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.
“Art is a place for children to learn to trust their ideas, themselves, and to explore what is possible. ~ Maryann F. Kohl
Welcome to the second blog post about our bird-focused curriculum from January. In this post I want to share with you all the beautiful artistic projects the children created during this period while learning about birds.
When creating our curriculums we try to plan the arts and crafts projects to parallel the current learning theme, as it helps children to connect deeper with the subject we are learning about, practice through art their new knowledge and make it their own.
Learning about nature and developing closer connection with it is one of our fundamental goals as a forest school or nature kindergarten. So we dedicated the month of January to learning about birds and it was such a hit with the children so I wanted to share with you what we did in this past month.
It was a slow-paced and fun learning block stretched over the entire month of January to give the children plenty of time to connect with it, absorb the new knowledge and enjoy all the activities we had prepared as a part of it. To keep learning fun and engaging without taking away much time from children’s free and active play we always try find ways to carry out our lessons and activities both indoors and outdoors. The learning blocks are brief (5-10 minutes at the most) and occur few times throughout the day, incorporating either a story, a game, or arts and crafts project.
As we ended up covering a lot of ground, I thought it would be best to separate this topic into 3 separate posts. Here is part 1.
At the end of every summer I always feel sad and it is hard for me to let go of the warm sunny days. But as the cold winter days roll in, I am reminded of how much I always loved winter growing up. The large snowflakes slowly falling from the sky always seemed mesmerizing and calming. Rolling in the snow, watching our dog running through it, sledding — I loved it all! And then there were those extra special moments of coming into a warm home after hours of outdoor play in the sparkly cold, the home with a smell of savory soup or a pie.
And winter holidays felt like utter magic of course! My family’s friends had a cabin in the mountains where all of us spent many winter holidays. And I remember as a small child walking to our friends mountain cabin through snowy mountains, feeling tired and cold. It was already getting dark. And then coming out into a clearing where the cabins were and seeing gleaming lanterns set all around in the snow. I still can see the magical beauty of it all if I close my eyes!
So as the winter holidays are just around the corner we wanted to make sure we made this time extra special for all the children attending our forest school.