‘Owls of Terra Nova’

Like their namesake, the Owls students can be a tad elusive at Terra Nova.  While we keep careful track of who has been featured in various blogs and videos, it’s sometimes hard to catch great shots of children who attend twice a week – especially when they are on the move or the rain is falling hard! Please enjoy this retrospective of some of our ‘Owls’  being physically active outdoors!



A very full week!

The last week of October is exciting for many children and families in Canada.  I recall from my own childhood how slowly the hours would creep by when October 31 fell on a school day!  We may have had a class party – juice and chips for a treat, indoor games and a craft project – but we didn’t get to wear our costumes until dinner was finished and it was dark outside!  Our costumes were homemade, put together with whatever boxes and paint and old clothes we could scrounge in the days prior to Halloween.  My brothers and I would join a band of other unaccompanied children from the neighbourhood, while adults stood ready at their doors with bowls of candy, giving us just one each!  I have enjoyed sharing these memories and traditions with my own children.  As an Educator, though, I recognize these are not everyone’s traditions. Each year our team gives a lot of thought as to how best to honour the spirit of Halloween within our school setting. How to be mindful of waste while enjoying making? How to balance treats with good nutrition? How to teach manners and expectations within our multicultural community? And how to allay fears while still enjoying a little shiver of excitement?  Still, our practice of offering extended playtime using open-ended materials both indoors and out, remains the same.  Enjoy these images of children problem solving, explaining, theorizing, describing, and especially, delighting in pumpkins, water, play dough, face paint, shapes, spiders, apples, music, and movement.  Warmly, Kate




Last week our team attended various sessions of a conference hosted by the Vancouver Reggio Association  , presented by Tizania Filipino. Wow! Tizania as been working in Reggio Emilia for over 30 years, mostly as a pedagogista. This role is multi layered and complex, acting as a mentor to educators to develop deep curriculum as well as uniting educational practice between children, families and educators. A pedagogista supports educators to do research, document and make learning visible. As well, creating relationships and bridges between school and municipality, is also an integral component of this role.

Tizania’s knowledge, insights and clarification of key concepts provoked thinking for all of us. Personally, I have been revitalized this week, looking at the children’s work with fresh eyes. Creative juices are flowing and I am excited to dive into some good work! I am pretty sure much for our team feels the same! The work is often subtle and is the foundation of our curriculum; however, it may not be blatant or apparent. We can continue to dialogue more about this philosophical approach as the days unfold.

Enjoy these photos which showcase some of our experiences this week.

Planes are a big part of TNNS; often requiring us to stop speaking and wait until the plane has passed.

I had just purchased a book titled “The Lost Words” which examines some words that are no longer in the Webster’s Children’s Dictionary, particularly in the area of the natural world. This book invited me to thank about language so Monday morning’s circle was focused on thinking about ways to describe something- using adjectives as a beginning. This concept is challenging so we will continue to explore these ideas for some time.

Kate, scaffolding on this idea, concealed this brussels sprout plant underneath a blanket and asked the children to follow her works to draw a picture. For example ” Draw a long straight line”, then ” Add a bunch of squiggles on one end.” etc. After she delivered her instructions, she revealed the plant. These are some examples of what the children drew according to he instructions.

The Owls worked in pairs to choose an object and use words to describe it.

A big pile of wood chips was delivered- thanks City of Richmond!

Playing- Working-Learning

This is amazing- Daniela and Ryan looked at the building rainbow and decided to try to replicate it on the peg board.

Owls prepare squash and potatoes for a pan fried snack.


In gratitude,


A Little Peek

We have been cherishing these sunny autumn days- each day is truly a gift and we have enjoyed watching the children play freely and happily! Each day invites discovery, friendship, understanding and questioning.Please enjoy this brief snapshot of children at play the last couple of days.


Emily & Kate

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is always a time to reflect on our blessings, offering gratitude for all our precious gifts- family, friends, and place. This Thanksgiving was different for me as I flew out of town to see my son (who is temporarily living there), my brother and my other family in Toronto. Before I left, I was excited about visiting everyone but it really wasn’t until I arrived that I realized just how much I has missed connecting with my ‘eastern’ family. I grew up in Montreal but also have strong ties to Toronto through family and dear friends. We have embraced the west coast fully and whole heartedly since the moment we moved here 27 years ago but my heart is still also in love with the east. Being there, with my clan, filled up my soul more than I had imagined. It calls forward so many questions about what is family? What is place and a sense of belonging? What is our given community and what is our chosen community? I cherish the opportunity to explore these ideas for myself, in all my roles- as a person, a mother, a wife, a friend and for all of you at TNNS, as an Educator.

Parent Meeting

We had our first parent meeting of this school year earlier this week. Typically we begin with a session that opens a window into our teaching practice, discussing the Reggio Emilia approach to education and our beliefs around the work we all do. But, not this time– food was on our mind! Food, in some ways, the foundation of our being, is part of our daily lives. We cooked three different recipes that could be a great snack or lunch here at school- energy balls, squash dip and kale & potato fritters! The tasting was wonderful and equally important was our dialogue about family, food and what it all means. We just started to unravel the beautiful complicated world of food and nourishing ourselves. More to come in the next meeting!

Children at Work


In gratitude,


Getting in the Groove

As the sun shines and the leaves turn colour, we find ourselves already in week 3! The past few weeks have been a time of settling in. For some, the experience is familiar but still requires becoming reacquainted with routines and people. For others, the experience is so new that each moment is heightened as our emotional and physical selves are challenged. We know the first few weeks requires a little extra work from all of us- the children, the parents and the educators. Together we figure out our systems, our rhythms and our needs. And, I think after this week, we are getting in the groove! Enjoy these snapshots of our time together the past couple of weeks.

Garden Work Party

Thanks to our committed parents for helping weed the garden beds and get them ready for fall planting! Soon, some beds will be freshly planted with garlic, fava beans, and some cover crops while other beds will be snuggled in for the winter with hay and leaves.

Taylor exclaims “This is me”. It is important to offer different forms of expression to children.

Yi Fei and Lillian brave their tough goodbyes to their parents and enjoy each other’s company for strength.

Olive and Johnny help pull the wagon- a task that needs to be done each and every day as we explore Terra Nova.

Barry listens to Titus as he shares a story. Taking time to listen to each other is vital for healthy relationships.

The children are invited to observe the apples and paint what they see. Careful observation is a skill that takes time and practice.

Owls practice climbing!

Face painting with Clay!

Jenevieve had fun exploring with clay on her face, something so novel to most children. It is interesting to watch children try something new.

Kate uses a field guide to help children discriminate between plants- noticing the leaf structure as well as the berry shape and colour.

Numeracy can be learned in many ways. Here we see children counting as they shell a variety of beans. Later in the week this activity was expanded to include a dice.

Cottage Play

We enjoyed our first “sit spot” session this week. Sit Spots is an activity frequently done in all our programs. Children sit on individual mats and are encouraged to stay still and quiet so they can observe and feel the world around them. This contemplative practice takes time to develop. Sometimes we de-brief after, sometimes we draw our observations on paper and sometimes we just do nothing at all but know the experience occurred!

In gratitude,



The first week of school, even after teaching for 24 years, continues to be an emotional time. A time for new beginnings, new wishes, new commitments and reflection. As we head into our fifth year of Nature School, we have a better sense of who we are as individual educators as well as the dynamics of our collective team. We are excited to settle into the areas we feel are working well and motivated to push and explore the many areas we are interested in growing as a team.

As I fondly look back on our first year, when school began out of the Red Barn at the other end of the park (the Cottage was still being renovated), I cannot help but feel thankful to the families that placed their trust in us to join us on this journey and of course to our own team for having the courage to work through the many challenges of opening a new school. I will be forever grateful and I know my dearest partner, Kate, feels the same. We are one lucky bunch of educators!

Thank you to both our returning and new families for coming along with us for a new school year as we nurture through nature! Enjoy a glimpse of our first week and marvel at how well the children settled into their new place.


An exploration of dandelion seed fluffs.

Connecting through nature, nurturing through nature…

In gratitude,


A quick glimpse…

Although many of us our sniffling and suffering from itchy eyes (thank you lovely cottonwood trees and tall grasses!) our outdoor play has been a little easier thanks to the abundant sunshine.  We have mostly shed our rain pants, and definitely the mittens!  Felt stories can be shared at circle without pieces blowing away, and books don’t get wet from the rain.  We are up to our elbows in bubbles, water, face paint and dust! Butterflies, ants, tadpoles and damsel fly nymphs – these all capture our attention.   Chives and clover may look alike, but they sure do taste different!  Enjoy this quick glimpse of our week together….





Family Cooking Day, Part 2: Pizza!

“I wish we could do this every weekend!”, said one participant at the end of our class. I believe this pretty much sums up the day! There is something about dough, especially dough cooked in a Cobb Oven fire. Dough seems to have its own life force that is gently awakened by the hands of a baker. It is malleable yet has its own ideas about the way it wants to be handled. Nav, our community baker, shared some of the secrets it holds. We learned about slap and fold techniques, the nuances of gluten and the water/flour ratio.

We made dough, roasted a wide variety of vegetables for toppings, made fresh ricotta cheese, salad dressing and then created all sorts of pizzas- some so gooey with cheese one had to look hard to find the dough, others delicately brushed with a white sauce with roasted onions and bacon. We all ate and ate and ate, slice after slice. Nav spoiled us with a homemade rhubarb & strawberry crumble topped with cream that we all took turns whipping by hand!

Like our last Family Cooking Class, we came together as a community to cook and eat together, cherishing our land and the beautiful day we were gifted. Thank you Sharing Farm, and Richmond Community Foundation and everyone who came out to enjoy this special day. Special thanks to Leslie our fire keeper, and our amazing volunteers, Erin, Claire and Taylor.

With gratitude,


Wee Walk Richmond

Walking is something we do a lot at Terra Nova Nature School.  Ann Pelo, a wise and distinguished Early Childhood Educator, in her book The Goodness of Rain, encourages us to “Walk the Land” as a way of supporting children to develop an ecological identity.  Walking encourages us to slow down.  When we walk regularly we become sufficiently familiar with a place that we begin to notice change – changes in plants and animals; in colours and sounds; in the textures of a place.
Walking outside the fenced playgrounds of childcare programs or schools is not necessarily a common practice, however, so we are particularly proud of the City of Richmond and it’s local Community Associations for organizing ‘Wee Walk’.  ‘Wee Walk’ is just one of many initiatives that encourage Richmond’s citizens to get out and move their bodies!  It is great to see this event moving to include not only physical literacy, but also nature literacy.  Garden City Park is a treasure – an expansive green space in the heart of the city with places for both active movement and contemplative walking.  And did you know that it is also an ‘arboretum’?  The park’s collection of varied tree species are marked by informative signs to help “Learn the Names”, another of Ann Pelo’s suggestions.  Whether we are children or adults, when we walk, we learn to make connections across places and experiences.  Imagine my excitement at finally recognizing a familiar tree common to Terra Nova – ‘Western Crab Apple’.  In fact, my neighbourhood biking route is called ‘Crab Apple Ridge’!  So keep walking!  Not just once a year as a special event, but as a daily practice in your school, alone, or with your family.  Moments of wonder await, just around the corner.


And some additional pictures from our week…. here Kate’s small Owls group is observing pond insects using the water magniviewers:

more pond life, Eagles notice a frog!

art-making in the fresh air:

outdoor blocks and loose parts always stimulate creative and cooperative play, such as Frazer and Darel’s ‘cookie making machine’:

An opportunity for quiet sensory play in the shade using small bottles, droppers, water and colour:

Working collaboratively with a partner to render a bird drawing from a photographic image as inspiration:

And, always, cooking and eating together! Our newest volunteer, Ruth, demonstrated her hydration backpack to the Owls, we enjoyed sushi made with local ‘fuki’ – thank you Misuzu – and rapini fresh from Kate’s garden!

Finally, we never forget to play and find joy with one another! With gratitude for our full weeks together, Kate

The Pollinator Project Commences!

We have watched the field go through its new phases of life as it got a big haircut last year ( at first we were sad); then overwintered with large heavy sheets of plastic (which led to either helping to stake it down or reporting that help was needed!);  then was tilled a few weeks ago ( we advised the mower “Watch out for the killdeer”)  All this in preparation for the Pollinator Project which is a community art project presented by Border Free Bees, in partnership with the City of Richmond, Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Vancity and us, Terra Nova Nature School.

The project is a  beautiful coming together of art and science, weaving in the importance of our native bee population and other beneficial pollinators. Creating community that understands our ecological system and its’ needs is an integral part of advocacy and sustainability. We are committed to fostering children that are stewards of this land at Terra Nova, and our City of Richmond and our province of British Columbia and our world at large!

We were so fortunate to work hands-on with three wonderful artists, Evan, Jaymie and Mary to create bee nesting boxes and bumble baskets. Aside from the benefits of the artists and their work, we also were blessed to have many parents and grandparents join us ( and bring delicious snacks, homemade scones anyone?) to work with the children. These shared moments of learning and caring for each other and our planet are why we do what we do everyday. Thank you to all!

Enjoy these photos of our projects ( well, the first one is from when I was beekeeping the other day just ’cause I LOVE those little bees!). We extended the learnings into circle time discussions, looking through books and wondering what we know and what we want to know about bees and pollinators. What do you wonder about?

With honour,


Earth Day

Another busy couple of weeks at Nature School!  All of a sudden, rain and sun have colluded to turn the park and garden green! We have been using tools – wheelbarrows and trowels, shovels and rakes – in the garden.  The new rolling compost bin is up and spinning.  Outdoor loose parts such as ramps, ladders and hoops are being used by the children during free play in ever more complex ways.  The Killdeer gave us plenty of opportunities to practice patience and self regulation as we gave the nesting family space, and then we felt the satisfaction of protecting them further with a colourful scarecrow.   We have been nibbling early spring greens: kale, sorrel, stinging nettle, and asparagus.  Owls enjoyed their field trip to visit their Thompson buddies; staff had an opportunity to practice their shelter building skills.  All three of our Family Walks were blessed with warm days, and it was a joy to see how comfortable the children were in traversing, investigating, and respecting this very special park.  Enjoy this photographic album of our last two weeks together!

Kate's small Owls group using binoculars and magnifying glasses.

With more special, springy days to come!

With thanks, Kate