Boundless Spring Has Begun!
Although it may not quite feel like it yet, we have indeed begun the Spring Season of Upper Manhattan Forest Kids and we are embracing the great bounty of the season in the outdoor environment however it is. Our young people in both Central Park and Inwood Hill Park have been taking ownership of their new classroom without walls. They are figuring out quickly what's available in their spaces and how to do even more with what they have at hand. Children in their early years are in the most active learning period of their lives. They are intuitively making dozens of experiments, deductions and realizations about how the world works physically and socially everyday. However, that learning may appear very subtle in terms of measurable outcomes. In fact, it may look like they're doing very little or nothing at all! In a culture consumed by measurable standards and outcomes, trusting subtle development is often a very challenging thing to do. Therefore, we wanted to take a moment to name a few hidden gems. These notables can also serve as inspiring ideas when spending time outdoors with your family or playgroup.
Carefully chosen natural spaces makes a difference
We love the north end of Central Park and Inwood Hill Park for their minimal cultivation and varied terrain. While, many people may assume that the best space to seek out for children are meadows and open flat grounds, we find there's quite a bit to be discovered when the space is less predictable. Even the best jungle gym equipment can't compete with the alive and unique characteristics of a natural space. The spaces in nature shifts, moves and changes. What was experienced last week may not be depended on as a constant. Therefore, there is a higher demand for moving more consciously when navigating the outdoors. In the outdoors you will not find evenly spaced bars or symmetrically aligned equipment. In order to be safe, bodies must be aware and adaptable. Those lessons of awareness and adaptability can be used again and again in numerous ways.
Child-led Learning is where it's at!
Empowering children to take the lead is something that matters to us. While we, as grownups, may offer a few initial ideas, what we really want to look for and encourage is how that idea is developed. When children are allowed to develop an idea and have a say about it, there's no telling what amazing and surprising results may occur.
We pack lightly
Continuing to look at the great opportunity of child-led learning. We choose to bring very little supplies for pre-planned activities. There are already a variety of "loose parts" to play with in the outdoors, including fallen branches, rocks, leaves, etc. When the focus stays on the outdoors there are more than enough skills to practice and discover. They get to learn in an intuitive way the concept of impermanence. They experience the effectiveness of democracy and equity as they notice there's something for everyone regardless of their ability or age. There's also more room for creativity to flourish with less programming.
Slowing in down
Two hours in the outdoors never seems like enough time. Especially when considering how forest schools in Denmark consists of being outdoors in any kind of weather for four hours or more! However, we're grateful for any time outdoors and we've noticed that there seems to be less rush and more time to settle in within two hours. As we begin to build a relationships with the outdoors at an early age, we hope that relationship is less transactional and more meaningful. Where we don't just go outdoors to do a thing or get something but we allow ourselves to open up our field of vision. There's just a lot more to notice when we slow it down. Besides there being natural restorative elements to simply being in nature, the open space and lack of clutter (as found indoors in apartments and classrooms) usually inspires relationships between people and conversations to deepen.
Continue the Conversation...
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