October Update

 

How we give thanks at Red Tailed Hawk

 

Time spent amongst trees is never wasted. 

 

We give thanks at Red Tailed Hawk every school day!  Part what we all believe in at Forest School is giving thanks for nature's gifts each day.  Students wander through the forest and look for what they see, hear, smell and discover.  Activities as simple as spotting a nature surprise bring so much joy to our students and allows them to understand and respect the beauty of life and creation.  

 

When we stop and look around, we realize that where we are is pretty amazing. 

 

This past week we had added celebrations for thanksgiving with harvesting garden vegetables that our students planted in the spring as well as apples and pears growing on the property. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to watch our students feel the gratification out of harvesting their own crops.  So much pride goes into the process of harvesting and growing. When RTH students experience the harvest, they feel part of the growing and creation process.  It is very nice to witness their pride. 

 

Older groups of students, aka the Bears, prepared and cooked harvest soup on the fire, while younger groups, the Cubs cooked applesauce.  Both were extreme culinary hits! 

RTH teachers told stories of thanksgiving while students enjoyed their bounty around the ring of Fire. There were many special moments and memories made throughout this experience. 

 

Last week our art program focused on creating gratitude trees with materials collected while hiking by the Bears.  Ask your child to explain what a gratitude tree is.  This activity was very uplifting for all of us.  

 

The Cubs painted gratitude trees while teachers recorded what students were most grateful for. 

 

Students completed making their journals and began their first entries on what they are most thankful for. 

 

I give thanks to experience all of the learning and development opportunities that we do every day at RTH, especially being so close to nature while we go. 

 

 

Red Tailed Hawk

Guest Blogger - Lisa Levez from The Earth is Hiring

 

‘Bird, bird, bird, bird is the word!’ Our Earth Morning theme for October was Backyard Birds! Red-tailed hawk forest school students started out practicing bird spotting skills in the apple orchard during opening circle. As birds are wary of a lot of movement, we also tried birding from inside a blind. Several students were already able to identify woodpeckers (we spotted both hairy and downy woodpeckers), a chickadee and a blue jay at the feeder and in the orchard, as well as turkey vultures flying overhead. Throughout the morning, we celebrated fun facts, like this one: ‘Blue Jays can imitate sounds - like the scream of the red-tailed hawk or even that of a car alarm’! ‘Common grackles love eating corn!’ In a game of bird banding tag, students were banded as a backyard bird for the rest of the morning. Migrating, in a ‘V’-like fashion, we moved into the forest.

In the forest, we made marked stops to connect bird food/homes to the students’ birds. We practiced our `pishing` skills while a flock of chickadees were checking us out in the trees above. We spotted two trees full of large squarish pileated woodpecker nest cavities. We documented our bird sightings including those in the forest (cardinal, sparrow, hairy woodpecker, crows, white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatch, chickadees) on ebird. If you are already a bird lover, you might like to check out this global bird database: http://ebird.org. On ebird, you can keep an online track of your own bird lists, while contributing as a Citizen Scientist. Also, find out about local bird hotspots and print area checklists and much, much, more! Students were excellent at spotting hand-crafted bird feeders, placed in the forest, made of reused items (e.g. coffee tin, carton, plastic jug and mesh vegetable bag).

In the field below, students rotated through three stations. 1) Woodpecker Station – students practiced drumming loudly like pileated woodpeckers and soft and quick like downy woodpeckers. We used long barbed woodpecker tongues to catch felt carpenter ants - a delicacy enjoyed by Pileated woodpeckers; 2) Egg Station – students matched and found their birds` egg. Students were able to view a wren nest, a robin nest and a chickadee nest, noticing the different materials they are built with. They made some excellent guesses at a mystery egg (e.g. bird? turtle? dinosaur? snake? crocodile? chocolate? lizard? bee?); and 3) Sound Station – black-capped chickadees sang ‘Cheeseburger’; blue jays called out their names ‘Jay’, ‘Jay’, ‘Jay’; red-winged blackbirds sang `Konkareee`; goldfinches called `potatoe chip` and cardinals sang `purdee, purdee, purdee`. Back at closing circle, we discovered that our dinosaur eggs had hatched – celebrating that a group of dinosaurs are thought to be the ancient relatives of birds!

If your family is interested in learning more about birds this winter, Project Feederwatch is a great way to do it (November through April) – you can find out more here: https://feederwatch.org/about/how-to-participate/. FeederWatch data help track broad scale movements of winter bird populations and trends in bird distribution and abundance. Also, stay tuned to find out when the Kids Christmas bird count is happening at the Tiffin Centre this coming January. Looking forward to Wednesday, November 22nd, where we will be exploring Wild Homes, Wild Connections and Winter Preparations.

Happy Birding!

 

Guest Blogger - Lisa Levez from The Earth is Hiring

Our first monthly Earth Morning with Red-tailed Hawk Forest students took place on Monday, September 25th. Outdoor Observations and Our Five Senses was our theme.

Beautiful and sunny, it was difficult to believe that it was fall. We checked out a visiting woolly bear caterpillar (found frequently in fall). Unlike most other caterpillars woolly bears hibernate as a caterpillar under leaves or ground cover – and they can freeze and survive! They form their cocoons in spring and turn into the Isabella Tiger Moth. The ‘bear’ turns into a ‘tiger’!

Our wild pick of the session was the snapping turtle. Snapping turtle (designated a species At Risk, since 2009, of Special Concern) hatchlings are around and visible now. Please be cautious not to drive over them or any snakes that are migrating to their wintering grounds this fall. Threats to snapping turtles include habitat loss, late reproductive maturity and road collisions. Many snapping turtles live up to 70 years and some are believed to reach over 100 years! You can help as a Citizen Scientist by reporting your sightings of all reptiles (snakes, lizards and turtles) and amphibians (frogs and salamanders) using the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. Data collected helps to make decisions like banning the snapping turtle hunt – which only happened this past year in Ontario! You may find out more about rare plants and animals in Ontario and reporting them here: Report Rare Plants and Animals

Before we left to play Nature Bingo, we already observed several crows, a blue jay at the bird feeder, a chipmunk and could hear the buzzy sound of the cicadas – which many students already were able to identify! The group's nature knowledge was very inspiring! While playing Nature Bingo, along our forested route, we made some exciting discoveries – like giant puffballs, wild basil, a red-breasted nuthatch, sweet fern ... one student asked if sweet fern is a ‘fern’ plant and it is not a true fern but a shrub with fern-like leaves. When rubbed together leaves give off a sweet smell. North American Indigenous peoples used sweet fern to cure poison ivy. We remembered how to identify poison ivy also – as it is common in our region.

Along the Nature Bingo walk, we stopped to do some fall colour matching and textured some different types of tree species. We were delighted to find some very tiny silk worms – there were so many - no more than a few millimeters long! We made a stop in the red cedar forest and discovered a red-breasted nuthatch – which responded to our call recording – and came in to check us out.

Back in the apple orchard, we empowered our ‘owl eyes’, ‘fox nose’, ‘deer ears’ and ‘snake skin’, with face-paint; we were ready to use our high-powered senses in play. Games included ‘Learning to Look and Looking to See’ with our ‘owl eyes’; and ‘Feel, Predict and Peek’ with our sensitive ‘snake skins’. We smelled and identified colours of aromatic flowers and plants with our ‘fox noses’ (e.g. yellow sweet clover, yarrow, wild carrot root, pine and cedar).

In the apple orchard, we read ‘Tap the Magic Tree’ – about an apple tree through the seasons by Christie Matheson. We learned how trees take in the air we breathe out (carbon dioxide) to produce the fresh air we breathe (oxygen) and finished with a gratitude rock meditation.

Red-tailed hawk students were asking great questions throughout the session – a huge part of observing our natural world and learning how to live in harmony with it. If you discover something you have questions about – you can ask a Naturalist with Ontario Parks! Ask a Naturalist

Looking forward to our next monthly Earth Morning on Tuesday, October 9th to discover more about Project Feederwatch and local backyard and winter birds. 

September Update

Back in the swing at RTH! 

 

Hello All,

 

Welcome back to the school year!  I am pleased share that our first few weeks have been off to a fantastic start.  The weather has been incredible to kick-off our Forest School program this season.  Sometimes maybe even a bit too hot. A reminder that sunscreen, hats and lots of water are essential in this type of weather.  So far we have spent 100% of each day outside!  Our staff have put out extra drinking water throughout the day, but it is always good to have full bottles when we set out first thing.  

 

Right off the bat, students have jumped into Forest School with two feet!  We have enjoyed getting started with core routines including wander time, outdoor stories of the day, sit spots, journaling and mapping.  Ask your child what their favouirte nature based activity of the day is!   

 

Students have been very engaged and energized by our initial boundary hikes.  On these property based excursions, students spot hidden treasures to map out our route.  Along the way they find nature surprises.  The past two weeks our exciting nature surprises have included milkweed, moth caterpillars, monarchs, forest toads, an exoskeleton, a fox scull and bones, dragon flies, and a red salamander or Eastern Newt. Nature surprises provide an amazing opportunity to reflect and have conversations on conservation and what we can do as humans to protect the amazing creatures in their habitats. 

 

Do you know what your child's nature name is?  Picking nature names is part of our program and it is incredible to hear the creative thoughts that go behind their selection.  The guideline is that names are local and  nature based such as a plant, animal or element of the wilderness.  My name is naturally "Red-tailed Hawk".  Over time we reflect on how students can relate to the qualities of their nature identities.  

 

Lilly of the Valley led our Music in the Woods program this week.  Students love to select instruments and get their groove on in the woods! Tamarack starts us off on the right foot each morning with our welcome song, weather songs and our forest school song.  

 

Out of all activities during our busy days at RTH, students seemed to really enjoy forest play, shelter building, improving last years forts, building nests in the forest with invasive vines, imaginative role play games, building fairy forts, enjoying new slack line and obstacle course!  

 

We have hiked to the Silver Creek most days.  Here students are looking for signs of September including fungus in the forest and salmon running the river.  With the warm weather and humidity, salmon have been harder to spot but we anticipate seeing them run in the coming weeks as the air cools during the day. 

 

Foraging for sumac to make iced tea and harvesting the garden to make soup over a fire, have also kept students busy and energized.  RTH students love to create edible wilderness based recipes with the help of staff of course! 

 

Sharing summer stories and nature themed literature has been a highlight each day. Nature inspired crafts, sticky nature collection bracelets and forest garden models with natural clay has also kept things very creative. 

 

Overall, it was amazing to welcome in a new school year at RTH and watch our new cohort of students simply be free range kids!

 

We hope that our students and families are feeling adjusted to back to school and they everyone is enjoying September as much as we are at RTH!

 

 

Forest School Canada Certification and Salmon Run Event.

We did it!  RTH is now a credited Canadian Forest School!

 

Hi, it's Red Tailed Hawk here with an exciting update for parents and students of RTH. Over the past year I have worked to complete the Practitioners Course with Forest School Canada, and RTH has just received our formal recognition by Forest School Canada and The Child and Nature Alliance of Canada!  

 

A huge thank you must be extended to all staff, students, parents, and family members who helped support this process over the past school year.  It made year 2 of RTH a great success - but a very busy one!  We look forward to year 3, and putting all of the Forest School Canada theories in to practice!  

 

On behalf of myself and the staff at RTH, we very much look forward to welcoming you back to a new school year starting Monday, Sept. 11th. 

 

Also, please save the date for an event that RTH is hosting this fall.  On Saturday, September 23rd, we will be hosting a Watch the Salmon Run event in conjunction with The Blue Mountain Watershed Foundation.  You can expect more details to follow... 

 

Take care and we look forward to seeing you all very soon!


Sincerely, 
Red Tailed Hawk

5 advantages of RTH Forest Camp that you and your child won't want to miss next summer!

Greetings from Collingwood!  This guest blog post is brought to you by Clarity Content Creation.  My name is Kelly and I have had the pleasure of volunteering with Red Tailed Hawk’s Forest Camp program as it launched its first season this summer.  My 4 year old daughter Audrey was also fortunate to attend this incredible outdoor summer camp program. 

 

Based on our experiences throughout the two weeks that RTH Forest Camp was offered, here are 5 key components to the program that I would like to share with you while you consider camp programs for your child next summer! 

 

1) Outdoor swimming lessons

The number one draw that I had to RTH camp is the fact that it offers outdoor swimming lessons on the same beautiful property as the camp.  Swimming instructors from Funston Management were hired specifically because they offer an incredible intensive program that aims to have your child swimming in a week, or at the very least, much more comfortable and confident in the water.  At four years old Audrey and I were reluctant to move away from using her Puddle Jumper in or around the water.  By the end of her first week at RTH Forest Camp, she was swimming free from the instructor’s grip to the edge of the pool.  I plan to keep encouraging her level of ability in the water and I really liked to observe how the instructors were positive and encouraging AND individually worked with each child’s comfort level in the water.  They never once pushed a swimmer past their level of comfort.  Mainly, they celebrated the progress of each little step towards comfortable swimming.  I loved this approach!

 

2) Hikes & nature based exploration

The little hikers were amazing to watch daily at RTH Camp.  They would set out daily onto trails connected to RTH property to explore plants and signs of life in the forest.  I found that this fitness option was perfect for all ages and ability levels.  After having lunch, the campers were keen to start a gradual activity that allowed them time to reset and appreciate their time in the woods.  Even if it was a rainy day, campers really seemed to enjoy this activity.  There were many “nature surprises” observed along the way.  My personal favourite was when they discovered a nest of baby birds and were very excited to research and identify what type of bird they were.  It was amazing to see them so excited to learn about an observation that they made on their own.

 

3) Nature inspired arts and crafts

The fact that RTH campers were encouraged to collect items from nature such as sticks to weave together or rocks to paint into pets really set this program apart for me.  I would much rather see Audrey inspired by natural beauty than dump a pile of plastic beads in front of her at an indoor station.  I watched her hone her artistic side all week with arts and crafts that she found in the woods.  This was very cool for me to watch and her to experiment with. 

 

4) Teamwork and time to be yourself

At RTH Forest Camp, children were divided into small groups.  They had assigned leaders that they became very comfortable with.  I absolutely love that all campers and counselors has “nature nicknames”.  Audrey or “Blue Jay” spent a lot of time making friends and encouraging other campers who were not necessarily as outgoing was she is.  It was incredible as a parent to watch as my child helped to encourage another younger camper rock climb up the climber.  This is something that Blue Jay was hesitant to do last summer.  I stood and listened quietly as she coaxed a younger little girl “Fawn” all the way to the top.  That’s when it occurred to me how just being outside offers so many opportunities for skill development, team work and confidence building.  Both campers were very proud of themselves when they reached the top!

 

5) Connecting with and respecting the earth and elements   

Finally, I can’t under estimate the value in teaching our children to respect the earth and protect nature.  From packing a litterless lunch to protecting animals in their natural habitats, I really value the opportunity to teach our children not to take their environment for granted.  Nature conservation is a huge part of the program at RTH.  Campers are encouraged to respect the earth and treat it as if they were treating a friend.  In this era of environmental uncertainty, this in an invaluable lesson to pass along to their generation. 

 

I would certainly recommend this program to any parents and welcome any questions you may have.  You can reach me at kellsoneil@outlook.com. I’m happy to speak parent to parent about this awesome program and address any questions you may have.  Hope to meet you next summer at RTH Forest Camp! 

Update - June 11th 2017

 

This week at RTH we celebrated World Environment Day all week long!  Although this special day took place on Monday, June 5th, our students continued with the theme. 

Pre-schoolers launched the celebrations sharing their thoughts about favourite things in nature, including blue jays, bees and making nature soup!

Students across all grade levels enjoyed creating clay tree faces, painting journey sticks and discovered one of our most surprising nature surprises for World Environment Week – a snapping turtle!

Thank you to all of the families who support RTH and show their continuous support for initiatives such as the ones we celebrated this week – connecting people to nature. 

Forest School Canada recommends “regular and repeated exposure to the same places in nature”.  This insight tells us that students learn to connect to these special places and develop a sense of responsibility and caring for the land.  We see this value in our students daily through their immense respect for the forest, pond, river and the land where we play and discover. 

Students connected to their minds and bodies this week through their sit spot routines.  This is a Forest School version of meditation, where they learn to “go inside” while they focus on chosen spots in nature.  This practise is transferable and can be practiced at home.  The wellness benefits from regular meditation for children are abundant and well documented.

Another focus this week was around reading literature with a focus on environmental awareness.  Our educators read age appropriate stories about respect for the environment and all living things.  Students had the opportunity to express their learnings through art, written and oral discussion and play.

Art helps us to celebrate the beauty of nature.  At RTH we often focus on environmental awareness.  We strive to embrace solutions and discuss ways to improve the environment we live in.  This week our art work concentrated on this concept.  Ask your child what they created or felt in celebration of World Environment Week.

Update - May 22nd 2017

Hello All,

Over the past two weeks students have participated in our annual spring pond study!  Students have been excited to learn about life in the pond and to participate in hands-on discoveries during pond study! We always focus on gentle and respectful catch-and-release methods using nets and bins to ensure critters are safely returned to their home in the pond.  This year students were ecstatic to find; three species of frogs, tadpoles, various nymphs, water beetles, water spiders, leeches, water worms, among hundreds of water insects.  We also observed red-winged black birds, Canadian Geese, ducks, and swallows in their natural habitats in and around the pond.  Dragon flies were a major focus as we saw evidence of their nymphs, shed layers, and emerging insects.  We welcomed the dragon flies to eat the black flies and mosquitos who also made their debuts this week!  

Students consolidated their learning through field studies by the pond, journal documentations, sketching, and identifying our discoveries.  We read guide books and stories by the pond and some groups wrote spring poems.  Water colour painting was also a favourite activity to illustrate our views of life in the pond.

Research on pond insects and animals will continue over the next few weeks.  We will also add pond discoveries to our journey sticks, and complete a stream study to compare our discoveries in the different ecosystems.  Energy systems and food chains have been a focus during pond study.  This has been a shared focus for the different environments we have studied throughout our year at Forest School.

We have used much of the same equipment as was used during pond study to become 'Insect Detectives'.  Students have enjoyed tracking down various insects, identifying them, and using natural materials to recreate these insects.  We have used guide books and our story, Insect Detective' to learn more about bugs!  

Planting in the garden has continued in stages over the past few weeks, and will continue into this week when we plant the seedling that students started inside during the cold weather.  

Thank you to all for supporting our pond study with additional clothing, resources, and lifejackets!  Pond study is always a highlight from one year to the next and a source of great excitement for students of all ages - including the teachers!

Take care,

Shannon 

Update - May 7th 2017

Hello All,

We've had a rainy few weeks here at RTH!  We have all embraced the weather for the most part, and students have been happy to set up tarps in the forest, and puddle jump, but the recent cold front has forced us indoors a little more than we would like (or the teachers anyway!).  Many have been asking how Forest School runs indoors, the following are a few examples of how we have brought Forest School learning indoors...

Students have gotten very creative in the art department!  We've managed some enjoyable short nature collection hikes and used collections from the forest floor to incorporate into indoor art work.  We have provided little instruction on what to create, but set up paint, ribbons, string, feathers, and clay for students to work with.  Nests, pots, prints, and sculptures have been created!  Students have enjoyed mixing mediums and they create their masterpieces!

We have prepared for our upcoming pond studies by researching the animals we expect to see.  Students have enjoyed sketching, labelling, and recording facts about wetland animals.  We have also had some amazing show and tell items to explore this week including a fox scull, a photo of killdeer eggs, birch bark, and a sample of chaga.  These items really help to fuel our enthusiasm and further investigations.  Thank you to all who have brought in nature show and tell items!  

Wetland animals have been added to our chalkboard in the new classroom.  We've also had fun with hula hoops, bean bags, and obstacle courses in the empty space.  One the coldest and rainiest day we've had, Lilly of the Valley made good use of the space for music class!  Students have been curious and enthusiastic about the building process of our new classroom!  

Poetry lessons have continued with older students composing their own spring poems, and younger students illustrating spring poems.  Some groups have enjoyed poetry by the pond where we have written and read poems together, while others have been immersed in illustrating poems indoors.

Older groups have learned some knot tying techniques.  This has been an excellent activity to focus on indoors where hands are not too cold to tie.  After learning some knots students applied their skills to setting up tarps in the forest.  This has been an excellent opportunity for team work and problem solving!  Older students whittled pegs for the tarps in our well supervised tool zone!

We have continued our focus on mapping and directions and plan to delve deeper into the meanings associated with directions.  This will be a guide for activities and even for our new classroom set up.  Some groups have begun working together to create large maps of our favourite places on the school grounds.  We've gotten creative with naming different locations, and discussed sun patterns in relation to directions and landmarks.  Mapping will continue to be a program focus!

Outdoors students have been keen to puddle jump, hike with umbrellas, tour the pond, use tools to tidy our trails, and reflect during our sit spot routine.  We look forward to pond study this week, and the nice stretch of weather that is heading our way!

Take care,

Shannon 

Update - April 24th 2017

Hello All,

Happy Belated Earth Day!  Students have been celebrating our Earth and the gifts of spring in many ways over the past couple of weeks.  We have been tending to our trails, the garden, and reflecting on our 'special places' where students feel most connected with the Earth.  We will continue to care for our Environment and our 'special places' every day at Forest School!

Students have been 'down in the dirt' prepping our garden boxes and planting cold crops - all cold crops are in!  Each group helped to turn and amend the soil.  We learned proper planting techniques and discussed energy systems in the garden.  The roles of consumer, producers, and decomposers will continue to be a focus in the garden and forest over the next few weeks.  Stories of the day and research have featured animals and insects in the garden.  

Groups began to hunt and learn about 'The Fungus Among Us".  We have reviewed our safety rule of only touching fungus with a stick, and students have been excited to learn about how important mushrooms are for the forest and their role in supporting root systems.  The health and sustainability of our forests is dependent on mushrooms!  We will continue our fungus focus over the next few weeks.

Shelter building and repair has been a major focus entering into the months of spring.  Students have been happy building, revising designs, and learning to build fires as another means to keep warm in the damp cool weather.  

We have noticed many changes taking place in and around the pond.  Students have been monitoring the pond for signs of life.  We have listened for the spring peepers and are excited to spot them as they emerge from the dirt! Groups have enjoyed pond walks, art, stories, and sit spots all by the pond.  Pond study will be a focus in May.

Our bird studies have continued.  Students have made nests using materials we have observed birds to use in their own nests.  We have also researched about what birds use for their nests, and older groups extended their investigations on individual birds.  Older groups also measured out the length of birds they have focussed on and took this into consideration while creating their nests.  We have been listening to and observing many spring birds during our time outside.  

Each day we have incorporated our sit-spot routine.  Often yoga and deep breathing have been included in this routine.  Sit-spots or 'magic-spots' is an important time in our day to quietly reflect and continue to grow connections with the earth.  More and more students request this special time of the day.  

Take care and we will continue to update you with exciting happenings at RTH!

Shannon 

Update - April 3rd 2017

Hello All,

Welcome back to RTH after our spring break!  We have been excited to return to more spring-like weather, and busy making many discoveries upon our return!  This week students started their day with community circles to share highlights from their spring breaks, nature surprises they have recently seen, and other bits of exciting news.  Each morning began with a hike to look for nature surprises and signs of spring!  Some groups added these signs to our new blackboard wall in the classroom.  Nature surprises this week included seagulls, trout, and a coyote!  There is never a dull moment at Forest School!

This week we also had a focus on maple syrup production.  We shared a story and information on how maple syrup is made.  We also identified a sugar maple tree on sight, and related this information back to our experiance at Duntroon Highlands in the Sugar Bush. This was also related to wildlife commonly seen this time of the year and environmental signs of springs of spring during syrup production.

The life cycle of trout and information on their spawning cycle were also shared this week.  This is a concept that we review when we are able to see the cycle in action each spring and fall.  Most groups hiked down to the Silver Creek to try and spot trout.  It's always really exciting when we spot one!  Students also spent time connecting to this special place and noting the changes in the environment over time.

Art creations continued at RTH this week!  Clay creations, nature name masks, and water colour paintings were all highlights in the art department this week.

We welcomed back Lily of the Valley for Music in the Woods this week!  Students enjoyed their time singing, jamming, and warming up with Lily's dynamic music games.  

The mud kitchen reopened this week!  This was a major highlight!  Thank you to all who sent extra changes of clothes, mitts, and footwear.  These are essential this time of the year!  This coming week Tamarack will be working with us to devise a gardening plan including a plan for cold crops.  We will be incorporating more of a farm and garden focus here at RTH with Tamarack's guidance! We are thrilled about this next adventure and look forward to having Tamarack here with us more often!

This week we will miss Cardinal as she has her knee replacement surgery.  We are all thinking of her and wish her a speedy recovery.  We look forward to when she can rejoin us at RTH.  Thank you Cardinal we appreciate all of the things that you do for us here!

With the return of the warmer weather, we have returned to our sit spot routine.  This week each group had a chance to do sit spots, discuss their importance, and reflect on their experience at Forest School. This core routine will be incorporated each day at RTH.  We also continue to focus on respect for ourselves, each other, and the environment.  Sit spots offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on these concepts as well.  

Take care and welcome back to the spring terms here at RTH!

Shannon 

Update - February 26th 2017

Hello All,

Welcome back to RTH after our elective program!  Electives were a great success this year.  Students enjoyed their experiences learning how to cross country ski, exploring on snowshoes, and sledding down the steep slopes at Duntroon Highlands.  Learning about maple syrup production, comparing differences to our site, playing in the cedar maze, and discovering nature surprises were additional highlights of our elective program.  Ask your child what nature surprises they observed at Duntroon?  

During our fist week back we experienced and discussed changes in the weather.  The mild temperatures reopened our mud kitchen!  We ventured out on our trails to observe the changes since most of our snow has disappeared.  Wednesdays group was surprised by the fast flowing, 'chocolate milk coloured water'.  We observed erosion on the river banks first hand.  We also continued to make discoveries on the work of a mystery animals that is chopping down river side trees.  We have done some work researching animals that hibernate, and those who do not, to help solve this nature mystery.  We can not find a dam of any sort, so it remains very puzzling?

Our February thaw has also revealed many nature surprises.  Students this week caught sight of... a racoon, some jelly fungus, a toad, and bees laying in the snow.  These discoveries have prompted much excitement and discussion.  Some asked, "why is the racoon out in the day time? What is this!?  Is the toad breathing?  How did it move?  Why are the bees in the snow?  Do bees hibernate?"  These opportunities provide engaging opportunities for inquiry and investigation.

Some groups began to work on projects for our novel study.  Older students will continue to collect natural items to design their dioramas.  We will also continue to read Little House in the Big Woods, and begin to paint and build scenes from the story,  

Cardinal shared information on early settlers and their life on the land this week.  She also shared some true stories through story telling of her mother teaching in a one room school house.  Students were intrigued by how different life was just a few generations back.  Thank you for sharing Cardinal!

We welcomed back Lilly of the Valley this week!  It was great to see Lilly, sing together in the sun, and move to her exciting musical games.  Lilly's time with us is always greatly enjoyed!  

We have continued our yoga routine to end each day at RTH.  We have also made sit-upons to use in the wet conditions.  We think they will be perfect for sit spots in the spring weather.  

Our classroom is looking more and more like an inviting learning environment!  The walls have been painted, and students will be invited to colour our chalkboard wall this week once the paint dries!  The classroom will be a great space to dry off and take a break from the elements as we reflect on our exciting experiences outside!  Thank you Adam Burk, family, and crew from Due North Carpentry! 

Take care,

Shannon 

Update - February 6th 2017

Hello All,

  We have had great fun enjoying the return of winter here at RTH over the past few weeks!  We have unpacked our snowshoes and sleds, and have hit the trails to enjoy the seasonal conditions that have come our way!  That being said, students on Thursday gave a cheer for Wiarton Willie when predicted an early spring.  We spent some time learning about groundhogs and looking at pictures of them.

  Stories of the day this week continued to focus on snow.  Younger groups enjoyed Jean Little's, One Snowy Night.  Older groups enjoyed the story of, and amazing illustrations of the aboriginal legend, The Blizzard Robe.  We have continued to share stories together during storytelling as a part of our aboriginal learnings.  This will continue storytelling  throughout the winter months.

  Our research focus this week was on warm and cold blooded animals.  We shared information on  how each classification of animals stays warm and survives during the winter.  Each student then selected an animal to individually research.  Students recorded sketches and information about their animals in their journals.  Older students modelled plasticine art projects after their animals. Younger students created winter scenes with snowmen for this activity.  Both groups reviewed Barbara Reid's techniques for creating illustrations with plasticine and applied these to this art activity.  

  Tuesday and Friday groups enjoyed Music in the Woods with Lilly of the Valley this week!  Lilly had a variety of Valentine songs and games to share!  She will continue to share these this week on Thursday when she is here.

  Students continue to gravitate to the Red Pine Forest for shelter building and play.  Many groups also hiked down the ridge to explore the river trail on snowshoes, and notice the changes along the way.  Sledding continued to be a highlight in the afternoon!  Each group ended their day with yoga and reflection time.  

  This week we will travel to Duntroon Highlands for ski, snowshoe, and sled electives!  Please remember drop off and pick up are at Duntroon, and to bring your child's sled and helmet.  We look forward to this opportunity!  

  Take care,

Shannon 

Update - January 21st 2017

Hello All,

  We had another week full of emergent learning opportunities and active fun here at RTH!  The weather threw a few challenges our way, but with the exception of Tuesday, we were able to venture out in the ice covered snow each day.  Thank you to all families who attend on Tuesdays for your flexibility and understanding this week!!!

  We began each day with research on animals and how they survive in the winter.  We had a special focus on birds.  We also spent time observing birds from different distances.  We learned that Chick-a-dees and Woodpeckers are very brave, and were able to get right up close to these two species of birds!  We also spent more time tracking as nature detectives.  Most groups collected nature items for art and craft creations during our hikes.

  We tried out a few new games this week including the animal guessing game, and ants in a line.  We also returned to many old favourites including the sleeping bear and fox and geese.  

  Cardinal continued her novel study of Little House in the Big Woods.  Please remember to bring in a shoe box if your child attends on Wednesdays or Fridays.  

  We used snowshoes for traction this week!  A few groups made it to the river trail to look for changes and try to solve the mystery of which animal is chewing on our trees by the river?  

  A big thank you to Juliet for coming on Friday to film and document play and loose part creations for my Forest School Assignments!  I really appreciate the support and could not do it without you Juliet!  Fridays group enjoyed hiking to collect vines and make crown creations!  

  Our sled hill was surprisingly great this week, but has mostly diminished over the weekend!  I will keep you posted on its status!

  On Saturday I shared our RTH happenings at a winter outdoor education conference for the Simcoe County Board of Education.  It was another excellent opportunity for RTH!

  Stay tuned for summer camp information for students who are 4 and 5 years old.  Camps will be run the weeks of July 24th and August 7th.  Please email me if you are interested in signing up!

  Take care and we look forward to another action packed week!

Shannon 

Update - January 14th 2017

Hello All,

  Welcome back after the holidays!  We had an amazing first week back at RTH!  We focussed on snow and weather patterns this week, and experienced some spectacular weather events throughout the week!  

  Students had many highlights and stories to share at check-in each morning.  We had a record number of thumbs up!  After some time catching up, most groups got into sketching, learning, and labelling animal tracks.  Next it was time to hit the trail as nature detectives!  We observed and identified many tracks on our trails and made inferences as to where the animals were headed and what they were doing.  Younger groups completed Winter Scavenger Hunts together.  We identified many nature surprises as everything looked so much different since our last trip into the forest!

This week we learned a few new games.  The Sleeping Bear was a big hit!  We also returned to some old favourites including The Fox and the Geese and Kick the Can.  

Some time was spent repairing forts and getting into imaginative play in the pine trees.  Overall, our structures have stood up remarkably well!

During the afternoon older students got into a new animal trivia game called Noses.  This was a fun and interactive way to learn about our nature name animals!  We will continue to build on this game as we learn!  Younger students learned about these animals as well.  

Students were asked, 'what is snow?'.  Their responses were recorded and used to create a Winter Book about Snow.  Students began to illustrate our story with pictures of their favourite snow activities.  

Wednesday and Friday groups began novel studies on Little House in the Big Woods.  We are asking students in these groups to please bring in shoe boxes as a part of an art project for our novel study.  

Sledding was another highlight this week!  Our berm was very snow pack and as fast as ever this week!  

Each group participated in a hike this week.  Wednesdays group actually had to hike down to the lower field for pick up because of the ice!  Students had great fun exploring and playing with the ice in the field at the end of the day!

Our new learning topics will continue into this week.  We also plan to focus on winter birds.  

March Break dates include March 13 to March 24th.

We look forward to another great upcoming week at RTH!

Take care,

Shannon 

Update - December 24th 2016

Hello All,

            This week wrapped up our last week before the Holiday Break, and once again we packed in lots of action here at RTH! 

            Our learning focus this week was on December holidays around the world.  We shared information on various celebrations of light and discussed light as a common theme across cultures within our celebrations.  We read holiday stores from different countries around the world including Scandinavian Countries where Forest School originated!  We also completed holiday nature crafts this week including wooden ornaments and dogwood reindeers.  Students enjoyed many Holiday art activities this week.

            Following the theme after reading The Night Tree, students asked about making snowmen with food for the animals.  Heron also brought in his copy of Stranger in the Woods, with beautiful photographs of animals in the forest feeding from an edible snowman.  It was perfect packing snow, so groups enjoyed making snowmen families complete with carrots, other root vegetables, raisins, pretzels, and bird seed.  After building our families we would go for a snowshoe and return to try and identify which animals had visited our creations.  We also checked our bird feeders from last week and were happy to see that they had been eaten up!

            Sledding was another highlight this week!  Students kept busy climbing the hill, making paths, and sliding.  Many also brought out shovels, (we now have a class set), to build other creations. 

            This week also included establishing new and great connections with staff from Headwaters Academy.  On Monday afternoon Swallow and I travelled to the beautiful Kimbercoat Farm which is the new location for their school.  We were met by Mark Brown, the founder of Headwaters, who was generous enough with his time to bring us for a guided tour of their astonishing property, and follow up with a meeting on their academic curriculum.  Headwaters plans to have a heavy focus on incorporating learning in the natural environment into their academic program.  They also have scheduled every Thursday to head out into the local community for outreach projects.  We have welcomed Headwaters to join us for field trips here at RTH, and look forward to building a partnership with them! 

            On Wednesday of this week, Mark travelled to us for a well guided snowshoe tour by the students!  We spent the morning reviewing our fire building skills and preparing soup over the fire with guest visitors Grey Wolf and Raven!  When Mark, or Bear, arrived, students jumped at the opportunity to share their space, and lead a tour of the pine forest and all through the river trail.  After the tour we enjoyed our lunch of campfire soup together around the fire, it was a magical moment.  We also enjoyed treats brought in by Eagle and Artic Fox’s families – thank you!  We did the same on Thursday with treats Horse brought in, all were delicious!  Mark wrote a wonderful post about his experience here at RTH which is available on the Headwaters Academy Website.  Please do visit the site and read his kind words, thank you Mark!

            We ended our week with a wonderful gathering in the Forest to Carol!  Thank you all for supporting with wonderful event.  It was so amazing to have families come together to sing and celebrate in the forest, I can’t thank you all enough!  We were all very sad that Lily of Valley could not join us to lead caroling after all of her efforts to prepare for this event!  Her dedication shone through during the songs she prepared and practiced with students for weeks leading up to this event!  We are all thinking of Lily as she joins her family to cope with a family emergency.  We must extend a huge thank you to Tamarak who, without hesitation, stepped in to fill Lily’s role!  The show would not have gone on without Tamarak, and Lily was so pleased for this as well.  This was a wonderful experience of RTH families supporting each other, and I feel overwhelmingly fortunate for this, and for the support of all families who were a part of this event, and our amazing program!

            Happy Holidays, and we look forward to everyone’s return in the New Year!

Shannon 

Weekly Update - December 17th 2016

Hello All,

  Students at RTH embraced the snow this week!  Each day we stared with a snow story, then geared up for a snowshoe together!  Many groups read Eve Bunting's, The Night Tree.  It is a story  about a special tree in the forest that a family decorates with edible gifts for the forest animals on Christmas.  Most groups made bird feeders to place on our special trees when we ventured outside.  Groups also enjoyed following and identifying tracks in the snow.  The nature detectives were hard at work to discover which animals made the tracks, and where they led to!

  On Wednesday, Dennis joined us to kick off fire starting.  Dennis is a retired scout leader and outdoor enthusiast!  He had many tricks up his sleeve to share and managed to light a fire with the help of the students in the most challenging weather possible!  Fire starting will continue with groups over the term.  We look forward to Dennis rejoining us in the spring for wood-working!  

  Students completed several Christmas crafts and activities to learn about December Holidays around the world when we took a break from the harsh weather this week.  Groups made gingerbread play dough, paper lanterns, and fragrant orange ornaments.  We also mapped countries that we read about using a globe, wrote cards, worked on a graph / coding activity, and completed information sheets.  

  We ended each day this week with sledding on the berm!  This was a major highlight of the week!  Students had great fun sledding and creating new tacks with each other.  We also enjoyed a few games of The Fox and the Geese after making first tracks in the snow!  Students are welcome to bring sleds from home during the winter months.

  We invite all families to join us for Carolling in the Woods led by Lily of the Valley on Friday at 1:30.  We look forward to this event as we celebrate the start to our Holiday Season together!  

  Take care,

Shannon 

Weekly Update - December 11th 2016

Hello All,

We at RTH have welcomed the snow and this beautiful winter weather!  This begins another chapter for us and we embrace new discoveries and adventures!

 

We have continued our focus on story telling as we share Aboriginal learning at RTH.  We have also incorporated some snow stories and animals of the day.  Older students were asked a question of the day as well.  It was, ‘what is sustainability?’  Students were also asked, ‘what is respect?’  Ask your child to share their ideas.

 

Students could hardly wait to get out in the snow each morning!  Favourite activities included, fort building, nature detectives with tracks, and sliding on the snow.  Students remained active and warm throughout the week thanks to all of the additional layers and changes of socks and mittens!  A huge thank you to all families for packing all of this essential gear!

 

We had a guest join us on Wednesday to discuss our fire building unit.  Teachings and activities will be shared with all groups.  Our guest was a retired Scout Leader who has great experience with camping, building, woodworking, and outdoor adventures.  He will join us again this week to kick off the unit. 

 

During the afternoons, students hiked or snowshoed to gather materials for our Christmas Nature Crafts.  All creations turned out beautifully and students felt very proud after gathering and assembling their masterpieces!

 

Additional snowshoes have been ordered to make up a class set, however, in the meantime, students are welcome to bring their own snowshoes.  All are welcome to bring sleds to RTH during the winter months as well. 

 

Students continued to record stores and journal entries this week.  Aboriginal information from Forest School Canada was included.  Younger students listened to the story of Crumbfest and discussed how this is the time of year when the outside comes in, and the inside comes out!  We will focus on Festivals of Lights around the world this coming week at FS!

 

We welcome all to join us on Friday, December 23rd at 1:30 for Carolling in the Forest with Lilly of the Valley!  Students have been working hard to showcase their musical talents!

 

Take care,

Shannon 

Weekly Update - December 4th 2016

Hello All,

  It was another action packed week at RTH!  A big thank you must go out to Tamarack, Lichen, and Black Bird who covered the start of the week while I travelled back from Forest School in Ottawa.  Students enjoyed nature art, scavenger hunts, and new discoveries with our staff this week!  

  In training at Forest School, we focussed on the importance of play-based learning, incorporating Aboriginal learning, and storytelling at Forest School.  Story telling is an important part of sharing Aboriginal perspectives and a tradition many First Nations people embrace in the winter months.  Steps have been made to establish a relationship with an Elder at Red-tailed Hawk in the new year.  Students are currently focussing on respect, listening, and storytelling as we prepare to embrace these new relationships.  

  This week we had a visitor from Headwaters Academy.  She thoroughly enjoyed her tour here, and gathered many ideas to incorporate in Headwaters curriculum.  The founder of the school is scheduled to visit in December, we look forward to this visit as well!  

  Students listened with great respect to an aboriginal stories from Keepers of the Earth this week.  Themes included maintaining peace and gifts from the earth.  Older students began working on their own stories to tell.  Some groups gathered around our peace fire to tell stories of their own.  Next week we will begin our unit on fire starting.  

  Students got the chance to observe progress made on our new classroom this week.  Some groups began sanding and painting new loose parts our builder friends gathered for us, (wooden building blocks).  The framing of our classroom is complete and dry wall will go up next, we are all very excited!

  Lilly of the Valley continued to teach and practise Christmas song this week.  We invite all families to come and participate in our signing of carols in the forest on Friday, December 23rd in the afternoon.  A start time will be announced as soon as possible.

  We are continuing to collect newspaper this week, both for fire building and for sit-upons.  There are also still a few rain suit and blanket orders to be picked up at Christies Clothing.  

  Take care and we look forward to another early winter week this coming week at RTH!

  Shannon 

 

Weekly Update - November 19th 2016

This week proved to be another busy one at RTH!  Students enjoyed the unseasonable weather, and soaked up as much sun as they could this week!  

  Groups did not venture too far as it was also the tail end of deer hunting season.  As a result we played more whole group games on our open grass area.  We returned to some favourites, but also learned a new favourite called the Heron and the Otters.  Groups who did not get a chance to play will be introduced to this predator / prey game this coming week!  

  As there was not as much scheduled this week we took the chance to really focus on our sit spots or ‘magic spots’ routine.  This quiet reflection time is so valuable and important at a busy forest school.  Staff are really staring to see the benefits of students connecting to nearby nature this way.  

  Journal making and writing continued to be a focus of the week!  This will continue until all students have a handmade journal book.  

  Stories of the day were all aboriginal teachings.  Older students began story telling and recording their own legends to explain mysteries in nature.  This was a very enjoyable experience for all!  Some groups began aboriginal inspired art work, and this will continue throughout the coming weeks.

  Lily of the Valley returned this week, and we were all so happy to see her and enjoy her music classes!  Her husband also joined us to revamp our climber with additional climbing rocks and a more gradual slide.  Our new climber was also a popular activity this week!

  Rain suit and blanket orders will be submitted to Christie’s clothing this week.  Please place any outstanding orders directly through their store.  

  We will be starting nature name medallions this coming week.  We also plan to create our own sit-upons, but are in need of extra newspaper.  Newspaper donations are welcome over the next few weeks!  Thank you in advance!  

  With the cold weather coming, we plan to insulate the garlic we planted in the garden and will be noting the changes in our environments as the temperatures shift!  

  Take care and thank you for your continued support of RTH!

Shannon