Category Archives: Field Trips

The Destination

Going for a walk or hike is one of our favourite things to do.  Whether planning a short walk or a full day outing we rarely have ‘destination’.  We have some preferred routes but we often deviate from are original plan when we find something interesting.  Walks are time for exploration.

The children are involved in the planning of our trips but I don’t usually ask ‘where’ do you want to go – implying that there is an end point.  Rather, I ask ‘which direction should we head’ and at various points I’ll ask ‘which way should we turn’.

Walking through the cemetery is one of their favourite routes – they like to look for owls in the nest boxes. Last fall on one of our cemetery walks they noticed this park on the far side of the river – “Can we go there?”

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Hmm, some day maybe.  I was not very familiar with the area on that side of the river and although I had a rough idea how to get there I would need to scout the trail without children first.

Earlier this spring my husband and I went on an evening hike to check out the available routes.  The park wasn’t actually difficult to get to – just a short detour off one of our familiar trails.  However, to make a full loop back to my house was not possible that day because the spring river levels were too high and parts of the trail were under water.

Last week the children and I made our first trip to the new park – not the playground, I rarely go to playgrounds (read why here). Parks are full of nature and so many things to explore and discover.  We left early and took our morning snack and picnic blanket with us;

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It is a little difficult to see in the photo but the children were easily able to locate the cemetery across the river from our picnic spot;

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The new park also has an amazing forest and riverbank to explore;

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The boys like to look for bears and wolves in the forest – this trip resulted in a very exciting discovery;

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Probably just a dog tracks but HUGE like a wolf!

I was impressed when these three and four year olds noticed – and correctly identified this bridge by name.  It is one of five bridges we frequently visit but we have never approached it from this side.

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Crossing the bridge on our way back they stopped as usual to look at and talk about this ‘house-shaped’ cement barricade/structure (please leave a comment if you know the real name for this thing).

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When we pass this way we often discuss the river levels at various times of the year.  This day they were talking about how the driftwood got stuck up there in the spring when the river was higher.  Then they noticed something even more interesting in the driftwood…is that a nest?  Why would she want to have a nest there?

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We’ve visited the new park twice now.  On our second trip the children eagerly anticipated seeing this goose again – and maybe babies.  She wasn’t there, however there was a pair of mallard ducks.

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While we were watching them they jumped off the cement into the river below.  The children were thrilled and now refer to this as ‘the diving board’.  I suppose that’s better than ‘house shaped cement thing that I don’t know the real name for’.

Picnics in our new park and the exploration along the way have been full of adventure and discovery.  I’m sure there will be many more to come.

Bridges

I like to provide plenty of opportunities for the children to explore nature.  Even though we are near downtown and there are many major roadways we still manage to find nature in the city. We go on many, sometimes lengthy, hikes around the neighbourhood in all types of weather. On our last post storm adventure the toddlers walked 4.4 km in search of puddles to splash in – we traced our route on Google Pedometer when we returned.

If I was the only one choosing destinations we would always be hiking through forests but the children often have other interests and I let them lead.  One of their favourite destinations is the river – particularly watching it from the middle of the nearby bridge.  We often go up one side of the bridge, stop in the middle to watch the river flow away and then hike down to the corner so we can cross the street at the intersection before heading back down the other side of the bridge to watch the river flow towards us.

We see the changes in the river as the ice begins to form in the fall and as it breaks up in the spring.  The children notice – and express concern over the things we see floating down the river.  Sometimes they prefer to sit on the hill in the park to watch the river – the ‘stuff’ in the water is less noticeable from there.  It is also much quieter without the all the traffic noise from vehicles on the bridge.

During the beautiful summer weather we have been venturing further away – our longest hike this summer was 7.8 km.   On many of our longer walks we have gone to ‘the other bridge’ – which is actually TWO bridges  – bonus.  Even though it takes longer to get there there are two reasons we love to visit this bridge.  First, the children get really excited as we approach the bridges.

20150825_095622It is here that they begin calling out “Echo, Echo where are you Echo?” Their excitement and volume increases dramatically when we are directly under the big bridge.  Here the echo is fabulous and they can see the little bridge too!

20150825_095826The little bridge is for pedestrians only so it is much quieter than the busy bridge we usually visit and it doesn’t shake when big trucks pass over.  That feature of the old bridge is a little scary for some of the toddlers.  There are also several lookout points on this bridge – of course our favouite one is right at the top in the middle of the bridge.

20150825_095930As we head to the top of the bridge we stop to look at the boat, our shadows, and today there is a fisherman too;

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At the lookout point the children may spend as long as they want watching the river.  On this particular day they were looking for submarines and unicorns.  Rivers and bridges are magical places. 🙂

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Going for a Walk

I love hiking.  My favourite outings to take the children on are those that allow us to explore our neighbourhood, nearby parks or hiking trails in forests and nature preserves around the city. Adventures like collecting leaves in the fall, following footprints in the snow in the winter, watching the activities of the birds in the spring or checking out the trees and plants in various seasons.

Many years ago I used a Safe-T-Line when out walking with a group of young children.  It looks similar to this one which is available at Quality Classrooms

15-04-walk01Mine has twelve pieces in total – two adult belts with a long lead, two additional extensions which can be attached to the adult belts, and eight children’s belts with clips.  I usually wore both the adult belts and fitted each toddler with a waist belt before we headed out.

Most of the time the children roamed freely through familiar trails and open spaces. However the walking line came in handy for the parts of the outing where we encountered busy roadways, major intersections or large crowds where noise and distractions made it difficult to communicate.  I could quickly attach the toddlers belts to my belts to ensure we all stayed together until we reached an area where we could explore independently again.

It was like having extra hands and the best part was that all of us had our ‘real’ hands free to pick up treasure along the way, point out exciting things we saw, wave at passing motorists, tie shoes etc.  It allowed the toddlers to venture freely within an acceptably safe distance.  They could begin to learn self control and to follow verbal directions.  Even the strong willed toddlers who balked at holding hands and staying with the group seemed to feel independent.

Then, a few years ago when my coordinator was here for a licensing visit she informed me that I was not allowed to use the safety line as it was designed because it ‘restrained’ the children.  I was instructed to make the belts into loops and have the children hold the loops with their hands – as long as they were free to let go when they chose to.   Sigh.

I don’t really mind not being able to use the safety line but it has limited our outings.  When new children are enrolled our walks are very short – just out the front door around the block and in the back yard to play.  Once I am confident that they understand the safety rules we expand the distance we can travel a block at a time.  I never take the entire toddler group beyond our secluded residential area and I rarely let the children decide the route – those major intersections are so enticing.

Recently, curious to see if my new coordinator would have the same response as the previous one, I asked for her opinion on the safety line.  She reiterated that the children could hold on to the belts with their hands but the belts could not be attached to the children as this would be considered restraining the children.  Just to clarify I then asked if it was acceptable to put them in a stroller with a belt.  She said yes.

So, I still can’t use the safety line as it was designed but I could go for a ‘walk’ if I piled my group of toddlers into one of these.

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Apparently a five point harness in a vehicle that doesn’t allow the children to touch the ground or anything else is not considered a restraint.

I would disagree.

Prairie Explorers

Last week we went on a field trip to Fort Whyte Alive – one of our favourite places!  The older children are all seasoned hikers – they’ve been with me for years.  However, we haven’t acutally done much hiking this year.  I’ll admit that with three infants/toddlers in our group I was a little apprehensive.

I know – the older children in the group were here as toddlers and they went hiking then.  I was confident that all of the children in the group would be able to spend the full day outdoors.  If anyone was going to complain it would be the older ones – I think school (and bus transportaion) has made them a little lazy.

My concern was taking three toddlers – if they didn’t want to walk I did have strollers – if they did want to walk I would have empty strollers to haul.  Luckily there was a combination of both hiking and riding toddlers.  One 19 month old actually walked the entire 5 hour hike only stopping to sit for meals!

We checked out all the wildflowers and priarie plants – even recognized some that we have in our garden;

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This white/beige plant created a lot of interest – we don’t know what it is;

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It is very fine and from a distance it looks a little like fog – if you know what it is please leave a comment;

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It was a beautiful day and the scenery was amazing;

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We met some new friends;

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It was an awesome day.  We hope to do some more outings next week too.  Sadly we will be unable to visit Wild Earth Farms where some of our vegetables come from but I’m certain there will be other outdoor adventures before school starts again.

Spring Break Continues

On day three of spring break we headed out on a field trip to explore the Science Gallery  and listen to a special presentation about the work of the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre  and meet some of their rescued birds and one pet rabbit.  It was great to see a peregrine falcon ‘in person’ – we have learned a lot about them in the past and last spring   we really enjoyed watching their adventures on the falcon cam. We had planned to attend a Planetariumshow too but the wildlife presentation ran longer than expected so we missed the beginning of the show – next time!

There was one other interesting bit of information from day three.  I overheard a comment made by one of the school-age children – apparently they had considered our walk to the dollar store ‘long’.  I was intrigued so we discussed this a little further and I discovered that the older children all agreed with this assessment.  Now I was more shocked and a little dismayed – the dollar store is only a few blocks away – about one kilometre!

The children involved in this conversation are not regularly in attendance or they have recently enrolled so have not experienced our excursions.  They take the bus to school and – according to them – their parents drive them everywhere else they have to go.  These children do not normally walk anywhere.  The ‘regulars’ and I shared some stories of our hiking adventures and I began making plans for a ‘special event’ for day four.

After morning snack on day four we got ready for our trek.

“Where are we going?” they ask

“To the library” I reply

“Where is the library?” the newbies ask

Those who attend regularly begin to giggle and answer “It’s waaay past Safeway and Sobey’s too”.

It is 3.3 kilometres away when we take the short route.  I don’t particularly like the short route because it is a bit of a boring hike with no points of interest and the loud traffic makes conversations difficult.  Today, however, we would take the short route because we didn’t have a lot of time and it was a little chilly.  Our brisk pace kept us warm and we made it there in about 40 minutes.

No one complained about the length of the journey.

We relaxed in the library, read some books and picked out some to take back with us for later.  The pace for our return trip was a little slower so it took a few extra minutes.  While I prepared lunch only one child chose to play in the playroom – the others just wanted to sit and read their books.  The room was surprisingly quiet throughout lunch too.  They were tired and hungry.

After lunch I brought out a map and we traced our routes for the trip to the dollar store and the trip to the library.  I also traced the ‘scenic’ route to the library – the one we usually do twice each summer.  That route is 4.6 kilometres and passes through three parks where we stop and play.  We climb trees and we usually have a picnic too.  The scenic route to the library is the best.

Just one more day of spring break…..

Winter Walk

I must apologize for the lack of posts recently.  It certainly isn’t due to lack of inspiration — I have definately had things I wanted to write about.  Over the holidays I’ve even had a bit more ‘down time’ than usual so I have also had time to write.  The problem, I think, has been getting the ‘time’ to coincide with the ‘inspiration’.

Today I vowed to post something and given how long it has taken me to get to this point I think a ‘mostly photos’ post is a more realistic goal.  So, here’s a picture story of our winter day at Fort Whyte Alive;

The -2 C temperature would normally be considered very nice but we’ve been spoiled by record breaking warm temperatures lately.  We started out along the trail;

We stopped to play in this fort constructed from hay bales (not enough snow on the ground to build any snow structures);

There was a blurr that we were sure was a rabbit — it is hiding in here somewhere but we couldn’t find it;

So, we spent some time drawing pictures in the snow;

We stopped at the bird feeding station;

and watched this little guy as he waited for the squirrels to vacate the bird feeders;

We used the posted sign to identify our friend as a ‘Hairy Woodpecker’

We stopped here and stood really still and quiet to see if we could spot any other wildlife;

All we saw were other children playing in the bush — not exactly the wild life we were hoping for 🙂  We continued on our journey, thankful for the shelter provided by the trees;

In open areas the wind was unrelenting as it pelted us with icy snow.  We hurried to our lunchtime destination;

Inside there was shelter from the wind and snow;

We wished we could have started a fire. Hungry as we were we welcomed the sandwiches and veggies but warm food would have been even better.  Imagine what it would be like to live like this all the time…

We watched the bison getting covered by snow — they didn’t seem to mind;

We briefly played a game of tag and of course couldn’t resist a few runs up and down the hill;

A wonderful winter walk — the perfect end to a fun filled holiday break.  Some are looking forward to going back to school.  Others are not — maybe they would prefer a classroom in the woods.

A Picture

Back in June I wrote a post about program planning after my son and I checked out the hiking trails in Bois-des-esprits forest.  This week we took the children the children there to explore.

The forecast called for rain but that didn’t stop us from going.  It was cloudy and humid but it never did rain.  We hiked every inch of trail from one end of the forest to the other and back again – covering 4 km in a little more than two hours!

As the saying goes “A Picture worth 1000 words’ so I always bring my camera along on our outings to document our discoveries.  When the trail is wide enough we can walk in pairs but on narrow trails we walk single file – oldest children in the front and me in the back so I can see everyone.  This way I am also closest to the younger children to assist them when necessary.  Also, and most importantly, because I can see them all I can note what types of things attract the children’s attention.

They are the leaders.  They let me know when they make a discovery and want to check it out further;

They are the ones who initiate the experiments to find out things like ‘can I lift that fallen tree?’

On this outing it was also my intention to take a picture of every one of the tree carvings that we found along the way.  These pictures were to be examples for the children later when we tried some clay carvings.  So when we reached ‘Woody’ the tree spirit I got ready to take some photos and discovered that the batteries were too low.  No problem, I always bring extras along.  As the children examined the tree or rested on the nearby bench I changed the camera batteries.  Then we heard a sound in the bush behind us;

Deer! First one, then another and another – there were four all together.  One was bigger so we assumed it was the mother.  The other three were smaller and still had spots.

They knew we were there; the young deer were just as interested in watching us as we were in watching them. All young are curious. As the children knelt on the bench, leaning over the back and peering into the trees, the young deer moved closer to get a better look.  It was awesome!

All the while I was fumbling with my camera which continued to flash the low battery warning even with the new batteries I just put in.  The ‘new’ batteries had been in the bottom of the camera case for a while – too long I guess. Sadly, there would be no more pictures today.

We watched the deer for about 15 minutes.  Some of the young ones ventured to within 15 feet of the clearing we were in before their mom decided they should move along.  I would have loved to have gotten a picture with both my group of children and hers.

We continued our hike and in total we saw four deer, three snakes, two frogs, some crickets, two blue jays, a chipmunk and seven tree carvings.  The children tried to mimic the blue jay call and they made up a chant about watching for poison ivy.  Maybe I need to start bringing my voice recorder along on our adventures too – and more than one extra set of batteries.