Notes from the Naturalist Week15:The Nature Preschool at HCMA


Behold, upon the new fallen snow that two truths will alight before us in the coming days….. Fire and Light. Winter Solstice will greet us next Tuesday and we will embrace the changing light of short winter days with our friends from the whole of Heart Centered Multi-Age School. A celebration with great friends and teachers calls for a fire! Fire is life and fire is intriguing. It pulls us and shapes us and in its most elemental form demands great respect. And with respect due, we took time today to discuss this very topic.  

In our upper gathering area, in front of the Slim Baker Lodge, sits a fire place. We took time today to shovel around and in the fire pit, cleaning off fire wood and just having a talk about fire safety. What is a safe fire zone?  We discussed this both outside and inside. As a prepared work inside, we made a fire in a basket, “the fire pit”, and around the fire pit we laid out two zones – one is the red zone, with an unhappy face, and the outer boundary is the green zone, with a smiley face.  Red and green is the basic form of explaining the Do’s and Don’ts in an easy format. We also provided two figures for imaginative play around the fire. Each child took a turn setting up a “Safe Fire Zone”.  The fire making work became a fast favorite. I particularly enjoyed overhearing a child in conversation about no running around the fire! Yes! 

“Wherever humans have gone in the world, they have carried with them two things, language and fire. As they traveled through tropical forests they hoarded the precious embers of old fires and sheltered them from downpours. When they settled the barren Arctic, they took with them the memory of fire, and recreated it in stoneware vessels filled with animal fat. Darwin himself considered these the two most significant achievements of humanity. It is, of course, impossible to imagine a human society that does not have language, but—given the right climate and an adequacy of raw wild food—could there be a primitive tribe that survives without cooking? In fact, no such people have ever been found. Nor will they be, according to a provocative theory by Harvard biologist Richard Wrangham, who believes that fire is needed to fuel the organ that makes possible all the other products of culture, language included: the human brain.” 

Next week will set the foundation for fire safety. As we move into the New Year, we will start the conversation about campfires and how to prepare a safe fire. We will learn about the basic concepts of fire building with small sticks and start to introduce small cooking projects such as making tea. Our conversations will include the important roles that adults will play in our interactions with fire. At no time will the children be invited into the red zone. We encourage you as families to talk about fire safety. If you have an outdoor fire at home, establish a safe zone by laying out a boundary that the child is not invited in to. Perhaps you could set an age your family finds appropriate that they may be invited into the red zone…such as age 8 or 10, this will give them a time frame as to when they will be able to take on that important role of “feeding the fire”. 

For more information on fire safety in the outdoor setting:

For more information on fire safety with toddlers: 

For more information on fire and humans:

Jennifer MacDonaldComment