Starting a K/1 forest program was not easy. It was petrifying. I had my fair share of sleepless nights over whether it was a good decision or not. During the weeks when I lacked sleep I dreamed of the many disastrous events that could occur … and my memories of these are not exactly pretty. Personally, I wanted to rush out into the forest screaming “yipee!” and waving my hands in the air, but, with my mentor’s reminder, being responsible for the safety of 4 and 5 year old children was more important than my philosophical beliefs about
early primary education education.
I longed to get my students outside. I spent most of my waking and dreaming energy trying not to think about it. The fears of my colleagues led me to examine my plan more carefully, but when parents began to show great concern I became paralyzed.
It wasn’t until late September/early October on one of our many looooong commutes to work that changed my mind. I am blessed to work with 2 colleagues that have similar beliefs to mine about outdoor education. In fact, my fire likely would have never been reignited without them. When I knew that my coworkers were completely behind me on my plan (in fact, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t started it already) I left my fears behind.
I began making the final preparations and the time came when I had prepared my students with enough outdoor play safety information (what do we do if we see a bear, a cougar, a bee, a poisonous plant, etc). I knew that the real safety lessons would happen when we experienced a variety of situations outdoors. (Needless to say, I completely forgot about the most important/most regular situation: what to do when a child needs to go to the washroom).
Air horn in hand, we slowly faded into the forest line for the first time where the only rules I had were “don’t stray more than 30 feet away from me” and “when I caw, you caw and you head towards me.”
Slipping away into the forest
was is the most refreshing feeling. The moment I squeeze through the overgrowth of the entrance, see the children rush ahead of me to find their beloved spots, and hear the sounds of laughter I can feel all the toxic energy slip away into oblivion.