Weekly Update - November 12th 2016

Hello All,

  Students at RTH were busy, down in the dirt this week!  These farm hands worked to remove vegetables that were beginning to decompose, weed out the last of this years weeds, and prepare the soil for this coming spring.  Most groups were given their first chance to use tools.  Here students were given butter knives to cut up pieces of pumpkin to smaller sizes.  Rotting pumpkins were integrated in to lessons on consumers, producers, and decomposers with a special emphasis on decomposers.  Students worked to identify other decomposers both in the garden and in the forest.  Ask your child what they know about decomposers.

  With the cooler temperatures, students engaged in lots of active play this week.  Games on the grass were played, both teacher and student led.  

  Our afternoons were filled with ‘rock talks’ by Grey Granite.  Grey Granite brought his extensive rock collection, geological tools, and special light technology to observe and identify multiple rocks and minerals.  Grey Granite was a wealth of information on the topic, and plans to return to metal detect with the students before the snow flies!  Ask your child what they learned about classifying rocks?

  We will continue to collect t.u.f.f.o. orders throughout this week.  Hard copies of order forms are available at pick up. 

  Next week we will continue to focus on creating our journal books, some groups have already started and they look great!  

  Take care,


Weekly Update - November 4th 2016

Hello All,  Happy November!  The students really embraced welcoming the month that can throw at us some of the most challenging weath

er!  ‘November-shmovemer’ say the RTH students, bring it on!  Fortunately we had some beautiful weather days this week!

  We started each day in the garden!  Students worked to pull produce, weed, and turn soil in preparation for planting garlic!  Tamarack worked with the preschoolers to teach us garlic planting techniques, and we shared this with all other students this week so that  each student was able to plant a seed of garlic!  Next week we will focus on decomposition (with our left over pumpkins), and insulation as we blanket the garlic with straw.  

  Story telling was also a focus this week as students came excited with many stories to share about their experiences on Halloween!  We hiked in to the trees to share some pretty spooky stuff!  It was cool to sit around our ring of logs and exchange fun stories about Halloween! 

  Lilly of the Valley lead amazing music sessions again this week! She had an action packed class on Wednesday, and hiked in for Music in the Woods on Thursday!  Monday, Tuesday, and Friday groups enjoyed hands on nature art classes!  

  During the afternoon, all groups hiked down to our river trail, to meet Rebecca from the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust!  Rebecca was an amazing resource and brought a variety of tools for us to use as she guided us through a very informative stream study!  A huge thank you goes out to Rebecca!  Students were thrilled to find scuds, mayfly larvae, stoneflies, a crayfish, and much more!  Rebecca had excellent techniques to share on how to discover and identify life in the river.  She also spent time to discuss river health and how to continue to care for our lakes, rivers, and streams.  Ask your child what they can do to continue to protect life in the water?  

  After our time with Rebecca, we hiked back up, and students enjoyed reading information on the salmon run that Rebecca shared, consolidating our learning through journal writing, and sketching what we observed in the river.  

  This summed up another amazing week at RTH!   We look forward to the next!  Please remember we are continuing to collect materials to make our journals.  We are also continuing to collect t.u.f.f.o orders.

  Take care,


Hands in the Dirt Conference Presentation

-Thank you! Thank you all for being here today, on your Saturday, and Welcome to Forest School! 

  • Congratulations! For being supporters of this exciting movement! The pendulum has swung- back to what has been historically important in teaching, back to nature-based education, and back to what children truly need - TIME OUTSIDE!
  • I feel a bit like I'm preaching to the converted, so I will try not to preach, in actual fact I am really not comfortable lecturing to a group of fellow educators, I'm WAY more in my element learning alongside children in the forest - but that is the beauty of Forest School - no lectures, no nagging, no long winded speeches - it's all based on emergent learning opportunities and the inquiry approach.
  • Ah, the inquiry approach! I plan to use it a lot myself today so you don't have to stand here and listen to me, the learning and sharing will come from all of you!
  • This is where there is a major connection between Forest School and what happens in the regular classroom! We are on a wave to embrace the inquiry approach and it works beautifully in both settings.
  • My first question: Do you need a Forest to run a Forest School program?
  • A: you do not! Forest School is an ETHOS! There are many practices within this Ethos that lend themselves well to teaching both inside and out! 
  • (From Forest School Canada: FS is an education approach, and a program of delivery, with thousands of programs expanding over the world... In FNS children spend time in various urban and near urban parks, natural spaces adjacent to or on school grounds, or natural playgrounds and outdoor classrooms.  
  • FNS programs adhere to "regular and repeated access to the same natural space, as well as emergent, experiential, inquiry-based, play-based, and place-based learning" (Reference Forest and Nature School in Canada PDF doc - refer to forestschoolcanada.ca
  • Q: who has an outdoor classroom? Who has an outdoor playground? Who has a tree on the school yard? Who has a patch of grass on the yard? Who has a nearby park or trail? Anyone can do this! All you need is NEARBY NATURE!
  • Example: Little Falls Public School in St. Mary's Ontario.  
  • A typical day at Red-tailed Hawk Forest School - feel free to ask questions throughout!
  • Back wards planning - resources are used to support lessons in a backwards manner where we follow the students interests, and then resources, lessons and activities follow. 
  • Example - A Logs Life - lessons including literature, journal writing, poetry, art, science/ nature detectives, music, and math were all planned after students rolled over rotting logs in the forest! It' s a multidisciplinary and team approach- you need to work together - thank Cardinal!
  • Q: Is anyone concerned what this will look and feel like?
  • A: quote my Forest School Teacher: 'guess what, play feels chaotic! But I promise, play will move to order! You need to switch from covering to uncovering curriculum!
  • Curriculum uncovering activity. - role play... We're going to show you what this looks like... 
  • Gr. 1 - Understanding Life Systems - Cardinal and I - Role Play...
  • Assignment-in 3 groups review 3 overall expectations from Gr. 1 Science Curriculum, Understanding Life Systems strand... Brain storm ideas for how to teach these expectations in a Forest School setting, and present back to group through role play, discussion, or oral presentation... 
  • Role play is play-based learning, even adult learners can have fun and learn through this method! 
  • Play-based learning should NOT stop after JK/SK - quote Piaget: Play is the Work of Children - we can't let Piaget down! 
  • Activity 2: Create a 4 stick frame and use it to design a mind map of a happy childhood memory (this can be done as think pair share, or after sit spot routine). 
  • Q: where were you during this for memory?
  • Gallery walk if time permits. 
  • Q: what area the curriculum connections? 
  • Q: how can we incorporate more play-based, place-based, and outdoor learning into a typical day?
  • Q&A - share resources, typical day plans, resource list...
  • Read: I'm in charge of celebrations - if time!
  • Backwards ways - introductions at the end! 

Weekly Update - October 30th 2016

Hello All,

  Last week was another wonderfully action packed week at RTH!  Students and teachers enjoyed celebrating our Halloween theme together.  

  Each morning, rain, sleet, or shine, we began with a story of the day (our location changed with the weather!)  Most groups read The Ghost Eye Tree in preparation for our Haunted Hikes in search of a Ghost Eye Tree to identify! We typically wandered father down the trail than we have yet with groups, as students are more ready for these distances and Ghost Eye Trees are not as easy to find as you might imagine!  We also find students are more comfortable when they are on the go in cooler weather.  All groups were amazing and seemed to really enjoy their Haunted Hikes!  Ask your child what type of tree The Ghost Eye is specifically.  

  On Monday, for the latter part of the day, a grade one class from Beaver Valley Community School joined us!  Even the principal came to Forest School!  The preschoolers were great hosts, and joined in for some field trip activities.  Grade one students enjoyed a sprinkling of what happens here at RTH!  Nature arts and crafts seemed to be most popular, so they were repeated throughout the week with all other groups!  Many students chose to design witch and wizard wands with natural materials (and ribbons), others completed line designs of pumpkins, halloween sculptures, and decorated gourds!  Older students had more of a focus on pumpkin math, where they were involved in a series of activities estimating and making actual measurements of pumpkins.  We learned some big math words like, ‘circumference’, and used a variety of tools for our measurement tasks.  Students estimated the number of seeds in pumpkins, and this week we will find our actual count!  Pumpkins will also be used to help compost in the garden, and our garlic planting will continue this week in the warmer weather.  

  We ended our days this week at the Pumpkin Patch!  Thank you to all parents and volunteers who made this a possibility, and in such short order!  All students participated in market and farm tours at Curries Market.  Ask your child which fruits and vegetables are currently being harvested and what the highlight of their field trip was?  Many groups saw Currie’s bees busy making honey too!  We ended our tours in the pumpkin patch, playing games and making discoveries.  

  During music, Lily of the Valley focused on Halloween as well!  She had many Halloween songs, games, and rhythm activities.  Music was a hit this week as always!  

  On Friday we had 2 guests from a new Forest School in the Orillia area come to visit us!  Students were great to tour our guest and share some Forest School routines and happenings.  Our guests stated most of the day here with us at RTH, and left with great knowledge the students had shared throughout the day!  This was an excellent sharing opportunity for RTH!

  On Saturday, I travelled to the Barrie ares to present at the Simcoe County Board of Education workshop, Hands in the Dirt, on outdoor education practices.  I spoke about implementing Forest School practices with ease in the regular classroom.  This session was number one on the list, filled up first, and then overbooked with interested educators from other sessions.  It was so exciting for RTH, and nerve racking for me as I am much more comfortable learning with students in the forest than I am with adults in the classroom!  Fortunately the conference was all outside in beautiful Spring Water Provincial Park, and Cardinal was a major support and swooped in when needed.  A huge thank you to Cardinal!  I will share our presentation on our blog as well.

  Take care, and Happy Halloween!


Weekly Update - October 22nd 2016

Hello All,

Another amazing week at RTH has gone by! We started our week with a marvellous Monday, that ended with a wicked storm! The preschoolers and staff were amazing as the 3 year olds followed safety instructions perfectly and staff utilized our indoor space to keep students warm, dry, and safe from harm.  Monday's storm served as a good reminder to everyone to be prepared for extreme weather, and this was a focus of discussion with all groups who followed the preschoolers on Monday.  We are very fortunate the storm had minimal impact on our sight, and posed few safety hazards that we're all cleared before groups attended throughout the week.  You should see Red-tail Hawk with a chainsaw - self taught!

We continued to focus on why leaves change colour this week to reinforce these concepts.  Our stories of the day of the day focussed on changes in the garden through the seasons - Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt, an aboriginal legend - How Grandmother Spider stole the Sun, and fall conditions - The Ghost Eye Tree! All stories were related back to signs of the season, and why leaves change colour.  Many groups hiked to collect beautiful leaves and turn them into leaf monster creations! Cardinal joined us most days for autumn art activities including water colour painting, blind contour drawings of pumpkins, and collages.  She has picked up some clay for us, so expect sculpting to follow - thank you Cardinal!

Older groups sought out shelter building.  We worked together, staff and students, to inspect shelters after the storm.  Revisions were made and reinforcements were added based on problem solving processes.  Students have done an amazing job on maintaining their structures!  

Lilly of the Valley joined us on Tuesday and Thursday this week.  She brought Halloween songs and games to us, that students thoroughly enjoyed! Next week we plan to follow Lilly's lead and have a Halloween theme.  Students are welcome come dressed in parts of Halloween costumes that are likely not to get lost or broken! Alternatively, they can dress in black, orange, and or purple.  There is a possibility that we will all be able to travel to Curries' pumpkin patch each day at the end of the day this week (still confirming). If this is a go, we will need all students dropped off with boosters in the morning. We will also need as many parent volunteers as possible to pick up at 2:00 and carpool to Curries Market for our visit.  We will also need all parents to pick up at regular time at Curries - 3:15 unless you have arranged for aftercare (in which case pick up will be at RTH). I will follow up with a confirmation email if this is a go!  Seed garlic has been purchased from Curries and Greentree and students will all be planting it in our RTH garden boxes this week! Tamarack has extensive experience planting garlic and she will be teaching us her tips on Monday to start off the week! 

Another local partnership has popped up this week!  All RTH families will have the opportunity to order t.u.f.f.o. picnic blankets and muddy buddy full piece rain suits at a special RTH rate! T.u.f.f.o. is products are manufactured locally and the orders will be going through Christies Clothing - a huge thank you to Christies for this opportunity!  We plan to do one order in the fall, and another in the spring. Expect your order form soon!

Next week we plan to begin assembling our journal books - parents we need your help on this one! We are asking for donations of cardboard cut 9 x 12 inches.  We also need donations of fabric cut to the same size.  This will allow us to make our own sustainable journals that pages can be added to! No waste! This is where all of our journal entries will be recorded and they will be sent as a keepsake at the end of the year. 

We ended our days at RTH with wonder time - many students got into building obstacle courses with loose parts, making creations in our mud kitchen, climbing, exploring, and inventing games! Thank you for another amazing week!

Take care,



Weekly Update - September 30th 2016

Hello all,

It was another exciting week at RTH!  Pond study was definitely a highlight. Our days were filled with lots of active exploration, nature surprises, and teachable moments. Each morning began with our sharing circle in which most students confirmed their nature names. We're working towards identifying with our individual nature names. Next week we will begin to document our journey on our journey sticks. Thank you to Turkey Vulture's family for donating the paint that will be used for this and many other purposes. We really appreciate it!  Next week we will also focus on Thanksgiving and incorporating that into Aboriginal teachings. 

This week our stories of the day all focused on life in the pond. Most groups enjoyed learning about the life cycle of a frog through literature. Older students got into research about wetland animals and insects. Ask your child what they learned about their favourite pond creature!  

We also enjoyed many hikes through the forest where signs of September surrounded us. Many groups requested shelter building, so that's what we did!  Even the pre-schoolers built structures to protect fairies and the toad we discovered as our nature surprise. 

In the afternoons we launched into pond studies. It was amazing to see the diversity of species living in the pond. Some groups saw more frogs than others and we investigated why the presence of frogs was related to the weather. Students took on the roll of nature detectives to investigate and identity the creatures we captured in our pond study bins. Since every day there were different insects and animals, ask your child which ones they learned about. Pond study was followed up by journal writing to help consolidate learning, document through art, and identity what we found. We will repeat pond study in the spring to notice the changes through the seasons. 

Lilly of the Valley joined us for music on Tuesday and Friday of this week. Music was a great success as always. The groups on Wednesday and Thursday can look forward to music next week. 

We ended our days with community circles to reflect on our days and share our learning. 

Thank you everyone for supporting another amazing week at RTH. 


Weekly Update - September 23rd 2016



Hello All,
It was a fabulous second week at RTH, and a first week for some!  I am currently traveling but want to make sure that everyone is updated with our week in review and important information for next week!  I will try my best to forward pictures from the week while on the road, but if they do not come through, I will resend them ASAP.  (We are traveling to the cottage with little reception.)
I will start with some important information for next week... Next week we are going to focus on pond study.  Students are all required to bring life jacket in order to participate in activities happening pond side.  If you do not have a life jacket that fits your child, please reach out to other friends in the program who may have one that fits. We can share in this way, but parents will not be participating in pond study activities that are up close, if they do not have a life jacket on.  Thank you for your support on this important safety rule.
Please submit all three forms filled in and complete at drop off this coming week.  Students may not be able to participate if forms are incomplete. This is for the safety of your child, and for insurance purposes.  The media release form must also be complete with up to date email addresses. The information on this form will be used for a variety of communication purposes including generating a parent contact list, so it is important that this form is also complete.
If your child is going to be absent from the program, please text me the night before as notification. If there is an illness or otherwise the morning of, please send a text ASAP. This is the fastest easiest way to reach me.  My cell number is 705-351-2726, it is listed on the website for your ease of use. Thank you!

Housekeeping notes aside, let's get on with the fun-filled learning that happened this week! Each morning we continued to review our new routines and establish our boundaries. As such, once drummed in, we met in a sharing circle to check in and get started. There were many thumbs up this past week, with a smattering of sideways thumbs, and a few ones that started down. Our students were able to support each other to get all thumbs up, or sideways at least, by the end of the day.  Way to go students! We also focused on clothing and safety check.  Thank you all for continuing to pack the additional layers, changes of shoes, and hats that have been required to keep students dry and comfortable. Our staff have been impressed by how prepared students are!

All groups have started their day with a morning hike. Here we have been looking for signs of September, nature surprises, and participating in a variety of nature detective activities.  Puffballs were a big focus this week, and have helped us to reinforce the rule of never tasting anything at Forest School without a teacher's permission. That being said, we have been enjoying apples from our favourite tree with teacher's permission.
After our warm up hike we get started with our story of the day.  Ask your child which story they heard? We have also been researching local woodland animals, and linking qualities back to nature names.  This process has been very interesting!

For journals students have focused on the fish forest cycle that we witnessed firsthand last week!! We have introduced more detailed research about the Silver Creek and exactly what is happening with the Chinook Salmon right now! This information has been incorporated into the Salmon Life cycles students have created.

Our afternoons have been very active incorporating additional hikes, cooperative games, phys-Ed classes, and free play.  After all of this, we have been in need of quiet reflection, so magic spots has also been a focus this week.  Ask your child to describe their magic spot, and what they noticed!

We have ended our days with free choices.  Students have had great fun bonding together in the wonderful September weather.  We are very much looking forward to working together to explore the pond next week!

Thank you all for your continued support! RTH has been a soaring success so far!


Weekly update - September 17th, 2016

Hello All,
   We had a fabulous first week together at RTH! Over the next few weeks we plan to really focus on establishing boundaries and routines.  This update will walk you through our routines and the shared experiences we had over our first week.
  After drop off students enjoy some free play followed up by storing their belongings under the gazebo where everything is well sheltered. We make adjustments to our clothing and footwear and take time to apply sunscreen if it's a sunny morning.  Next students hear the beat of our First Nations drum, and they follow the beat to where our morning meeting will take place.  During our morning meeting we check-in with thumbs up, sideways, or down.  When their are individuals with thumbs down to start the day, we work together to support them throughout the day.  Students did an excellent job of this during the first week.  We introduced ourselves as well and some students chose their nature names.  Nature names must be local plants, trees, flowers, or animals that we as individuals identity with.  For example, I'm Red-tailed Hawk because I like to observe from afar before I narrow in.  I also appreciate the freedom of these strong and majestic birds.  And, not going to lie, I would love to be able to fly! Over the next while students will select their nature names and we will narrow in on the qualities that they identify with.  Next clothing and safety check occurs.  Thank you to all for setting the students up for success by providing the extra layers, additional clothing, extra footwear, hats, and sunscreen that were necessary for the weather we experienced this week.  Everyone was well prepared!
  Next it's time to get moving! We will have a morning hike everyday at RTH.  During the hike many learning opportunities are incorporated.  This week we tied in nature identification, nature detective tasks, framed nature collages, and Leave No Trace principles.  Lots of learning occurs on the move! We often end at an apple tree and pick one if we would like it for a snack.  If not, we get into snacks that we brought and have a drink so we are ready for either Music, Art, or Journals. 
  Music was a hit this week! Lily of the Valley (Mrs. Beattie) is planning to join us alternating Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Fridays.  This will allow all groups to have the amazing experience of Music in the Woods! Preschoolers can look forward to the experience next year, and will focus on art and literature in the meantime. 
  We always have a Story of the Day.  This week many groups heard The Kissing Hand. Chester Racoon was nervous about his first day at Forest School.  But once he got started, that feeling disappeared and he loved the experience.  Older groups heard a true historical story.  In the summer of 1914 in a village in Ontario, there was a forest fire that devastated the village and the forest surrounding it.  The happy ending came when all of the people of the village and the animals of the forest came together and stood side-by-side in the lake - the only safe place as the fire roared.  Wolves stood beside deer, bears waded beside fish, and people stood shoulder to shoulder with moose.  All survived unharmed and the hotel the boy lived in was unharmed.  It was a very powerful story. 
  Some groups began our sit spot routine.  This is a time for quiet individual reflection.  Sit spots often brings us to lunch and Thanksgiving.
  During our afternoons, Red-winged Blackbird (Miss Grimmer) and I were thrilled that all groups got to discover our Nature Surprise!  Ask your child why fish rely on the forest? Also ask what they learned about the lifecycle of a Salmon.  It was an amazing learning opportunity for students to see all parts of this cycle first hand! After the hike up the hill, we read Salmon Forest which explains this lifecycle in great detail.  This will be the focus for our journals next week!
  We end our days with free / unstructured play before pick up.
  Thank you all for an amazing first week at RTH!  Days like these would not be possible without you our supportive parents, our dedicated staff and volunteers, and the students themselves who are the life of the program.  Thank you all, this is going to be an incredible journey we are on together!

Red-tailed Hawk