Ok, so I realize March Break was nearly a month ago… It’s been a busy one and I’m going to try to do a quick catch-up…
It’s not unusual for March Break to start off as winter and end as spring (or even summer), or be some sort of mix of seasons. Well, this year’s March Break was pretty extreme even for March in Toronto. We started off with a couple of very spring-like days – warm and sunny, with lots of melting snow and puddles all over. On Wednesday, we went right back into winter weather and got a serious dumping of snow – High Park probably got about 15 centimetres or so; when I got home, I had about 30 centimetres to shovel. (But hey, I was already dressed in snowpants, and it was lovely light fluffy snow, so shovelling was actually quite lovely. Also gave me a chance to chat with my new neighbour.) Thursday was frigid – around minus 17 Celcius or so in the morning, though lovely and sunny. And then on Friday we were back to spring weather, with sun and temperatures a few degrees above zero. So this all meant that we needed to adjust our schedule somewhat throughout the week, but it was also fun to get to do a variety of different outdoor activities.
Not only was the weather varying throughout the week, so was the cast of characters. Though most of the 14-16 kids were there all week, there were a few who came and went through the week. And I had three co-counselors throughout the week too, as nobody else was able to work the whole week due to other commitments. This had some advantages (new energy, different ideas) as well as some disadvantages (decreased consistency for the kids). But the week went really well overall.
We did some fun outdoor activities, like building with snow, making ice decorations for the garden, hiking in the snowstorm, checking out lots of animal tracks, going on scavenger hunts, creating mini nature walks for each other, walking to Colborne Lodge and talking a bit about High Park’s history, visiting the Adventure Playground, seeing lots of birds… On our (short) walk to Colborne Lodge, we talked a bit about how people lived in Toronto 100+ years ago and how they would have adapted to the winter. The campers then built what they imagined as a mini-Toronto from the time of Colborne Lodge (out of snow, of course). Near Hawk Hill, the campers got into partners and looked for some interesting sights and made up a little guided nature tour, which they then shared with another pair of campers. The kids finished many of the days having some free play time in the garden. They loved creating rivers through the snow and ice on the spring-like days. It was great to see them negotiating, working in teams, and learning a ton about how water, snow and ice behave through playing with it and in it. (We had some pretty wet kids at the end of some of the days…)
We used the kitchen for some delicious baking activities too. On Tuesday, we made some delicious pizza from scratch, starting the dough in the morning, and finally eating our wonderful veggie pizzas at the end of the day. Lots of praise was heard about the pizzas, with kids exclaiming that this was the BEST pizza they’d ever eaten, and everyone asking repeatedly for the recipe! We switched Friday’s baking to Thursday, since Thursday was frigid outside. We baked beet and chocolate muffins, as well as white bean chocolate chip cookies. (I’ve written about these earlier too, so won’t go into details here.) Yum! And on Wednesday, we made some popcorn that the kids got to flavour with their own blend of spices. Mmmm! (Ok, this was so popular that we made popcorn again on Friday too…)
Our big craft for the week was making papier-mache creatures, which we worked on all week. We also used some veggie scraps from our baking adventures to make water-colour paints. Unsurprisingly, the beets worked the best, but carrots, broccoli and peppers also gave a bit of colour. We froze the veggie scraps the night before, and then in the morning we thawed them out, the kids smooshed and chopped them, and then we added a bit of water.
All in all a fun week!
I’ve been busy in the past few weeks, starting up a new school garden programme at a couple of schools. I’m up to teaching 3.5 days a week, and have about a day or so worth of prep time per week! Super excited to be working nearly full-time as a garden educator! I’m a bit overwhelmed right now, but it’s really exciting. More on that soon.