Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Through the Eyes of a Child, and words of their parent

Well, just last week we celebrated our six month anniversary for the Forest Preschool! With this half-year mark under our belt, we have been taking time to reflect, get feedback from families, foster new relationships with our communities, and continue feeling impassioned about the mandate of our work. I have decided to honor some of the feedback we've been getting by sharing this parent testimonial from Abby Karos, mommy to Elias. I'll leave the talking to her, and say that I'm looking forward to the next six months and beyond, of watching this program flourish and continue to inspire others within Canada.

"One of my favourite things about sending Elias to the Forest Pre-School is seeing him at the end of the day. He'll burst from the car with a stick or rock in a grubby hand and shouting for me to "Look!" at whatever prize he's brought home. His face often bears the marks of some afternoon adventure in the woods and he smells like a combination of sunscreen, citronella bug spray, sweet little boy sweat (when does it stop smelling sweet?!), and the outdoors. His relation to the outdoors has also changed in the short time he's been attending the preschool. He rolls with abandon in the grass and occasionally hugs trees - one time this was accompanied by a "thank you tree."

I have been able to spend a morning or two with Sara and the kids - wishing I had dressed myself more similarly to how I had dressed my child that morning. It was a relief to see kids allowed to do things like put their boots in the stream or move heavy rocks from place to place- things that would be forbidden at most preschools. Beyond the wonderful things the children get to experience and witness, it is inspiring to see the respectful and accepting environment that Sara and the other adults have fostered. The kids' interests, questions, opinions, and focus guide the actions for each day. How can they not feel respected? On one of our excursions, my son's attention was caught by a bird. The group was moving on and I might have urged him on had not Sara noticed his riveted gaze and stopped to allow him the space to observe the bird. He stood motionless for several seconds. In this moment, he was learning not only about nature, but also that what he is interested in is of value and worth pursuing. I can think of no better building block for starting out as a life-long learner."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From the Eyes of a Parent

Hello, I’m Jennifer Gautreau, mom to Evan. He attends on Thursday mornings and for two of those days in April I was able to run around the woods with him, his little friends and Sara. Evan’s been coming to the preschool since November and I’ve always known he goes to a special place. But this was my first opportunity to witness the program first hand.
On both days we started off with the morning contemplation that Marlene mentioned previously. It was wonderful to see such little kids being still and observing, with all their senses. Hats off to Sara for getting the kids to do this, it really is remarkable. If only I could take her lesson to heart and start my day that way!
Then we were off to play soccer but deer droppings and tree climbing quickly grabbed their attention. I’m still not sure if Evan is really interested in the droppings or if he just likes to say “poop” as often as possible. Shortly after that we were fortunate enough to see the season’s first butterfly. The boys actually watched quietly as it flitted around.
Then we found something decomposing. Using a stick, we poked it a bit to see if we could figure out what it had been. Judging by its really small teeth we guessed that it was either a mouse or a vole. After the initial exclamations of “yuck” and “ughhhh” the kids found it pretty interesting. Now that’s not something they would get to do in a traditional setting!
Other activities included finger-painting pictures and birdhouses. Sara chose nice rock outcroppings for story time and snack time. We investigated holes to see what might live underground and the boys had a lot of fun building a bridge across a little stream. We looked for sticks in the shape of different letters.
I loved everything that the boys did with Sara and she’s really into every aspect of the program. She was patient, creative and enthusiastic. Our children are very fortunate that they get to experience her kindness, compassion and knowledge.
All of these things are wonderful. But I think what really reaffirmed that this program is special is how the cycle of life is being absorbed by these kids. They get to see that animals poop in the woods, they die in the woods and that new life comes from these same places. And it’s not from a book. For them it’s tangible.