From Innovations in Early Education: The International Reggio Emilia Exchange, volume 24, number 1, March 2017, published by the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA). Visit reggioalliance.org for more information.
It’s been a joyful whirlwind! The past few weeks of school were packed with exciting activities for both the Eagles and the Owls. As the year end approaches, it is tempting to just ‘power’ through, but our team was determined to enjoy our time together with the children, and to find stillness even in the busiest of days! We hope you enjoy this summary of some of our last events.
Sharing First Nations Knowledge of Indigenous Plants: We have been in discussion with Lindsay, Ashlyn’s mother, for a long time about coming in to share her culture and knowledge with our children. Lindsay is the incredible artist who painted the meaningful and beautiful piece in the Cottage. Lindsay has been studying and teaching ethnobotany at SFU so she has a wealth of knowledge regarding Indigenous plants and their medicinal uses. As well, her daughters, Ashlyn and Rylan, Pow Wow dance, so we have been eager for them to share this special dance for with us. First the Eagles families joined us for an educational walk during which we learned about salmonberries, horsetail, plantain -or ‘frog leaf’, sticky grass, and herbs. Each child put together a medicine bundle with sage, sweet grass, tobacco and cedar boughs, not to be ingested, but to keep in one’s pocket for comfort and spiritual wellness. We were honoured to feel our TNNS values and curriculum come together in such a special day, Thank You Lindsay, Ashlyn and Rylan!
Farmer’s Market: The idea for the market sprouted last year, after visiting Quilchena Elementary students in-house vegetable market: How cool would it be to do a market together, using both our school’s resources and building on our joint interests in gardening, the environment and food security? Very cool indeed! So, many months ago, we sat down with teachers Kevin and Andrew from Quilchena to discuss this possibility. The concept of children being visible and engaged in meaningful and relevant work is an integral part of the Reggio Emilia philosophy: the children are viewed as capable and valued citizens, worthy of participation in community events. We wanted our TNNS children and our buddies to have this kind of opportunity in our own community, as people who can contribute in a meaningful way to our world (hence the title, “Young Citizens Farmers and Artisans Market), and that they did!
Thanks to a wet, cold Spring, the actual event seemed to sneak up on us – we have a new appreciation for the weather anxiety farmers experience! However much thought and time went in to choosing crops that could be grown and harvested within the school year; working in the garden (preschoolers LOVE filling wheelbarrows with soil!); making the signs; and planning the day. Parents also helped, both in the garden and on market day. The City of Richmond were incredibly supportive, kindly providing tents and tables. We wanted the children to experience giving back to the community, so we asked all the classes to donate some of their prize produce to the Minoru Seniors Centre for their hot meal. We were honoured to have Mayor Brodie, and Councillors MacPhail, Loo, Au, and McNulty pop by, as well as many Richmond School District staff. A portion of our proceeds from the day will be donated to the Stanley Park Ecology Society to support their Co-existing with Coyotes educational programs. The day was very successful for all involved, so of course we already have plans for ‘growing’ this project next year to include both TNNS classes!
Planting Trees: At the end of our first school year, we planted a commemorative Oak tree behind the Cottage. It was so much fun that we seem to have created an annual tradition, planting three more trees last year, and four this year! The trees were donated by the City of Richmond, and Shane and “Tillia” from BC Plant Health Care came out to help us with digging the holes and teaching us how to care for the trees (water! water! water through the summer!).
End of Year Celebrations: What does a Nature preschool do when it rains on your party? Put on our raincoats! Truthfully, the Owls children hardly seemed to notice it was raining, especially with the luxury of eating and dancing under cover at Mary’s Barn! The Sharing Farm kindly worked around our activities both days, so we could use the long harvest tables on Friday under sunnier skies. Thank you to everyone for walking this land with your children and celebrating our wonderful year together!
Our concluding slide shows are always bittersweet and a wee bit tearful – an emotional reflection of our relationships with one another and this place. From deep within our hearts, we extend a thank you for being part of TNNS and look forward to many future times of connecting through nature!
‘Till the next post,
Emily & Kate
We have had a busy couple of weeks in both the Owls and Eagles classes! Our last visits of the year with our buddy classes from Thompson and Quilchena Elementary schools are always bittersweet, as we realize just how much the buddies have grown together and formed caring relationships with one another! Some relationships are fleeting, but no less special, as we saw with a visit from a local high school class from McMath Secondary. Although Mr. Fraser brings his class just once a year as part of a bike hike, these teens are always enthusiastic partners when they start gardening and cooking with our preschoolers! We also piloted a few ‘Grand-pal’ visits with senior volunteers at the Sharing Farm, planting sunflowers and hunting for herbs. The Owls had a visit from Mike and his recycling truck, as well as some exciting cooking on the Coleman stove using tofu and freshly harvested stinging nettle. We are busy with several surprise projects, and lots of planting and planning for our upcoming “Young Citizens Farmers & Artisans Market” on June 13, but we still make time for playing in tall grass, ‘cooking’ with mud and buttercups, stories, songs, and plenty of snuggles and giggles with friends. Enjoy!
This week has been filled with a little of this, a little of that- no real common thread wove through this week; perhaps it was the mid-week event but each day came and went, always happily and with learning opportunities but without a force tying it all together. Some weeks are just like that! Enjoy the photos, they always put a smile on my face and I reckon they do on yours too!
‘Till the next post,
‘Growing up green’ was the first song we taught to our very first group of nature school students. We used it as our opening welcome song, until we finally mastered so many verses that we had to open with a more concise ditty! With the sun finally emerging, evidence of ‘growing and green’ seem to be all around us at Terra Nova, with the trees, shrubs, and grasses changing our sightlines in the park, and our raised garden beds looking better than ever, thanks to a mountain of compost and many helping hands to tackle the endless seeding and weeding. We hope you can find a wee spot to plant your Mother’s Day gift: the homemade, seeded paper that will grow into pollinator-friendly plants. Dandelions are amongst the first foods for bees, so we have been talking with all the children about mindful harvesting: picking a few blossoms for a bouquet, mud kitchen soup, or even real dandelion tea, while leaving plenty for the bees. Learning to identify both pollinators and plants has renewed the children’s desire to research using field guides and encyclopedias. And the soon-to-be Kindergartners in particular are demonstrating their understanding of the purposes of letters and words – to communicate and share stories – something else that grows in abundance at Terra Nova Nature School!
It’s true, I do LOVE this place. One early mooring this week, I was leaving the Buemann House office when I bumped into (literally), Kristyan, a farmer with the Sharing Farm. We had a quick hello and comment on the weather and the crop fields. Then I ran into Leslie, the beekeeper for the Sharing Farm. We spoke for a few minutes about splitting a hive. I looked ahead to choose which path I would take to get to the Cottage. I opted for the one through the Healing Garden, past the Cobb Oven and herb beds. On my walk, I looked at tilled fields, an owl nesting box, community garden beds, gazebos and more. I heard crows, black capped chickadees and other birds that I am still trying to learn to identify. As I approached the field near the school, an eagle called out. My feet wet from brushing through the tall grasses of the field, I arrived and declared to our team– I LOVE this place! It just feels amazing to work here, with people that care and are dedicated to the same things I am. To be on this beautiful land that surprises us and calms us each and every day is a gift. Kate and I pinch ourselves every day and say to each other “We actually get to work here!”.
Our week together: The following 5 photographs speak to the relationships we foster and grow here at school. Taking the time to listen and connect with each child, each day. Our ratio of children to educators is not only necessary in terms of safety on our land but also allows for deeper relationships and more time spent with each child. Thank you to our volunteers and students for increasing our adult to child ratio as well- look what a difference it makes!
‘Till the next post,
We love our volunteers year round, but as April 23-29 is National Volunteer Week, we want to give them some extra special recognition! Did you know that we have 8 volunteers who help us out at Terra Nova Nature School every week, and that together they contribute over 30 hours per week to our programs! Read on to find out more about this committed, enthusiastic team!
Shantelle scouted out TNNS while she was still living with her family in France, then joined us in our very first year by volunteering two mornings per week in the Eagles class. Shantelle, who holds a degree in Environmental Studies, decided to return to school last year to complete her Early Childhood Education certificate. She now teaches our Saturday morning Parent & Tot classes; teaches in the summer with Eating Wise Program, and continues to volunteer 8-10 hours weekly! If Shantelle could be a plant, she would choose to be a red ripe strawberry, creeping and crawling along the earth and soaking up the sunshine!
Erin is just 13 years old, but she has been helping after school with the Beyond4Walls classes for the past 2 years! She describes herself as a bit of a ‘Mama Bear’, as she is very protective of her 2 younger siblings. She has learned that children respond really well “to being outside instead of being hunched over a table all day”. Her favourite new experience was learning to make homemade pasta at our family cooking day.
Arianna also volunteers in the Beyond4Walls class. She is vegan, and feels passionately about speaking and taking action on behalf of all animals. A new food that she just tried at TNNS was the ribbons of seaweed they ate in poke bowls. Arianna is fluent in Greek, having lived their for 9 years. She loves being outside, and says “it feels therapeutic.”
“Grandpa Barry”, as he is affectionately known, has volunteered two afternoons a week with the Owls class over the past two years. Barry has a very soft spot for TNNS, since he camped out at Thompson Community Centre in the first round of registration so that his granddaughters Rylan, and now Ashlyn, could become ‘Eagles’. Barry is retired, but previously was a geographer, teaching at the post-secondary level in colleges throughout British Columbia. He is most surprised by the children’s adaptability, “how they can take something presented to them and make it work for their own way of learning.” Bet you’d never guess that Barry is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan!
Jess helps out weekly in the Eagles program. She recently moved to Vancouver from Toronto, where she worked in ECE and then completed her Bachelor of Education degree. She loves to read, spend time with her puppy, and go camping. Through her time at Nature School, Jess has noticed that children really come to know the physical spaces and have more meaningful play experiences in them. Jess has driven across Canada, not just once, but twice!
Zoleikha was born in the desert in South Algeria, so you can understand why, when she moved to Canada, she didn’t like living in Fort McMurray because it was too cold! Zoleikha returns frequently to Algeria, where she worked as an Early Childhood Educator before settling in Vancouver. She has discovered that she LOVES working outside and observing how much the children benefit from being outdoors. Although she didn’t help in her family garden as a child, she recalls learning to knit, crochet, and weave from her mother, with whom she was very close. If Zoleikha could be any animal, she would choose to be a bird, with the freedom to fly anywhere at all!
Ayato also studied and worked as an Early Childhood Educator in his birth country, Japan. Although he doesn’t like sushi, he has discovered he loves to eat Greek and Italian food – trying lamb, lasagna, and calamari for the first time last week! He also loves Granville Island and downtown Vancouver. His hobby is drawing, especially landscapes, and he has drawn many images of the North Shore mountains, cityscapes, and the sea bus. Ayato has recently become a volunteer in the Eagles class.
Chloe occasionally joins the Eagles & Owls classes on school professional days, but she has discovered from volunteering every Saturday in the Parent & Tot classes that she really loves toddlers! She is seen here with her grandparents, whom the Eagles would often come across while out walking in the park. Chloe loves being outdoors, especially on the water, whether windsurfing, sailing, or white water kayaking. Whenever parents ask about being inside for Parent & Tot class, she proudly says “nope, we are staying out in the lovely pouring rain today!”
Many thanks as well to Jasmine, Hannah, and Jadyn, also Grade 10 students, who volunteer whenever their busy high school schedules allow.
On behalf of Terra Nova Nature School and Thompson Community Association, we have put together a little gift bag of ‘green’ treats for each of our volunteers. We invite you to also share your own verbal appreciation directly with the volunteers in your child’s program! Thank You!
One day, while the Cottage was being restored, we had the unexpected privilege of meeting ‘Aunt Sue’, a beautiful woman of 92 years of age, who lived in the Edwardian Cottage as a young child, along with her mother and eight siblings! For several years she had been coming from Ontario, accompanied by family members, including her nieces, Lorna Koyanagi and Angie Lee, to visit the Cottage. Each year, she expected to see the building more dilapidated, or even torn down completely. Mrs. Koyanagi and her family were so excited to see the Cottage being lovingly cared for, and especially thrilled to learn that it would soon become a school for young children! Whilst we sipped some warm tea, she shared her own childhood memories of the house and Terra Nova. She said the best part of living in the Cottage was the indoor bathroom, complete with hot running water! She also told us about chickens and cows grazing the land; about gardens filled with fuji, daikon and flowers; doing chores; playing baseball and ping pong; taking the bus to Steveston to attend Lord Byng School; and the sense of community with other families on the land, especially the Okinos and the Shimanos. She also shared her heartache at being forced to leave her home due to the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, and only being able to take two suitcases of belongings for the whole family.
Over the past few years we have been in touch with Mrs. Koyanagi, Lorna and other family members, who offered us old family photos. We also worked with Richmond Archives to share this extraordinary piece of history. Finally, we chose six photographs to commence our long held dream of sharing the social history of the Cottage with our Nature School community.
Prior to the Cottage opening as Terra Nova Nature School, several outbuildings and a barn were deemed unsafe and unfortunately had to be removed. The barn was built by Sue’s brother, Hiroyuki, when he was just fifteen years old! Although the building itself could not be saved, we were able to salvage several wide planks of lovely aged wood, window and door frames. Now, with the photographs chosen, we decided this salvaged wood would be perfect for building photo frames! To help with this project, Emily re-connected with a local craftsman, Bob Fedoruk of Suburban Beach Farmhouse Designs. (Emily taught all three of his children in preschool). Then yet another gift fell before us: an old gill net from a family friend of Emily’s, which added another layer of connection! Originally intended for use in the garden to grow peas, Bob just happened to see the netting when he came for a visit, and suggested using it for hanging children’s artwork- brilliant! This lovely piece ties into the history of Terra Nova as a fishing community, yet again bringing the past to the forefront.
This project was also made possible by the incredible work of our own Owl parent, Joselyn (Leo’s mom) who helped us in so many ways: connecting with Richmond archives; chatting with the folks at Phoenix Art Studio about framing; and writing the photo descriptions by hand at the bottom of each photo. Thank you so, so much Joselyn!
As you can see, this is a story that is dear to our hearts as a Nature School story that we hope will be passed on through the years. We love the meshing together of the past and present and look forward to the future!
And now to our week at TNNS!
‘Till the next post,
Emily & Kate
I suppose this is why we have spring break- to refresh, rejuvenate, restore. Ahhhh, we are feeling ready to enjoy the last few months of this school year! Over the break, Kate and I spent some time working on an online outdoor school training course (which has many more modules to complete-yikes!). The course content is not necessarily new material but it is inspiring as it offers an opportunity to think about our beliefs and practices as outdoor educators. Some of the theories have sparked new ideas for me and overtime I hope to incorporate them into my teaching. It is always healthy to see things with fresh eyes; looking closely with curiosity, intrigue and a sense of wonder. Doesn’t this sound like a perfect way to look at our new spring season?
Speaking of fresh eyes and looking closely, the Richmond Nature Park generously donated 25 pairs of beautiful children’s binoculars to us! It was quite a coincidence because we were raising money in our fundraising initiatives to purchase binoculars (the children’s request). Then, one day, we received the call about the donation- uncanny!
On Monday, both the Eagles and the Owls, were involved in the opening of the packages and learned how to use the binoculars properly; how to take them out of the case, use the neck cord safely while wearing them, and wind the cord around the centre to put them back in the little pouch. We discussed the importance of treating our equipment respectfully. And then we became spring detectives, looking for tiny things and far away things- what a gift!
Using our binoculars:
Enjoying being together outside for our first week back:
Misuzu brought in a very tricky puzzle; several groups of children had a go at it.
Heidi’s photos and reflections…..
‘Till the next post,
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.
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 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…..
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.
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.
‘Till the next post,