October 6, 2017

This week at Nature School we had an interesting encounter at a place we call ‘Muddy Hill’, so-named by the children in our first year for the steep, slippery mud track that leads walkers to a bench at the top of the rise.   We have come to know  this place as a site for particular opportunities: it is a challenging area for individuals to bravely tackle gross motor skills; it is a place for complex social interactions and negotiations as children engaged in imaginative play amongst the trees; and it was a place for children to feel safely ‘out of sight’ of adults while safely playing within boundaries.

This place has changed recently – the young birch trees that covered the hill were removed to keep sight lines open and to maintain low-growth areas for raptors.  Consequently, the area now looks very different.  The unexpected change had children and staff alike feeling shocked and dislocated from a familiar landmark, but we have made a point of continuing to visit the area, despite our sense of loss, in order to observe the children’s process of re-establishing their patterns of play.

This week a group of thirty or more adults from Surrey Parks and Recreation came out to visit Terra Nova Rural Park, and they happened to walk by Muddy Hill while we were there.  The children froze as they watched the group of adults approach.  I have no doubt that the adults regarded themselves as the observers  – such colourful and cute subjects! –  but it was apparent to me that the children did not take this view.  Despite its changes, Muddy Hill was very much their familiar territory, and the adults were the interlopers there.  The children were not afraid, rather they seemed deeply curious and focussed.  Observing and reflecting on the children’s relationships, their behaviours, interests, and strengths is the foundation of our work as teachers.   Paying close attention – to each other, to the land, and to all it’s inhabitants, is what resonates with me as I peruse this week’s photographs.  Enjoy looking!

The gazebo offers a challenging climb for those who are ready, while others take time to become comfortable with the height.


Climbing trees is exciting and daunting.  Children are learning the mechanics of where to put feet and hands, as well as learning to judge the safety of the trees branches and how to avoid damaging these precious young fruit trees.  Others learn through observation, or find a role for themselves as cheerleaders!

So many ways to gain physical strength when playing outside, whether using traditional sports equipment, the built environment, or props such wagons, wheelbarrows, rocks, and squash.

The children are looking closely at homegrown squash, pumpkins and garlic, which gives these focussed drawing times purpose and develops an eye for detail.

Eagles and Owls alike have been learning to use binoculars.  We were particularly delighted to hear and see Bald Eagles returning to ‘Eagle Tree Tunnel’ just west of the parking lot.

Testing theories and ideas to solve problems is the work of childhood.  We try to minimize our adult intervention, supporting the idea that there are many solutions.

And a few final pictures that capture the joy of being together in this beautiful space:

With heartfelt thanks for this gift of Terra Nova Nature School – enjoy a restful long weekend together!

Warmly, Kate