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Jan 26. Week 3 of Winter Play!

Updated: Jan 29

Sunshine, snow, bird watching, and sledding were highlights this week!

What Happened?

Lots of fun in the snow! Lots of textures and treasures to be discovered in newly fallen snow from the weekend. Matt brought some peanut butter and seeds to create outdoor bird feeders with the children. During our Monday lunch, we learned a French song “Ouisti chat” and identified French vocabulary with children's snacks, greetings, and books we read. We thank our teacher Jess for sharing her love of French. 

Monday PM brought tons of role play as children pretended to be dinosaurs. Enjoy this short video with Ian that gives a small glimpse of how children interact with both the snow, space and their imagination!

We continue to take time to focus and calm our emotions as we use our senses to guess what is contained inside a small bag, hat or mitten.

Tuesday AM we had a wonderful and kind parent bring along and share their tools and materials to blow bubbles outside. The children were fascinated to see how the bubbles transform in the winter air and cold temperatures!

Story reading and story making are such a huge part of our daily routine as we have all developed a rich love of literacy and language development. The children are learning to co-create stories together which brings so much opportunity for creativity, imagination, collaboration and interactions with each other and nature.

Here is a small peek into one of their stories on Tuesday. (special credit to Chey for putting this together)

Wednesday brings so much fun sledding in different areas of the park, racing and climbing the endless vines that the trees provide. We spent time drawing and practicing letter writing at lunch time together as children discover and share their favourite sounds and letters. Listening to Matt read different rhymes and silly sounds has the children engaged and excited to practice making different sounds with their mouths.

Thursday: The children went to the big hill and everyone took turns, trying out different sleds and determining which went the furthest and how many people were the sweet spot for maximum speed and distance! They also had a restaurant/bakery and hotel where teachers and children were served many cookies, drinks, and pizzas! They read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eats Breakfast" which was a big hit. Everyone loved sharing what foods they like and what they had for breakfast. Amanda joined us for the first time at Le Nichoir, so much fun to engage with familiar teachers from the fall!

So. Much. Sledding!!

The older kids: They couldn’t agree on working on our base camp so they went off for some on-foot exploring, and did some sledding and games at Jack Layton Park, then they went back for lunch and more games in the community centre basement. In the afternoon back at Basecamp they explored a variety of imaginable play, including a child-led “crime scene” set up as well that evolved into a game of cops and robbers. Of course there was always time for more snow hill, climbing and sledding.

What does it mean?

The beautiful unfolding of play and wonder, infused with provocations carefully designed by our teachers. This interplay of teacher-directed learning and constructivist, child-led play is what pedagogy theorists, Piaget and Vygotsky pondered about. Our teachers use their exceptional craft of teaching as they carefully find the balance between providing choices for children to engage with and allowing children to lead to way. They gently provoke thinking with intentional questions, materials, and ideas as children explore and voice their creativity, interests, wonderment and play. It's a magical interplay that happens as the relationship between the children and teachers deepens. As children express their emotions, ideas, and interests; our teachers take that information and design further opportunities to deepen their curiosities, and self-regulation and experiment with ideas. Learning happens authentically and without even knowing as gorgeous relationships grow! Both the teacher learns about themselves as they experiment with different practices, approaches and strategies and the children learn about themselves, each other and the world as they co-construct meaning and continue to ponder about the world around them.

The first video above of Ian's dinosaur journey and sounds was a great example of how our teachers gently direct and guide children in a direction towards safety and further inquiry. The children's play was getting too close to the bird aviaries where Le Nichoir would prefer that we stay quiet and at a distance from the birds. Rather than raising his voice with a negative intention, Ian's gentle and positive playful leadership guided the children back into Clarke Sydenham Nature Reserve without them even noticing or having an awareness that they were doing anything 'wrong'. We love having the freedom of playing and learning without the barriers of walls, desks, and heavy rules and we continue to have gratitude for the public parks, Le Nichoir and Hudson for sharing this space with us. We extend our recognition to those who inhabited this land before us, those who share it with us now, and those who will follow in the future. It is with deep appreciation and respect that we find ourselves here, ready to connect through time, space, stories, and shared experiences.

Beautiful resources I would love to share:

From Child and Nature Alliance, our partner with Forest School Canada remind us to tweak and change our vocabulary and respond to risky play with prompts that are more nuanced than words like “be careful.” (see image to the right, linked to their blog on Risky Play)

From the book, The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis tips on building resilience and promoting play:

  • Practice gentle deflection: when a child shares a negative incident, clarify it's not dangerous and move on

  • If a child reports being called mean words, empower in a relaxed tone such as "That's such a silly thing to say about you"

  • Help a child reflect on the merits of a difficult relationship. Children should not be forced to get along with everyone or play with everyone. Rich, extended play serves a dual function of revealing human challenges and teaching children how to cope with them.

  • Remind children that everyone has struggles to work on during play. Some children are shy, some have trouble controlling their bodies, and some are good at rules, but not very friendly. Encourage children to approach play with 'fresh eyes'.

  • Avoid using the word 'bully' and the chronic use of the word really only applies developmentally to older children's behaviour where there is purely negative, chronic intent in their choice of actions, not an action developmentally possible in 2-8 year-olds.

  • Teach children to explicitly disengage when they are feeling put upon. If they don't want to be chased, stop running. If they don't want to play a role in a game, move on to a new game or walk away.

  • Recognize our children's power of resilience. Children are strong enough to get over a bad experience, a bad play date or a conflict that doesn't need to be managed, reflected upon, learned about or rearranged so that all their experiences are forced to be pleasant.

What's next?

More play!! We are establishing more of a routine as we understand and become more familiar with the different dynamics that come into play each day of the week. As the children better understand who they are, and the other children, adults and teachers, they can become more comfortable sharing and learning together. As the weather continues to transform our space, nature continues to provoke our thinking and we go further into our wonderment and journey at Clarke Sydenham Nature Reserve, making profound connections with ourselves, each other and nature.

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