gila Monster as a “Yellow Monster” and her favorite game was claiming a rock where she would sit being a “Yellow Monster princess”. Children are truly magical creatures! 🙂
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” ~ Alfred Mercier
One of our favorite aspects of the Waldorf preschool teaching approach is introducing a topic by means of a story. It is such a great way to spark a child’s interest and to invoke their imagination from the very start. It creates a perfect foundation for further study of the subject. This is something we try to use as much as possible in all our curriculums, whether we are learning about birds, wolves, or alphabet letters.
And so today I wanted to share with you how this approach is implemented by our wonderful teacher Adriana Carlson in her letter lessons – that are very loved by all the children at the school.
Roughhousing. I am probably not alone among mothers who internally cringe from the idea of the excited active play young boys love so much, also known as roughhousing. As a mother of boys myself, I have my fair share of getting kicked, stomped and elbowed just about everywhere by a pair of two excited little boys jumping on top of me usually while I’m still waking up in the morning.
But at the same time, I remember just how much I loved roughhousing with my own dad as a child. My brother and I jumping like wild monkeys all over him for hours was one of my favorite pastimes, second only to playing dolls with my mom.
“Play — especially active physical play, like roughhousing — makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.” ~ Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD and Lawrence J. Cohen
And when it comes to working with the children at our school, we can see over and over again that for the majority of them, especially young boys, it is the most beloved way to play and interact with each other. It is true that sometimes one of the wrestling participants might get pinned to the ground too tightly, or stop enjoying it while others are still carried away piling up on top of each other. But at the same time, as we see how much they enjoy it and how they bond over these kinds of games we do our best to accommodate such interactions, making them safe by directing kids to play away from sharp objects, use the large floor mat when possible, and inconspicuously watching them while ready to intercede if they get a bit carried away.
“Programs that get children outdoors, moving, playing and connecting with nature—and with each other—offer invaluable foundational skills.” – Pediatric Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscom
A few days ago while I was adding a post to our Instagram feed with some of the latest photos, an ad from REI popped up titled “Are Forest Preschools The Way Of The Future?” I clicked on the ad and was delighted to discover a whole series of blog posts on REI’s blog making a case for forest schools, also known as outdoor preschools or nature kindergartens.