Thursday, December 10, 2009

Children in the Forest.

Last week I had the chance to take to the forest with a group of grade one students. We visited an outdoor education centre, where guides use the forest itself to provide opportunities for learning. It was wonderful to see the children out of the classroom and completely surrounded by nature, something these city kids don't get much chance to do. They looked, touched, listened, smelled, and even tasted what was around them. They tried new things, discovered new things, and gained so much out of the experience. So many channels for communication were opened.

My favourite points of our nature walk - watching the squirrels preparing for winter, talking about why alligators don't live in Toronto rivers (and having one of the children explain the difference between warm and cold blooded animals), listening to the rushing river water and racing sticks by the bridge, and feeling the wet leaves squish under our feet.

For lunch we had a cookout over a fire. Not the healthiest food, but a brand new experience for all of these children. Again, all their senses were at play. Seeing the flames, feeling the heat, hearing the crackling, smelling the burning wood and smoke (and having it sting our eyes when the wind blew it in our direction), and tasting the food we had cooked. Some children even conquered their fears as they were apprehensive about being near the fire, but decided to give it a try anyway. A chance to try something new!

And a lesson in trial an error - cooking marshmallows in the flames burns them, cooking them over the coals turns them nice, toasty brown.

Once the fire was extinguished and the coals cooled down, we had a chance to try drawing with the charcoal. We talked about how charcoals for art are made, and made a plan to try them out in the classroom.

After lunch we talked about preserving the forests and what we can do to help. As it is an outdoor education centre, there are lots of people walking along the forest floor. To give back a little, we sowed woodchips on the high traffic areas. This helps avoid the wearing down of the path, and protects the animals and insects under the forest floor. The children were excited to help out, and had a chance to do some "hard work" outside by shoveling, carrying, and sowing the woodchips. They were rewarded with hot chocolate and a nature story, but I think best of all they felt as though they had given back to the forest that had given them so much that day.

These children gained more from visiting a forest than they ever could from filling out worksheets. I had a wonderful time too!


tuesday said...

going to outdoor science school in grade school was definitely the best experience in my life so far =)

maybe if more people reconnected with nature on a more frequent basis, we would be a much happier society =/

that first picture is gorgeous! the trees look like dandelion puffs from the ground.

urban craft said...

Last week we had snow. What I wouldn't give to be able to roast a hot dog over an open fire outside right now. I can't remember the last time I had a hot dog.
What a cool trip!

loliecraft said...

Thank you for the nice comments! It was a wonderful experience that I'm sure the children will remember for a long time to come. I still have memories of going to the same outdoor education centre when I was in elementary school. We sure had a lot of fun on that trip!

Tuesday...I think you're right about reconnecting with nature. Whenever I'm feeling stressed or frustrated, a walk through a park or a quick trip to a wooded area calms me right down. It was especially nice for these city kids to connect that day!