Beginnings

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,

Emily

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….

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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,

Emily

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.

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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,

Emily

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

Family Cooking Day

Our Family Cooking Day, Indian Food, was everything we hoped it would be and more! The idea began brewing a long time ago, years in fact! Coincidentally, a Cobb Oven cooking idea was also something Leslie  Williams, from the Sharing Farm, had also been thinking about for a while.  Sarah Drewery, the Executive Director of the Sharing Farm, Leslie and I sat down for many hours dreaming and planning. We met with Nav Sidhu, an amazing community baker and chef, who happily jumped on board to the project.

The rain sprinkled down at times and gushed down at others but it did not matter. Raincoats donned, Leslie and Nav lit the fire in the Cobb Oven, carefully balancing heat and flame.  Nav imparted her knowledge about the intricacies of Indian food, often sharing memories of being a young child cooking with her family. Her stories are an important way to connect past, present and future. Families worked along side each other chopping veggies, grinding spices with a mortar and pestle and kneading roti dough, writing their own stories with each moment spent together.

Recipes included mixed sabje, daal makhni, tadka for the daal, a spice mix and two dough, roti and naan. My mouth is watering as I write and I think a pot of daal will be cooked in my own kitchen today!

Enjoy these photos which capture our time learning, cooking and building community together. Thank you to Nav, Leslie, Sarah and our amazing volunteers, Erin, Claire and Grayson ( they were completely indispensable!). Also, to our leaders at Thompson Community Centre and the City of Richmond for supporting the idea. As well, to Richmond Community Foundation for providing for the kitchen equipment!

Cook together with your family, eat with your family and create stories as you do- they will be long remembered!

Join us for Family Cooking Day: Pizza in the Cobb Oven on Saturday, May 26! Program #2507842, http://www.richmond.ca to register.

With a full heart and belly,

Emily

Looking with Wonder

This week, despite the heavy rainfall, has been filled with the beauty of our natural world and the glory of working outside. Horsetails are popping up all over the land, lamium (dead-nettles) are speckling our fields, honeybees are foraging on flowering plants and trees, stinging nettle is growing, the wheat in the garden is  rapidly gaining height and the most unusual development this week, the killdeer is nesting right in front of the Parson House! We have been using each one of these opportunities to discuss our role on the land and our responsibilities. How can we notice and carefully enjoy but tend to the plants and animals. What do they need from us to ensure their safety and growth? We want to marvel and show reverence to everything around us- as educators working on this land year after year, we must work at making sure we see everything with fresh eyes, with a sense of wonder so that we do not lose any sense of pure amazement.

Our mentor, Ann Pelo, shares the following:

“Accept the invitation of our glorious, miraculous earth. Like a naturalist and an artist, be servants of our eyes, our minds, our senses, and our hearts.” (Ann Pelo, the Goodness of Rain)

Enjoy the photos of children working inside and outside- exploring, sharing, taking care of each other, learning new skills, illuminating their minds with new activities and being filled with happiness!

From Heidi:

Ginny and Bevelyn spend some quiet moments together stripping the outer layer of grass reed to get to the soft foamy interior.

Alvin working on drawing the horsetails he observed.

Kyo joins in the fun first watching others run and jump into the puddle, and then trying it himself.

Lilja observes the horsetail, closely looking at its stalks.

Mia, Aaran, Daniela, Bevelyn and Emma self initiate a game of Duck-Duck-Goose. Alvin watches as the running circle becomes a game of chase up and down the hill.

With reverence,

Emily

Spring!

For all of us who thought we could pack our mittens and wool layers away during Spring Break, Tuesday was a shocking reminder of just how cold the wind can be, especially with our proximity to the Fraser River!  Nevermind, we are enjoying re-connecting to one another, to the land, to the Red-winged blackbirds, Eagles, pussywillows and puddles!  Knowing many of the children have just celebrated Easter, we have been dyeing fabric together, playing with baskets of eggs, noticing Spring flowers, and even indulging in a raucous gathering of chocolate eggs to share!  Due to the holiday Monday, seniors field trip, and buddy day, the Owls have had a short week with limited photo opps, but we’ll have more pics up soon! Enjoy this glimpse of our week!

adults set up gutter ramps as a provocation

children created new combinations

the building components completely reinvented!

Heidi and Ashlyn create a game of tossing pinecones into the ditch at a floating target

Ryan and Masa throw balls at a target high above them in the tree

Frazer and Ronan add difficulty by climbing and balancing as they try to toss the ball over the low branch

Hillary supports safe ‘hiding’ in the dense cedar tree

group observation and drawing of daffodils outside Red Barn

Ohnyou and Ashlyn chatting together to support their drawing skills, “I see a triangle” says Ashlyn, “but I don’t” says Ohnyou

Inspired by a camellia blossom Erika found on our walk, May and Sloan join Erika as they continue working in the studio with markers and pastels

Frazer and Quinn are practicing fine motor skills while cutting and collaging images from a seed catalogue

Soyon creates order using the felt blossoms at the magnet board

practicum student Deborah alongside Quinn, Audrey and Ohnyou as they combine bird puppets and the eggs in dramatic play

never mind looking for eggs, where’s Atlas?!

Heidi engaged in ‘small world’ play with Erika using tiny traditional Easter ornaments

 

getting cozy and playing house (sshh! Justine is sleeping!)

LOVE!

Thank you for reading!

Warmly,

Kate

The Call of Spring

Spring is in the air and everyone is feeling that little lift that happens once the days are longer and spring’s calls are louder- a new energy is brewing! The children have been working on a variety of projects including  an exploration of totem poles ( launching from our First Nations Dance Festival field trip), learning to use a mallet in a productive way ( we purchased some new hearty ones), cooking Japanese gomae green beans (thanks Misuzu!) and of course, developing their skills around sharing & caring.

Enjoy these photos without captions, noticing whatever strikes you as interesting or important. These photos show the work of your awesome children!

 

Warm wishes for a rejuvenating and revitalizing spring break!

Emily

Behind the Scenes

What goes on behind the scenes at a school? Well, a lot, an awful lot! To love, to design curriculum, to program details, to ensure safety and challenge, takes a team to work hard to bring these outcomes to a program. Last week, on our professional development day, we spent time dialoguing as a team, about ways to support each other in our individual and collective goals. We shared our strengths and our areas to develop-this is emotional and hard work, requiring vulnerability and trust. I noticed this week all of us paying a little more attention to eachother- making space for others to jump in or taking the lead when needed. It felt good- a true essence of a team is knowing how much better you are all together and we certainly are just that- better together! Thanks TNNS team!

Laren slows down as she walks, looking intently at the water. After a moment I say “Laren, it looks like something caught your attention.” She tells me “Yes, there is a brown thing in the water and I wonder what it is.”

The Owls notice the fallen tree and we are trying to figure out if it is similar to the willow tree. William says ” No, it has needles, spiky needles. It’s a pine tree.”

These Owls are hearty- eating outside on a cold day, enjoying snack and each other’s company without complaint.

A quiet sit spot on a cold day.

Frazer experiments with opening the bottle and pouring in the remaining liquid into another bottle. Darel and Dion support him in this endeavour.

Erika, Ohnyou and Soyon use the dinosaurs to play act family roles of mommies and babies. I might say they are rather boisterous mommies and babies!

No matter what the weather, these kids are outside doing what we do!

A familiar sight on a familiar pathway. We treasure our walks together.

Darel accidentally pokes Frazer’s eye. Rather than a quick apology, we have been working with the children to try to do something to help a situation. A check in with the person, to see if they can help. In this photo we see Darel gently wiping Frazer’s eye, asking him if he is okay. Isn’t this beautiful?

The Eagles investigate the fallen branch, noticing it’s cones and wondering how this branch fell.

Watching the power of colour on the snow. What will they want to try next?

Some cozy inside time!

Audrey spends a lot of time on this painting, carefully choosing her colours and thinking about its composition.

Cuddled up and reading in the Cottage with Shantelle. Quinn, Ronan and Jackson learn to enjoy literature, develop friendships and a bond with Shantelle during this 10 minute activity.

Rhys serves William and Sarah some noodles.

Yehuan is testing the magnetic attraction between the pieces. He tries different configurations, enjoying stacking them up in a sets.

Everyone wants to paint- a waitlist is created to ensure people get a turn.

William tells Tricia a story about an owl swooping down into it’s nest.

Misuzu and Daniela snuggle during story time, a lovely way to close the day.

Tricia captures everyone’s attention with her expressive reading.

Reya experiments with colour mixing, also learning to wash and dry her brush to create the best effect.

Avalon makes up a story about a squirrel and her acorns on the feltboard.

Our Eagle class attended the Coastal Dance Festival at the Museum of Anthropology, a recommendation put forth by the Delta Aboriginal team that joined us a while back for professional development. The beauty of this field trip is that it evolved from a natural, authentic place as this group, with Ashlyn leading the way, has explored Pow Wow dancing in class. As well, one of our small groups has been focusing on learning about animals in First Nations art and stories.

The dancers were extraordinary, sharing a tiny piece of their history and culture through dance. It was perfect for our TNNS children as their dances represented frogs, flickers, dragonflies, beavers and other animals from our very own lands at Terra Nova! It was magical to see these captured in such a dramatic and beautiful way. There were no photos allowed but here are a few images before it began.

Owls at work:

Ginny is getting ready to show her buddy the garden beds, using a magnifying jar to look for any bugs- still too cold?

Bevelyn listens to Kate’s instructions on planting seeds.

Yehuan and Daniela start to turn the soil- feels good to be back in the garden!

Kyo is so brave on his first day! He jumps right into digging with his buddy.

Sarah and her buddy weave the yarn in and out to decorate their book mark.

Lilja sets herself up a cozy little table in the sun to enjoy her snack.

Wayden, Myles and Yehuan bond over work trucks with our new Owl, Alvin.

Cleo uses markers to draw designs on her bookmark, her buddy watching her as she works.

Mia’s big buddy writes her name in block letters. Activities with our buddies support new ideas! Will Mia try to write in a different style as she begins to form letters?

Best,

Emily

Lunar New Year

The arrival of Lunar New Year, celebrated by many Asian cultures, and arriving this year on February 16, has been cause for continued celebrations in both the Eagles and Owls classes.  Throw in the lingering Valentines decor (it’s so hard to put away pink and red sparkly things!) and some late season snowfall, and you instantly have a ton of fun photos for a blog post! Enjoy!

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Lunar New Year activities included learning about the animals of the zodiac; dancing together like a dragon; writing characters for decorative banners (thank you Angela for the beautiful stones and paper lanterns, and also to Dion’s family for the decorations!); and of course, eating! Thank you to Tyler’s family for the delicious Lotus Root pockets – (did you know lotus root grows in mud? how fitting for Nature School!) – and the Owls class enjoyed homemade dumplings!

Last week Kate’s very small ‘small group’ managed to pull out one unnecessary sign, this time we had reinforcements.  Never underestimate kid power! (Wearing a bird cape helps!)

Sharing space has been a focus of the Eagles class indoor time together this week, whether figuring out how to cooperatively build with a limited block supply; how to invite a child to join in; or how to preserve a special moment between two children.

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There was plenty of interest in sorting and cataloguing Emily’s donation of children’s books.  Including young children in real life tasks provides concrete opportunities for learning such as sorting, problem solving, and writing, and also offers  an authentic sense of accomplishment.

Representing ideas artistically has been a focus of Emily’s small group work – here the skills learned are carried over to free play in the studio, where May, Ohnyou and Anderson choose to take time drawing their own ideas with fine line markers and embellish with watercolours.  They also cleaned up their supplies, stacked chairs, and wiped down the table before leaving – real work in action again!

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Staff took a mid-week break from teaching children to engage in professional development together.  Collegial time to discuss, debate, brainstorm and problem solve is so valuable, and an integral component of the Reggio Emilia practices we embrace at Nature School.

Snow changes the landscape with which we have all become so familiar, so a few reminders are in order: when is it safe to walk on ice? how do you know what is underneath the ice – a little stinky mud, or water so deep it would cover your boots, or more?  Children who run ahead of the group are expected, and trusted, to stop at bridges, benches and intersections; Nicole and Darel debate where exactly is the intersection?

Snow! Makes everything more fun, and it’s physically tiring too!

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We may be in a unique location, but there is no shortage of happenings and helpers in the park.  Thank you this week to the crews who have been out cutting back blackberry brambles and clearing the drainage ditches, and especially for putting on a little ‘back-hoe show’ for us!

Embrace the snowy weekend, you hardy, brave, and fabulous Nature School families!

Warmly, Kate