We shouldn’t be surprised. Yet every season, we are amazed at just how much the childrens’ level of awareness improves!
At Forest Play, we design our programming around the 8 Shields mentoring model for nature connection. This philosophy follows the cycles in nature and learning and supports our work to connect children to themselves, others and the natural world.
The scientific research and cultural examples supporting this model show us that awareness is indicated in numerous ways. Awareness may show up when a child finds a moment of solitude, or a “quiet mind”. Awareness may present itself as “caring and tending” when children use their kindest words to speak to friends, plants or leaders. Among others, awareness is also indicated through “self-sufficiency”, like learning to put on that cumbersome backpack (!), as “awe and reverence” when we give gratitude to the fresh snow or tasty lunches, through “inquisitive focus” when we ask questions about who made the tracks in the snow as well as “aliveness” when speeding down a slippery hill! Observing how, when and why these indicators of awareness appear helps us understand how to best support the children and create the sessions accordingly.
Continuing on our winter theme, the stories, activities and games focused on winter adaptations of local wildlife. The winter forest elves, Icicle and Snowflake, went on adventures with bighorn sheep, woodpeckers, wolves and porcupines! There were lessons in eating behaviour (bighorn sheep have 4 (FOUR!) stomachs to help them eat quickly in meadows and retreat quickly to digest on high ledges), communication (the pileated woodpecker drums on trees to stake its territory) and physical adaptations (the waxy coating on a porcupine quill has antibiotic qualities that prevent infection should it accidentally prick itself). Listening to a story about a pileated woodpecker then seeing evidence of one or finding bearberries after learning about what meadow vole eats is when connections come to life.
Thanks to the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, we have the incredible opportunity to take inspiration from the story, mix in some curiosity and explore open spaces. Familiarizing ourselves with the scat and tracks of mule deer, coyote, red squirrel, pine marten and snowshoe hare, for example, help us and the children develop relationships akin to having neighbours in the forest.
We’re looking forward to where the spring season and coming adventures may take us. With an increased level of awareness, the possibilities are endless!
It is said that stories live on the wind and those who are aware and whose senses are alert, can catch the story that needs to be told in that moment.