Part 7 of a series of posts that share how one Early Childhood Educator and her colleagues bring some of the children in their care to Assiniboine Forest once a week for 6 weeks to offer them an experience with Forest School principles in play.
Learning from last week’s obstacle, we prepared this time for ticks and poison ivy with long pants and tall socks over top. We marched confidently across the field, looking so forward to being reunited with our magical creations from days one and two. Nothing can stop us from our off trail fun on this day!
We looked down the trail that will lead us into the woods and we saw that the plants along the sides of the trail are no longer on the sides- summer is in full swing and the flora has taken over. We stepped onto the trail and waded through the greenery. From the children’s perspective this was now a jungle they must wrangle their way through. The plodded along trying to avoid having branches of leaves swing into their faces, bent from the person ahead of them who has not applied the proper etiquette when walking in front of people in the forest.
We got about 10 meters into the forest when we realized that we had one more natural enemy, and that because of their abundance, we could not avoid: the mosquitoes. We quickened our pace through the narrow trail so we could reach the clearing and re-coat ourselves with bug repellent. We persevered through the woods and made it to our glorious fairy houses but the mosquitoes were still swarming us.
[No time for photos!]
We now had a new mission: get out of the thick trees and find a place where we could escape the bloodsucking monsters! I dramatized the situation by labeling the experience as a Mosquito Storm and encouraged them to run, flail and dance around so the insects couldn’t land on us! We made it out of the shaded treed area and into the sun. There, the children made their first observation- the mosquitoes bit more in the shade than in the sun! We headed toward the lake, where it was wide open on the hill with no shade to test the theory.
When we got there, the children had their next epiphany: there were no mosquitoes in the wind! I invited them all to find their own space for some quiet time, to enjoy the wind and listen to all the different bird calls we can hear from the marsh. Curious to see how long they’d sit without talking, I didn’t set a time limit or call ‘time’s up’, like I’d done in the past. To my surprise, I was so pleased to see that the children enjoying their time alone. Some of them dug in dry dirt with a stick, one put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes, another cuddled with a grown up while others just sat and brushed their hands through the long grass. It was a peaceful sunny afternoon, safe from the Mosquito Storm. After 5 minutes or so, someone asked, “Can we go down to the water?” so slowly we gathered into partners and strolled down to the lake side.
There we saw minnows and tadpoles in the shallow water, we spent some time trying to keep track of them and figure out which one was which. There the children also learned one more tool in fighting mosquitoes: dragonflies. Those beautiful predators of blue, green and grey flying so gracefully and with such purpose, thank you dragonflies!
We re-capped our adventure of the afternoon and tallied up all the ways to keep the mosquitoes at bay: sun, wind and dragonflies can help when the child friendly DEET just doesn’t do the trick.