The fall forest we were beginning to know changed from one of coloured leaves, of apples, of tall, tan grass and earthy pathways to a still, white place of ice and snow, of trunks and branches and depths revealed. With leaves shed from trees and shrubs, the forest becomes wider, deeper and more accessible. Most of the children do not want to stay on the paths. They see the forest all around and are drawn off the well-worn, established pathways and into novel territory. Some adults redirect their children back onto the paths while others grant permission. I am the lone adult who follows the leader into the thicket of thorny shrubs, low lying branches and fallen logs. I am intrigued. Where is he going? How far will he go? What is spurring him on?
As the adventurous leader pushes through branches, thorns are heard scratching his coat and one catches his knit mitten, pulling it off as he moves forward. He stops and laughs at his mitten, hanging from a thorn. I see the need to stop and reflect with him before he has a hurtful encounter with the shrub’s protective thorns as he makes his way forward.
I say “Why did your mitten come off?” He says “That tree took it!” I say “Lets look at that grabby tree” and we do. He looks at the shrub and says “There’s pokey things” and I say “Yes. This one took your mitten and it looks sharp to me.”
I say, “I’m going to touch that pokey thing.” and I do. I SAY “ow!!” as I look around and say “This is a pokey, prickly forest” and he says “Them can poke us!”
I reply, “I’m worried about our eyes getting poked” and he asks “Them are eye-pokers?” and so went the first, experiential discovery about safety when venturing off trail.
This child continued to remind everyone who left the trail, to “Watch out for eye pokers!”
By seizing opportunities for real life, hands-on learning, we involve the children in discovering for themselves versus being told by others.
From that day forward, this trail blazer became a sharer of knowledge and a caretaker of others.
Documentation by Joyce Buckley, Program Facilitator EarlyON Child & Family Centre
To join us visit our playgroup schedule.