Over the past 6 weeks of play and learning, we have explored how animals adapt to life during the colder months here in the Rockies. By drawing our awareness to the local wildlife, we focused on an animal or insect each week to help us explore: how do animals adapt to winter?
Snowflake and Icicle, the winter forest elves, welcomed the season as they woke up from their deep hibernation. Through the elf adventures in the lunchtime story, we learned how mule deer lowered its metabolism in winter to conserve energy, how spider didn’t freeze in sub zero temperatures thanks to curious antifreeze qualities of its hemolymph (the spidery version of blood) and why lynx has extra fur between the pads of its paws like built-in snowshoes to help hunt in winter.
The lunchtime story allows us to weave the wisdom in animal adaptations into fun, imaginative and relatable stories. Our intention with oral storytelling at Forest Play, is to take the focus away from explicit information and focus on fostering an unwavering curiosity, awe, wonder and respect for the natural world. By adding imagination and context to information, stories inspire children to lead their own learning and follow their curiosities. We see this when the children explore their curiosities as the characters or animals enacted through play. Embodying the lynx, for example, the children prepared to pounce and told their friends, “shh. Keep quiet. Don’t scare away my prey.”
Animals and insects adapt to winter in numerous ways such as planning ahead and having a safe place to go, preparing and storing food, knowing how to camouflage, minimizing effort when moving through the snow (adapting with big feet, for example, or dispersing weight and following packed trails). Beyond embodying the animals through play and the magic of the story, nature connection is deepened when the children encounter and observe the animals in real life. Drawing awareness to deer, snowshoe hare, pine marten and meadow vole tracks in the snow or the chance encounter to observe animals in the forest, the invaluable nature connection experiences are further deepened.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and cold weather adjustments, we feel grateful that we are able to continue offering valuable outdoor experiences for your children. We look forward to what the rest of the winter season has in store!
Catching their Stories
As your child(ren) returns home with snowy, dirty or wet mittens, you have an opportunity to receive their experiences or catch their stories. Showing a genuine interest and encouraging them to share in increasing detail helps validate and deepen their experiences. Some days, they may be excited to share a lot and other days, not very much - it all depends on the child and the day!
Asking questions such as:
Adventures and challenges help us build new skills and inspire us to think differently. The past few months at Forest Play, we've been on many adventures inspired by the interests of children in our Forest Friday program and the story we've been sharing at lunch. In the story, the main characters (Evalyn and Eric) find themselves traveling to the Northern Kingdom - a place where they expect to uncover the seeds of a potential war. The place they visit and the people they meet are not what they expect and their journey leads them to uncover the "pieces of peace."
Some of our adventures this season at Forest Play required agility, speed and teamwork skills to retrieve pieces of a puzzle. Other times, map reading and way finding skills were put to the test as children navigated through the forest to find the letters to spell UNITY - one of the "pieces of peace." Their ability to work through potentially frustrating challenges gave them the opportunity to see the value and importance of finding an inner sense of calm or INNER PEACE when working through difficulties. They rose to the challenge and guided their friends blindfolded through a maze of fallen logs and obstacles, rescued stranded rubber chickens and walked safely across an area of "boiling lava" using limited lava-proof tools. The final challenge of the season brought their stories and adventures from the previous weeks back in riddle form. The challenge was to recall where in the landscape those adventures occurred and to work together and use the "Good Message" while finding what they needed to light a fire and bake apples. The GOOD MESSAGE is about using our finest words when speaking about or with others.
The "pieces of peace" (Unity, Inner Peace, The Good Message) are part of what is often referred to as the "Peacemaker Principles" and have been part of traditional Haudenosaunee society for centuries. Shared through the 8 Shields Institute, we integrated them into our story and our programs so we could shine light on the puzzle of peace and how we can work together to create peace.
We were impressed by the children's creativity, problem solving skills and enthusiasm this season and look forward to seeing them again in the winter, spring or summer.
May your families have a joyful and peaceful holiday!
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.