Notes from the Naturalist Week 18:The Nature Preschool at HCMA

Snow is enchanting. It creates a magical world, almost to the point of changing the landscape as we know it. The children explored into the woods and down the big hill from the lodge. We felt like we were in a new place, exploring a new land. And we found another shelter! The shelter had the look of a dinosaur rib cage. So inviting, it called for the children to come explore. They piled in, and joyous laughs echoed out. This is the foundation of place-based education. In the beauty of all that the Slim Baker Foundation, lodge and surrounding area has to offer, this is just another element of place. Snow. It alters the landscape, creates a new world, yet it sits in an area we find comfort and connection to.

Magical is just the right word for our day. We changed it up a bit, and started our day inside the lodge. For some this was difficult, as the outside world is so necessary and loved by many of our Nature Preschoolers. It’s almost a second language in their minds. As friends reconnected inside the warm lodge, played in their imaginary worlds, they finished with a hearty snack and then out the door we went. We all have trepidation about the first day back from vacation. Will the children find their sweet spot? Will the children remember the routine, the way of our world in Nature Preschool? Not only did they fall back into rhythm, we could tell that each child had grown while away.

We spent so much time outside, that we shortened our indoor work period. The warm air, the soft snow, kept that fun spirit to just keep playing. We made observations as we walked. This is such an important skill for kids. They take and make note of how things are different. What might have happened in one area and what might be missing in another. Our big observation was the snow level under the trees versus in the open area in front of the lodge. After putting the question to the group: Why is there more snow in one area and less in another? We had many fun thoughts and predictions. One child said the snow was too tired to reach that far. Another thought it had moved. We talked about the trees close together, creating a shelter or roof. Pine and Hemlock, both evergreens, keep their needles in the winter, creating a roof like feature, therefore snow is caught up in the tree, leaving less to fall to the ground. The next time you are outside exploring in winter, look at the difference on the ground and in the tree canopy to see where the snow is and how much is under each.

In the coming months, we will start our days inside the lodge first thing in the morning. This will allow for each child to have time to eat a hearty snack, take a potty break and then head outside for longer explorations as the day warms up. While we would love to be outside all the time, it’s much harder on small fingers and toes to sit and eat outside and then get our cold bodies up to play. For those who drop off at the lodge, don’t worry about putting your children’s snow pants and cold weather items on. Please bring your child inside and we will have a free play period, followed by snack and our welcoming circle time. This will set us up for great success outside as we will all be warm, full of energy and ready to explore the day. For days that reach below 10 degrees, we will make our time outside brief, perhaps only long enough for a quick hike around the lodge area, just enough to keep us moving but not long enough to create any periods of standing around. Some of our Nature Preschoolers are all out play hard types and some are observers. We will find a happy medium for all of our friends during this fun time called WINTER!

Jennifer MacDonaldComment