I’m not going to lie, Thursday’s Woods and Wetlands was the coldest one I can remember doing! Most of us stayed mostly warm, but by the time we had a half hour left, anyone with a weak spot in their layers or opening in their outerwear was feeling it! Luckily we were down and out of the wind when we were in the swamp, which made a huge difference. The brief time it took us to cross the playground back to the school was unpleasant.
It was cold enough that I took very few pictures and I didn’t gather everyone together to make any statements or offer purposeful suggestions. We kept moving to stay warm and we instinctively looked for sheltered areas.
We had another newbie with us this time. Last year he came to Michigan from California without winter gear or knowledge of such things. I confess I was surprised to see him attend Woods and Wetlands, but I was also thrilled to have him there. It turns out he is a bird watcher and was easily able to identify types of common birds such as cardinals. He was excited to explore and expressed how he was already learning so much as we proceeded through the swamp with his questions. He initially jumped from fern island to island before trusting the ice under his feet. I hope he continues to attend and returns in the spring to see how magically different it will be out there. He worked hard at climbing our Secret Fort Tree too and only got stuck once.
I always love observing the connections between kids as they look out for each other. When R. got his foot stuck between two grapevines, R.M. and E.B. were there to help him right away. I perched above them in the tree and just grinned as I listened in. “R, stop yelling; you are okay. Just calm down now because yelling won’t help you,” R.M. calmly told him with all the authority of a mom or a teacher. E.B. noticed and arrived to help too. I had intended to offer some verbal support from where I was and see what he could accomplish first on his own, but I enjoyed hearing the girls help him out.
A few moments later H. wanted to go to the Boardwalk but no one else appeared to be ready. J. caught my attention quietly and tipped his head briefly toward H. who was looking sad. E. also noticed that she was sad and offered to take her to visit the Boardwalk. I was charmed by the way the older kids kept an eye on H. and wanted to take care of her.
When D. was hurt, (well, not really,) it was really sweet to see B. get down on his level and ask what happened and try to help. They both lay down flat on the ground and looked up into the snowflakes falling into their lashes and they laughed together.
We ended about 15 minutes early due to some cold toes that were starting to hurt. Boots aren’t enough. We need wool socks too.
Even on a cold, cold day there is huge value in what the kids are doing out there. Here is an article that explains it better than I ever could. Why Is Unstructured Play Crucial