The pieces of our forest school and school transfer puzzle began to come together over the summer. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the computer getting our website updated and working on marketing and advertising our program. My kids began joking “Mom, I thought you were doing an outdoor forest school, why are you on the computer all day!” We finally got the school transfer approval and placement for my oldest son, which meant all systems were go. We began with an outdoor summer nature camp with up to 11 kids ages 2-10. It was really fun and a great chance for us to work out the details of our locations and timing of our activities.
Our school year forest school program is now up and running with classes most days. We have been enjoying our days immersed in nature and have gotten very familiar with many of the trails. We have started naming the areas that we visit most often. The Fairy Garden is where we meet for drop offs and begin our day by looking at nature books, climbing on a fallen log, and observing the park’s resident population of red tail hawks. It’s a great place for our nature art compositions including the recent fairy house complete with fence and fairy playground. Another recent nature art arrangement was the very creative firetruck shown below.
Another favorite spot in the park we visit regularly is “the redwoods”. There are three redwood trees planted in a row, each of which offers a different climbing challenge. The first has several very low branches perfect for the youngest children to practice climbing skills. The second and third trees offer greater challenges as the children really need to use their arm and torso strength to get up onto the higher branches.
There is a grassy meadow where we run, climb more trees, and watch and listen to the squirrels playing tag around the trees. I share the children’s excitement when we are able to see wildlife in the park. So far the children’s wildlife observations include slugs, several types of beetles, coyote, hawks, dragonflies, worms, several species of honeybees, robins, ravens, raccoons, steller jays, so many pill bugs, starlings, red winged blackbirds, sparrows, and more! My heart is happy to hear my middle boy say “Look Mama, our hawk friend”, as he points out the red tailed hawk flying overhead. He has already matched my abilities in his wildlife observations!
I always make a point to be friendly to the local regular park walkers and we were lucky to hear a tale of the history of one of our special places, “Squirrel World”. This is a very quiet area of the park farther from the roads and paved paths. There is a clearing with a large pile of pine cones in the center, and carved into a piece of wood are the words “Squirrel World”. The story we heard is that many years ago there was a man who came to this place every day for several years and would sit with a sack of peanuts to feed the squirrels and ravens. This must have been more than 8 years ago, before I began visiting this area. Although this man is no longer around, the animals still can be observed here. (Of course, feeding the wildlife is not a good habit, as it has numerous negative effects for the animals, so please don’t feed the animals!)