Nature School in Winter? Yes, because it is awesomely fun!
Here is why…
For those of you uncertain about enrolling your child in a winter outdoor program, here is an overview of how we roll at Earth Path. As we have been teaching winter programs for 4+ years, we have heaps of activities and warming strategies up our coat sleeves!
Before we describe all the fun and learning to be had, let’s cover what is on every parent’s mind: safety. Your child’s safety and well-being is our top priority and uppermost in our minds. We are experienced in recognizing signs of a child being uncomfortably cold and signs to prevent frost nip, and we respond quickly. We also are experienced in assessing weather conditions and the suitability of being outside. We have no qualms about going inside as necessary; our indoor space is a lovely classroom in the historic restored barn at Just Food Farm. We also advise parents very specifically on appropriate gear/clothing.
Now, onto the part about why winter nature school is awesomely fun! During our outdoor time, we stay physically active: snow-shoeing/hiking, playing active sensory awareness games, building snow forts and igloos (with our resident igloo expert Cole), creating snow villages and sculptures, tracking animals, making fires, snow-sliding, and learning how to stay warm outside. One year we brought in our glaciologist friend Nicole and ran a survival/rescue scenario where the older children were taught how to locate a lost person, and how to help him out of a hypothermia situation. Learning wilderness skills is one of the highlights as we learn about navigation, trip planning and cold safety!
Winter is also an ideal time to explore the lives of mammals- what they do in winter, where they go, and what they eat. As we follow their tracks and trails in the snow, we unveil the stories of their lives, solve mysteries, and connect to animals in a deeper way. We provide the children with a pair of snowshoes, so our group can go anywhere, exploring special places off-trail and areas that are obstructed by undergrowth in other seasons.
As the day-time temperatures rise above zero, your child will have the opportunity to join us in maple sugaring, learning about the magical process by which maples turn water into sap and humans turn sap into syrup.
For the preschool-aged group, our outdoor adventures stay a little closer to “home” (our barn classroom), but we do some similar activities that can include: snowshoeing, games, building with snow, tracking animals, making fires and tea, creating snow art and bird feeders, observing seasonal changes, and learning how to stay warm and communicate needs. When returning to our den, we warm the children’s spirits with songs and nature-based stories.
As for the flow of the day, we start our mornings outside, staying active until we are ready to go inside to warm up or have snack. Snack and lunch time happen in the classroom. Then we are back outside for more adventuring. Other than snack and lunch time, we retreat inside only when needed- when the children are cold, tired, hungry, or preemptively on extremely cold mornings. Our indoor time is filled with nature stories, music, crafts with natural materials, sensory/movement games and animal yoga, games that integrate problem-solving, and the study of field guides, animal tracks and lives, and other things we are observing on the land. We have blocks and wood to build with and other tool-based projects to enjoy.