Category Archives: Field Trips

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.

What We Saw, What We Think

I’ve heard so much about the new Nature Playground at Assiniboine Park which opened this Spring.  Since they first announced the plans to build it I knew I would have to check it out.  Any place that combines children and nature and I’ll be there.  Of course the boy wanted to come too 🙂

The front gate was impressive;

Once inside we were immediately attracted to the awesome snake;

The giant bird nest was really cool too;

I grinned when I overheard a young mom tell her child he couldn’t climb on it but she couldn’t catch him before he did.  Of course you’re supposed to climb on it.

Likewise, my boy and many others were compelled to do this;

The playstructure and slide were far to busy for me to take any pictures of while respecting the privacy of those playing there.  I did however get some pictures of the green rubber hill;

I’m really not sure how I feel about.  I’m certain it will wear well and be clean and safe — but seriously, a rubber hill?  I may not be the only one who feels that way since it didn’t appear to be that popular.

The water and sand area certainly was appreciated;

And I just loved these;

Except for the ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ signs which don’t belong in any children’s garden.  I was also a little confused by these structures (one pictured but there is another one too);

The boy and I thought they’d be great for climbing on but they were placed in the middle of flowerbeds so we assumed they were ornamental?!?  Apparently everyone else thought so too — a waste of a great opportunity.

We’d only been here for about 20 minutes and I felt somewhat let down.  Then I realized that I had lost the boy.  Where did he go?  Oh, there he is;

Still inside the gate but he’s wandered off the path — and he’s found all the cool stuff;

A child in a true nature playground. Ok, I know what you’re thinking — he’s 17 years old, not really a ‘child’.  But he was just 2 years old when I opened my childcare home and has embraced his role as ‘evaluator’ of everything.  I trust his judgement because if he is bored the others will be too.  He knows nature and adventure — where it is, and where it isn’t.

An Extraordinary Summer

According to my WordPress stats this is my 100th post – Yippee!  It has been just over a year since I started this blog too – I missed the actual anniversary since there was no reminder for that and I need reminders.  So I thought an exceptional event deserved a post about something special or unique and this has been an extraordinary summer.

After the soggy late spring this hot dry summer has definitely been unusual – mosquito free too!  Enrolment has been atypical as well.  With several of our regular children away for the summer I was able to accommodate many school-age ‘summer care only’ children.  Nap time is still needed for some of the younger children but with no infants or toddlers here it is not as crucial and it is OK if we skip nap time occasionally.  Hence, we’ve been able to schedule full day field trips – an extremely rare occurrence.

Last week we spent a day at Fort Whyte Alive.  I started the morning by packing a picnic lunch for all;

We loaded up the van and set off for our adventure.  Once we arrived our first stop was at the Interpretive Centre where we got to get really close to some indigenous animals;

Much closer than would be possible if they were alive;

Then we visited the Aquarium of the Prairies which captivated the children for a very long time.

I was amazed by how interested the children were in watching the fish.  It made me wonder if I should invest in an aquarium for our own but I think it may have been the size of the fish that intrigued the children so much.  Unfortunately none of the pictures I took were able to capture the detail of this exhibit.

After we left the Interpretive Centre we strolled along the floating boardwalks – my favourite area;

The slight movement of the boardwalk made some a little nervous so we didn’t get too close to the edge even when we stopped to watch the topsy-turvy ducks;

And the green algae covered water which we almost mistook for a grassy meadow;

After lunch we visited the sod house and then took another hike.  No one could resist a side trip to do this;

We ended our adventure with a visit to the Fort Whyte farm where the chickens seemed eager for some company and ran over to greet us but stayed just out of reach.

As for skipping nap time – this day everyone napped on the way home, except the driver who wishes the van had auto pilot so she could have napped too.

Program Planning

The weekend has arrived and the weather is fine. Sometimes that is a bad thing since it can distract me from doing necessary cleaning and paperwork.  Today however I had outdoor ‘work’ to do so good weather was a bonus.  I started the day by doing a few errands to pick up some gardening supplies and other items for next week.  A trip to Costco resulted in a couple of really cool new books – Survival Wisdom and Know How and the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Nature Guide.  Both look like they will be really useful.

Then my son and I went hiking.  Today was national trails day and to celebrate The Winnipeg Trails association held several special events.  There was free food (always a good thing) and plenty of great entertainment.

I often take the children on hiking adventures but it is important that I be at least somewhat familiar with the trail.  Exploring is fun but getting lost is not so my son and I scout the area to get familiar with the trail before I plan a hiking trip for the children.  This is my favourite part of program planning.

We have explored some parts of the Seine River Greenway in the past but we haven’t seen it all – there are so many great hiking trails in the city.  Today we checked out the Bois-des-Esprit section of the trail to see what it had to offer.

The wide gravel part of the main trail would be great if I had a very young group or if we needed to bring strollers or wagons.

There are also many smaller side trails and these are the ones that the boy and I were drawn to.  It is here on the lesser travelled trails that we find things like big rocks

Fallen trees

And cool bridges

There are places to practice going over

And under

Around

And through (which I’m certain will be a favourite).

This is one of many tree carvings of owls and wood spirits cleverly located along the trail

I wonder how many more we can find.  This promises to be one of many great summer adventures for us.

Magic Trees

Yesterday’s topic suggestion at The Daily Post was “You’ve got a magic tree: what does it grow?”

I believe all trees are magic.

They provide shelter and serenity when we need it.

They demonstrate resiliency and determination helping us to overcome adversity.

They possess the power to inspire — creating awe and wonder and urging us to dream.

Young children know this – too many adults have forgotten.

Slow down, take a stroll through a forest and feel the magic.

Note: All these photos show trees the children and I have connected with while on nature walks in our area.

Transportation

Many years ago I purchased an older 11 passenger van for the daycare.  It was a wonderful investment because we were now able to go places that we had never been able to visit before.  We went to see animals on farms; we hiked forest trails and explored wild wooded areas.  We went to museums and exhibits on the other side of town – places we couldn’t reach by foot.

Certainly we could have taken the transit bus to some of these places but that would have cut our ‘discovery’ time in half as we would have needed much more travel time.  We could have also chartered a school bus but that can be expensive and I can’t take the babies on the school bus so I have to take them in a separate vehicle and have an adult helper accompany the children on the bus.  The van was definitely a more convenient option.

There were issues with the van too though.  First of all, I wasn’t comfortable driving it.  I should point out that I don’t really like to drive at all.  I consider driving to be a very stressful experience and therefore I avoid driving when there are added ‘hazards’ – things like heavy traffic, unfamiliar territory and most of all – parking.  Add to all this that the van was a ‘beast’ and my driving discomfort was multiplied by the magnitude of the vehicle.  I know, if I drove more often then I’d overcome some of these fears – most of them are simply inexperience but I have a school bus driver for a husband — he likes to drive – and it is easy for me to rely on him to drive for me. The problem here was that we had to plan our outings around his work schedule and depending on his route, some days he was only available between 10:30am and 1:00pm.

Then there was the age of the van.  It was old when I bought it and we knew there were things that would eventually need work.  It had now gotten to the point where there was so much work to be done that I really had to wonder if it was worth the investment.  I mean, really, how can I teach the children to respect nature and protect the environment when we go exploring in an old gas guzzling, oil spewing vehicle?

So, I recycled the old van and purchased a smaller more eco-friendly van that only seats 8 and since I cannot transport children in the front seat I can really only take six children on an outing.  This is ok since during the school year when my husband is too busy to drive us the older children are also in school so I usually only have 4 or 5 children.  This means that as long as I can make it back for lunch a trip to library or a nearby attraction — places well within my driving comfort zones — can be planned more frequently.

I planned a visit to the Science Museum and Neon Lights Exhibit for last Friday.  According to the school calendars one of the schools was closed for parent/teacher conferences which meant I would have six children and no ‘must be home by noon’ or 11:30 Kindergarten pick-up schedule to worry about.  Then, two days before the planned outing I discover that there has been a change in the school calendar and the other school is also closed so now I have too many children to fit in the van!  The dilemma – do we cancel the trip or do we try the transit bus?  It is only a 10 minute trip – we could actually walk if the weather was good and the route was more pedestrian friendly.  We opted for the bus and what an experience that was – the children and I had a blast!

On the way there the bus was full so we had to stand.  A few passengers offered us seats but there still were not enough for all of us and there were absolutely no children who preferred to sit instead of standing.  By the end of our ride many of the passengers were near tears – from laughter – because the children had been cheering and squealing with delight throughout the excursion.  Yes, the van is still much easier but the bus was an experience that we will definitely have to try again.

The Owl

This past spring the snow melted earlier than normal.  This was great for me because we had so much work today for our back yard renovation and we got a head start.  When you consider that the children and I play out in the yard every day there is a limit to the amount of destruction and construction that can be going on out there.  The whole project had to be broken down into smaller jobs that could be completed on evenings and weekends.

One day as my husband and I were working on one of the phases of the renovation I noticed an unusual sound from somewhere in the neighbourhood.  At first I thought it was a child playing with some type of whistle.  Over the next few weeks the more often I heard the noise the more inquisitive I became as to what it was.  The children had heard it now too and were curious too.

I decided it was not a child with a toy – the sound was very rhythmical.  The tone and the repetition were precise.  I was certain now that it was some kind of bird but my knowledge of birds is limited so I didn’t have any idea what type of bird it could be.  Then, one night as I lay in bed with the window open I heard the sound again and thought ‘an owl’?

The children and I checked out the owls calls on the Nature North website. We didn’t know there were so many different kinds of owls in Manitoba.  The sound clip for the Burrowing Owl was a perfect match to the sound we had been hearing so we did some more research on Burrowing Owls.  They are one of the few species that are active both day and night – that explains why we hear it all the time.  They like to live in cemeteries and golf courses – we are one street over from the cemetery.  And, they are endangered!  How exciting would it be if the children and I found an endangered owl in our neighbourhood!!!

Armed with binoculars and pictures of owls we headed off to the cemetery.  We hiked and listened and looked.  We found many squirrels and crows and some nest boxes strategically placed throughout the cemetery.  Funny how we never noticed these nest boxes before, we had come here many times but now we were being more observant.  “Look, I see a bird” giggled one child pointing at a grave marker with “Byrd” engraved in the stone.  Great, now we’ve got a literacy component to our adventure.

We went to the cemetery several times over the next few weeks.  We even found one owl – an Eastern Screech Owl – in one of the next boxes with just its head sticking out of the hole.  That was very fascinating but didn’t explain the noise we had heard.  Interestingly, we also never heard the owl call when we were in the cemetery – only when we were in my yard.  Why?  Then one day, as I watched the children play in the yard I glanced across the lane at my neighbour’s garden and focused on the owl statue perched on the shed.  Just then, a car drove down the lane and I heard ‘the owl call’.   Motion sensitive garden statue – really?!?!  It’s not even the correct sound for the Great Horned Owl.  Somebody didn’t do their research.

So, we didn’t find an endangered owl.  Was our owl adventure a failure?  Certainly it was not.  We got to explore our neighbourhood and make discoveries.  We learned a lot about owls that we didn’t know before.  Most importantly we practiced following our curiosity, investigating and understanding the world around us.