We are so fortunate to have the beautiful forest right at our doorstep. It is here, more than any other place, that the children challenge themselves physically, engage their imaginations in pretend play, extend friendships, and explore treasures from nature. This year we noticed the children's ease and comfort, even on our first outing into the wilderness. In most years, the first few times we go into the forest we hear many references to scary things - Are we too far away? Do we know the way back? Are there bears in this forest, or wolves? They also often recall people and things that bring them comfort, like parents and stuffed animals and blankets at home. This fear that we usually hear, and can even feel, draws us closer together.
But this year we did not hear those questions about scary things and so we wonder what is different. Is the feeling of connection that we noticed in the classroom at the beginning of the year extending into the forest as well, and providing a sense of comfort and safety?
For the teachers, our love of the forest started years ago at our Grace Street campus. In that tiny wooded area adjacent to the parking lot, we noticed how differently the children played than on the playground. The wild space provided a completely different landscape both external and internal. It sparked so much rich and varied creativity, imagination, and enthusiasm.
We see every year, in the natural environment, that children willingly push and test themselves.
They take on just enough challenge, not being too risky, but definitely going to the edge of their own comfort. We marvel at their intuition and bravery in choosing challenges that seem to suit their individual needs.
And we see them work together on big challenges, moving heavy branches to build bridges and dams.
We see their persistence and resilience as they try again and again on their way to mastery. Is it because nature is impartial?
"children come to know themselves through their transactions with both the physical and social worlds. Unlike people, the physical world does not change in response to a child's actions, but simply reflects his manipulations, so it offers a particularly valuable domain for developing his or her sense of competence"
Hart, Volkert and Walch, 1983
This blog was written in collaboration with Robyn, (who always makes it better). And thanks to Anna for providing the above quote.