Our Field Day for Schools program started yesterday with a visit from the Senior K class of Good Shepherd Catholic School. 24 kids, 3 nature mentors, 3 parent volunteers, and 3 teachers made up our village for the day, so we divided into three groups, each led by an Earth Path mentor, to explore the forests, meadows and creeks around Just Food Farm.
We mentors had a blast! And we were happy to hear that the children and other adults enjoyed themselves too! Here’s an email we received from parent volunteer Erika Coghill, reflecting on her time spent with the group led by mentor Isabel (a long-time friend and guest mentor at Earth Path, Isabel also runs Les Arterres in Wakefield, QC).
“I was so happy to be able to join the class in exploring nature! You guys have such a great gig at Earth Path! I thought I would pass on some comments I had about the program as I really enjoyed it and thought Isabel did such a great job! It was exhilarating being in the forest all day and, as I discussed with the teaching staff, the children seemed to feel the same way. Our group busied themselves the entire time with working on their shelter, finding treasures and playing games. We had no incidence of behaviour in any of the kids in our group, and all of them seemed to have an intrinsic sense of boundaries and safety. Here are some points that I really appreciated about the day:
- Incorporating sound and movement into the circle at the beginning of the day as well as the story using puppets. It really captivated the children’s attention.
- Isabel took us off the beaten path, through the field, and along the way encouraged us to connect with what was beneath our feet. We learned about gall flies and it was really interesting! The children were fascinated and amazed and loved being able to identify the galls on the goldenrod stems. This started our day off with an inquisitive mindset.
- I love how Isabel let the children lead the way and discover. Initially, I was sort of nervous to have them all going down the somewhat steep hill toward the creek! If she hadn’t been there, I would have stopped the kids from going down for SURE but I trusted her experience so down we went! The kids did just fine! It was a lot of fun. We worked as a team to determine which direction we wanted to go (North, South, East, West) to set up camp.
- Once we found a spot to set up camp, Isabel encouraged us to find things to make our ‘home’. The kids loved this! They worked together to make a shelter with bed and even a toilet. She encouraged the kids to get their hands dirty and work together. They loved it.
- We let the rhythm of the day dictate what we did. At one point we were collecting kindling for a little fire but, because the kids were so busy running and playing, we didn’t end up having that fire – and that’s ok! Throwing any semblance of a schedule or ‘to do list’ out the window and just rolling with it is refreshing.
- Isabel explained to us adults, during a game of “Owl Eye” when the kids were camouflaging, the benefits of children hiding in nature – how it’s important for them to have a spot in nature that is their own that they visit frequently in every season, and that being still and quiet in nature helps quiet their mind. When hiding with Jack during a game of hide and seek, it felt good to be close to the earth and keeping silent; we could hear the birds and the wind in the trees and the voices of the group trying to find us. After some time, we let out a coyote ‘yip!’ to give them a clue of where we were.
- I loved the use of animal sounds to communicate with the children. It’s a fun way to keep them safe without having to yell after them ‘COME BACK!’ or “WHERE ARE YOU!?’
I was trying to think if there was any constructive criticism I could offer, as far as my experience with Earth Path goes, but I couldn’t think of anything… I appreciated that Isabel encouraged the children to explore with their senses to instill a deeper connection with the world around us. At the end of our time together, we sat in a circle and took turns expressing our gratitude, before heading back to the parking lot.”