When It’s Cold Outside

When I was in Singapore in December, I marvelled at how lovely it was that everyone was outside, even late at night, during week nights. All over the city you could see people sitting on benches talking, eating together, strolling down promenades, sitting out and overlooking beautiful Marina Bay or having a refreshing drink outside. I saw people smiling, conversing, running, gazing, and  connecting in so many ways. It made me realize how much weather impacts our social life. Here in B.C., we have mild winters compared to the rest of Canada but even so we often complain about the rain or cold. Many times people hibernate inside for evenings and weekends, only coming out for work or to cheer on their child during a soccer game. True, there are folks that go for walks, make snow forts or enjoy snow sports, but I think there is a definite and distinct change in people’s social lives in the winter. This is not a bad thing, just something I noticed.

I also noticed how the cold at Nature School affects our programming. Each morning, our team must decide what activities work given the weather and the ever changing affect on the landscape. Is it too cold to do activities with mittens off? Is the field too mushy with bird poo and water to enjoy playing there? Is it too windy to be underneath trees? If they have rain boots, can the children climb safely? Do we need to keep our bodies warm and therefore stay on the move? And, I suppose, because this is just what we do here, we do not hibernate and lose connection. We face the elements, hand in hand, whatever the weather brings us each day. Together we take pride in our ability to be tough and forge ahead on our pathways, no matter what the weather.


Yun Lam, Ludwig’s daddy, built us this amazing greenhouse so we can start to plant our seedlings. We are so grateful for his time and hard work; it will be appreciated for years to come. Ludwig introduces the greenhouse to the Eagle group.


It is important the Owls know the story of the greenhouse too so we gather around to hear the story. This is a subtle component of our program- oral storytelling and creating ‘our’ stories together.


Ice, snowflakes, and cold air make for an invigorating day. Justine finds a thick piece of ice and shows it to Ian. What does Justine know about ice? She comments about the leaves stuck inside. If you were a teacher in the class, what would your provocation be to extend her learning?


Zoë uses a stick to draw a dream catcher in the light covering of snow. Our small group has been thinking a lot about dream catchers; they have been very eager to “just make one” but I have been slowing the process down so that they really have time to design and capture different ideas. It is so tempting to jump into a product but once it is made, the design process slows down a lot.


Can we all fit?


Barry reads to Rafe and Theia, asking them questions on each page and relating the text to their own lives. Barry’s knowledge of teaching really shines here as he opens the door for the children to create their own ideas.


Heidi spends time with Leo and Ohnyou, teaching them about the tire and its components. Inviting children to watch you do tasks or chores around the house is a wonderful way to model hard work and ability.


At the core of everything we do- caring deeply for each other and showing we care through our words and our actions.


Vino shows Rafe a tiny something ( I could not see). This gesture is such a natural way to begin a dialogue with someone. Is Vino hoping this exchange leads to further play? Why did he show this to Rafe? Does he know Rafe likes whatever it is he is holding?


The round building blocks almost always lead to steering wheels as seen here with Mattias and Darel. Perhaps we should offer them in a different capacity so they transform to something else. What else could we put out with them?


Misuzu leads our chefs in sandwich making- tuna with our own homemade pickled carrots and egg salad. Every child had at least one bite to try it and many had several quarters! Cooking and eating together, even outside in the cold weather, is so much fun.


Masa tells Tricia ” Choppy means the water is wavy.”



Maliya takes a quiet moment to do some research. We like that word here, for both children and educators alike. It is so active and urges one to really think deeply.


Owls enjoy their snack together, using please and thank you while accepting the sandwich.


This small group of Owls experiment with sharpies and chalk. Each drawing was so unique and represented what each child was thinking about.

And indoor, cozy time:

  • making beds for bears and birds
  • making sandwiches
  • doing art work
  • rehearsing an impromptu puppet show
  • investigating water and oil mazes
  • thinking about architecture











And, back outside, finding friendship. Hand in hand, facing whatever comes our way.


‘Till the next post,



A Friendly Community

A shorter blog for a shorter week, but a big main idea: thanks to the Family Day weekend, and, hot on it’s heels, Valentines Day, I have been thinking a lot about authenticity.

I have fond childhood memories of celebrating Valentines Day at school: certainly there was the chore of printing out classmates names, but also the excitement of sending a particularly sweet message to a special friend; a class party, with treats that were rarely allowed inside the classroom – a cookie, some pop, and maybe a foil wrapped chocolate heart; and, of course, a chance to make ‘pretty’ crafts with paper doilies, lace, and glitter!  As an educator, I want to create opportunities for children to feel that bit of magic, excitement, and break from the usual routines that I remember, but I also want to be authentic to my adult values of including children in meaningful projects; minimizing consumerism and waste; and avoiding the tokenism of themes, (as if friendship lasts only a day)!  Trusting that ‘something’ appropriate will emerge is not always easy, but invariably we are gifted…..

The Family Day long weekend was another situation that gave me pause: how to balance my own valuable family time with a long held goal of making and selling small, ‘authentic to TNNS’ items?  The Rompers Preschool Vendor sale gave my family the perfect excuse to be creative AND spend time together, a lovely way to support each other and build community!  Both the Owls and the Eagles classes were involved with making the Rosemary Salt and packages of scarlet runner beans that we sold.  Thank you to all the parents who helped out, and in particular to our Nature School Knitters: Peggy, Penny, Dixie, Christiana, Ada, Viann, Joy, Shantelle, and Carol, for crafting the 60+ re-usable dishcloths we also had for sale!

Our TNNS community is especially rich thanks to the work of our staff and volunteers: Heidi, Tricia B, Misuzu, Shantelle, Barry, Jess, Chloe N, Zoleikha, Erin, and Chloe L., we couldn’t do it without you.  Heartfelt thanks to each of you.

Some additional pictures of friendship and community…..


Playing ‘beauty salon’ continues to be an interest for the Owls class.  Elsa and Kingston demonstrate extraordinary trust and patience as Zoya, Audrey and Ohnyou become stylists with brushes and blow dryers fashioned from sticks and leaves!


Yi Teng and Masa are developing a friendship based on their mutual love of dinosaurs, seen here ‘eating’ a tree.


Tyler S. walked past his own family’s community garden plot, where, he informs Shantelle, they are ‘growing snow’.  Later, when Tyler stops on the pathway, refusing to walk a step further, I ask him why, and he says “Tyler waiting”.  “Waiting for what?” I ask.  His heartwarming response? “For the rocks to grow.”

These are busy weeks for us at Nature School, with many visitors to TNNS, the registration of new families, professional development opportunities, garden plans and, always, working on dream projects for the future.  For all of us it can be challenging to juggle our  many roles, to allow time for deep reflection, or to trust that things will unfold as needed.Personally,  I am reminded by our activities this week to show up as my most authentic self, both at home and at school, and to treasure this magic of working with children at Terra Nova.




The White Stuff Falling from the Sky

It Sifts from Leaden Sieves, a poem about snow by Emily Dickinson.

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil

On stump and stack and stem, —
The summer’s empty room,
Acres of seams where harvests were,
Recordless, but for them.

It ruffles wrists of posts,
As ankles of a queen, —
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
Denying they have been.

Snow is a gift. Less words and more play this week.


Erika points at the clouds and tells me ” Mama, Daddy, Baby”. Oh, I adore the ingenuity of this creative interpretation of our natural world.












Platon’s grandfather kindly offers to change out tires for sled feet. The team of people who support Nature School extends into our whole community.


Not easy to negotiate steering this truck, and plowing driveways. Hats off to City of Richmond Crew to take care of our roads and driveways!


















‘Till the next post,


Encountering our community

During Lunar New Year, we encountered some visitors to the park who were very intrigued to see the children organizing themselves at snack time: laying out the tarp and wash stations, finding snack bags and settling down to eat together. While we declined their invitation for a group photo, we just couldn’t resist a pic of this Rooster that they were carrying!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Both the Eagles and Owls children crafted a ‘Thank You’ card to West Coast Seeds for kindly donating many, many packages of seeds.  A small group headed out for the long walk to the post office kiosk on River Road.  The children are always intrigued by the numbered boxes, and, on this occasion,  were fortunate to meet a Postal worker who kindly took time to chat!  
Last November, several old apple trees in front of the Parson’s House fell down due to root rot, offering new opportunities for climbing and interacting with the branches. 
 Rafe sees the removal notice; when asked what he thinks the sign says, he comments “Don’t climb the trees.”


Both Eagles and Owls took time to observe and draw the trees before their removal.  Allowing quiet time for individual work, as well as proximity and time to observe and compare each others work, supports a range of learning styles.  When the chipper truck and crew arrived, the Eagles observed from a safe distance, then made drawings of the truck, which they ‘pair shared’ with a partner. 
The cut branches and stumps offered many opportunities for sensorial, gross motor, cooperative, and dramatic play:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
 Tyler is enjoying sitting amongst the branches;


Darel stirs the sawdust to make a pizza;


Avery and Zoë poke a stick into a small hole to make a lever;  and piling the logs into a campfire occupied many children….


Trees and sticks have been a theme for the play throughout the week:
Owls small group time with Misuzu at ‘Bat Cave’……


Ludwig makes a Christmas tree by decorating the conifer we planted last Spring with leaves, sticks and scraps…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Vino, Ohnyou and Audrey clambering through cedar branches….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
and Zoya has made ‘scissors’ out of sticks so she can play ‘beauty salon’ with Audrey!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And finally, just a few more pictures to close the week…. 






Family Cooking Day

There are truly no words to describe the energy from yesterday’s Family Cooking Class, Italian Day! It was a special event- bringing our families together, the very young to the more experienced, to learn, cook and eat was an exceptionally rewarding experience. Our bellies and even more importantly, our souls, are all filled up! Check out some quick snapshots ( amidst floury hands) to capture a glimpse of our day.


Chef Andrea spends time prepping- the pay back for this prep is huge as it helps make the day smooth and organized. Thanks Andrea!


After an acknowledgement of territory, a small snack to celebrate Lunar New Year, an ice breaker game and some fun facts about pasta, Chef Andrea takes the stage to let us know what we will be cooking today.


Learning about the nuances of pasta dough.




Kneading our dough to the right consistency.







Chef Andrea demonstrated how to make fresh ricotta cheese using cream and vinegar.



Each child had an opportunity to catch the pasta sheets as they came through the roller.




Gnocchi waiting to be adorned with the fresh veggies.


‘Till the next post,


Happy Lunar New Year!

A joyous week…Lunar New Year Celebrations, the arrival of a very generous donation from West Coast Seeds , playing, cuddling, and exploring our hearts and our minds.


Barry helps to lead our Owls in a Lion Dance- albeit our very own, unique version!



Ludwig performs his own original Lion Dance and then offers it to others to try. Katharina is giving him directions in German- how wonderful to join two very different cultures!




Tyler S’s family made these beautifully decorated stones as a gift to Nature School- thank you Angela!


Ariel and Tyler C’s mommies preparing dumplings and red bean rice cake- yum! It really is like family cooking together in a kitchen!


My heart is beating faster as I look though these seeds packs! Dreaming and planning….


Platon and Ken help to make a thank you card for West Coast Seeds. Learning to be thankful and showing our appreciation is important.



Nika and Hayden enjoy a shared experience of watching a squirrel through the window. We do have a lovely view!


“I got one! I got one!” Ibrahim announces as he reels in a “big fish.” Lately Ibrahim has pretended to fish many times during free play. What has sparked this sudden desire to explore fishing, could all the deep puddles be sparking this curious its? (Heidi)


“Hey, what happened? My bowl sunk, now I can’t get it.” Zoe inadvertently learns concepts around buoyancy as her once floating bowl submerges in the deep puddle. (Heidi)


Nicholas and Leo discuss how to fit all the pieces into their design; this is one of the first times these two children have worked together alone on a project- what will this mean for their time together next week?


Cuddling and listening attentively to Kate’s story.



Ditch fishing


While using the play dishes, Yi Teng notices Heidi put out paint pots. He approaches the paint pots and looks at them for a moment, then places his bowl near it and touches the top of the brush with his fingers. “Water, pshh pshh,” he says then and pours out his pretend water and returns to refill his bowl. Soon many of the children are using the paint pots to get water. As I watched, I noticed how, when they pressed the brush end, the motion and way of holding the bowl was reminiscent of how he use the outdoor hand wash stations. Could they be envisioning the same thing I am, or are they relating this more to an indoor faucet? (Heidi)



“Quickly we have to get to the fire!” Firefighters, Ibrahim, Will And Kingston ride their firetruck, fire hoses at the ready, to put out a blaze. Though the firetruck appeared to be an integral part of their play, I wonder if the absence of the hoses would have seen the bucket being used as a different type of vehicle, or perhaps something else entirely.(Heidi)


Sometimes it is the smallest gestures that can lead to more impactful connections and future relationships. Despite not having had very much prior communication, Ohnyou offers Ronan some of the birthday cake she had made, ensuring that he had a utensil to eat it, as well as informing him of it’s flavour. (Heidi)




Trying to help each other climb the tree.



img_6982Wishing you all a prosperous, healthy and happy year!



Emily’s post of last week, “Encounters”, has had me thinking about a word that represents my own intentions for this New Year of 2017.  In this, our third year of operating Terra Nova Nature School, I am enjoying a feeling of ‘finding our feet’ – we operate with proven systems and routines; we have names for places within the park; our staff know each other well and trade in and out of tasks seamlessly – there is a rhythm to our work that is reassuring.  And certainly we have no shortage of encounters!  But, as Emily suggests, how do we deepen our encounters?  How do we stay open to all possibilities, while maintaining particular values and philosophies? How do we know when to change course, and when to continue working towards specific goals for the children, the curriculum, the school community, and ourselves as educators?  This is my on-going internal debate and joy as an educator: the known is never certain, and what seems certain always has hidden surprises, so this work never feels boring!  And my word?  Joy!  Every day I am reminded of the reason we dreamed up Nature School in the first place – because even on  the toughest, wettest, crankiest, trickiest of days, there is always an encounter that has me smiling, always a moment of joy to be encountered.  Enjoy this glimpse of our most recent week together!

img_6754Running to keep warm by the windy river!img_6758Ken notices the dark clouds and predicts more rainy weather.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFiguring out how to share the big blocks is a challenge, but always results in interesting structures that support dramatic play.

img_6741Zoya, Elsa and Leo are making pizza in the ‘oven’ (cardboard tubes)….img_6807And making pizza inside the Cottage.

img_6806Soyon and Yi Teng have caught something on the end of their sticks!img_6746Using real tools, scaled to kid size, offers the satisfaction of doing real work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

img_6822Just add water and the play lasts for hours!

img_6819img_6820img_6796Kye and Kingston have a chat about organizing a playdate, and wondering where each other’s house is?img_6747May and Vino are playing superheroes.img_6788Sloan, Zoe, Hayden & Ludwig mess about with cornstarch goop and colouring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATyler is thrilled with the colours he has created, especially the way the blues and pinks swirl over the dissolving sugar cube.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the Eagles and Owls have been noticing the birds – here Sloan, Avery, Darel and Justine are playing in their ‘nest’.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo assist with bird-watching, Emily teaches Tyler and Yohan how to hold the binoculars.img_6722OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYohan and Zoë refer to field guides for making their notes and drawings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAZoe keeps a tally sheet for the group during morning walk: one line for every crow we saw.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrianna and Ludwig are ‘tracking’ the birds; “take 3 steps then stop, okay?” says Brianna.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe arrival of the septic tank truck is a perfect opportunity for more observing and drawing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEmily teaches the Eagles class some calming yoga poses…..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA….. and Darel is calm and relaxed, breathing deeply while keeping his eyes closed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe children offer many theories about why the rodent is lying on the pathway – a common thread is that a cat, or maybe a coyote, caught it and hurt it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough the group has moved on, Erika and Ayleen stay to look more closely.  “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” calls Erika.img_6830After learning about Richmond’s Food Security Charter at our recent parent meeting, parents planted seeds as a gift and provocation to the children.  Parents in Reggio Emilia schools often create artworks, garden projects, or other surprises for their children’s classes.




Encounter–this word has been swirling though my mind as we enter a new year. In the past fews years, inspired by others, I have chosen a word that will support setting an intention for the upcoming year.  Influenced by one of my mentors, I have been thinking a lot about encounters. I am interested in exploring how to deepen my encounters with people, places, animals and things. How can I make each encounter rich and worthy? How can one encounter affect and inform the next? What is my role in an encounter? How can I keep myself open enough to receive the offerings given to me by an encounter?

The reason why I share this with you is because I would like to bring this intention to my daily work with children.  How can I best support their own moment to moment encounters? As I look though these photos with this in mind, I can see a beautiful start to a new year!



A chilly day naturally invites thought of warmth and fire. These Owls make a campfire, roasting marshmallows. The pretend play is complex, including adding new ingredients, cooking for each other, and warning each other of burning hot marshmallows. Kye is handing me a marshmallow, cooked on this long blade of dried grass.


Annabelle, as seen many times before, lays down and snuggles herself into her little bed. Zoya offers to sing her a goodnight song. Isn’t this lovely- Zoya bringing her home traditions to others?


Writing in cold weather is tricky, requiring a glove removal. Araceli concentrates as she begins to express her idea on paper.


Theia enjoys working in this peaceful setting. What is she hearing, seeing and feeling as she perches herself on this boulder?


Maliya references the bird field guide to identify a bird in the water.


The Owls develop their balance and proprioceptive skills as they negotiate the icy trail.


Chores are part of living together in a house. Frazer helps to care for our plants, generously donated by Barry.


Kate supports Mattias and Nikas’ curiosity around ice as she sets up a melting station.


The Owls cooking group makes apple crisp. They enjoy the smell of the cinnamon and speak enthusiastically about the butter!


Cosy time… why use our blankets when you can use mini carpets?


Justine and Ashlyn have fun typing on the keyboards and looking at books together. What will develop from this play?


The Owls bring in the garbage and recycling, an exercise in working together as the bins are awkward to carry.


Ludwig comments about how beautiful it is to be outside for snack time.


The Eagles summit this muddy hill- now you can see why their clothes were so muddy! It was the kind of mud that incited more play as children gloated about their muddiness!


William and Olivia problem solve tying a knot so the cord can reach from one tree to another. What other ways can we support this type of work?


Rafe shows Kye and Vino his stamp and transformer. It is a beautiful moment of sharing- gentle hands, polite words and mutual respect.


Audrey gives the ball “a giant kick” to pass to William. Playing with balls has so much to offer in terms of both gross motor skills and social development.


Nicholas is ready for the premier league as he dribbles, kicks and protects the ball!


Chilling out on a creative piece of furniture- a step up from the gravel! Clever Yi Teng!


Climbing, leaning, pushing in the friendliest of ways.


Tricia points out interesting things to notice- mountains, birds, water; we are so lucky to walk along the Fraser River.

‘Till the next post,


Welcome back!


Learning to use tools such as mallets, pegs, sticks, and tongs is tricky with mittens on, but very engaging!  Many children were interested in finding ice in various shapes and formations.  Ken and Yohan learned about the trapezoid!


Finding ways to travel across the land challenged our gross motor skills!
Having some quiet time in the Cottage: whether a complicated scene, a 3D block puzzle, or a free form design, figuring out how to put things together offers challenges for all ages and interests.  Heidi is showing Mattias how to connect paper rolls with paper fasteners.
Prior to the Winter Break, Ken from the Eagles class wanted to make alphabet soup.  Following up on his suggestion had us digging carrots out from under the snow before we could cut them up!  The alphabet pasta led to vigorous explorations of the alphabet in both reading and writing throughout the classroom, including the lovely example below of Avery observing and learning to add names to the easel ‘waitlist’.
Pausing to enjoy quiet times together with each other, the land, the weather, and the other creatures of Terra Nova Rural Park is important too!  We hope your Winter Break was both festive and restful.  Welcome to a new year, Happy 2017!

An Amiable School: Living our Dream

A week of celebration: of honouring our traditions, welcoming community, and enjoying this special place of Terra Nova, Richmond.

“Our goal is to build an amiable school, where children, teachers and families feel at home. Such a school requires careful thinking and planning concerning procedures, motivations and interests. It must embody ways of getting along together, of intensifying relationships.” ~Loris Malaguzzi
























Warm wishes to all during this holiday season,

In gratitude,

Emily & Kate