Winter in High Park

Ok, I won’t deny it: When I got home at 10:30pm on January 1st from Bermuda, I was not super thrilled about the idea of being at High Park at 9 the next morning to run kids’ programming. Luckily, the next three days in High Park were among the best days I’ve spent there! The best thing of all was that there was snow. I love snow. I seriously missed snow last year when we had no winter. So having the chance to hike and play out in the snow in High Park with kids was pretty amazing. Snow, like cross-country skiing, is something that I know I love and really look forward to, but then when I actually get to be out enjoying it, it’s a zillion times more fun than I’d dared to imagine! So yes, I had a wonderful few days in High Park with some great kids, and with an amazing friend/co-worker Eve.

How could you not love working in a place that looks like this at the end of the day?

How could you not love working in a place that looks like this at the end of the day?

This is the first year we’ve run any winter programming, as we now have the teaching kitchen at the garden where we can do some indoor programming and warm up our fingers and toes. Every morning, we had a 2-hour programme with 3-5 year-olds with parents, and in the afternoons we had 6-10 year olds for 3 hours. The first day’s theme was Animal Explorations: we learned about animals that live in High Park and how they adapt in the winter, we moved like different animals, we looked for animals tracks in the snow and the stories that the tracks told, we listened for birds, and we played some games in the snow. It was such a beautiful snowy day to be outside!

The second day’s theme was Baking Adventures. In the morning, we baked biscuits. There was lots of measuring, mixing and kneading to be done by the kids, and then they got to shape the biscuits into whatever shapes they wanted. Turned out delicious! It was pretty amusing watching a 4-year old cracking an egg – lots of shells to fish out. But it’s really great watching them try, and learn, and you know that if they’re already doing this when they’re so so young, they’ll be experts in just a few years! We also read a couple of books about making food, and cooperating in the kitchen. With the older kids, we made two recipes. This was a super good and cooperative group, which made it just such a pleasure to work with them. First, we made cheese and herb scones (delicious!). We had intended to have them work in two separate groups, but they sort of all ended up cooperating on both batches, which worked out really well – there was nearly always something for each kid to do without too much waiting time. While the scones were baking, they wrote out the recipe to take home. (This always always takes longer than I think it will…). While they were snacking, I read Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, which is one of my favourite stories for cooking activities – it encourages trying new foods. The kids, as always, loved the story, and totally got the message too. (Dr. Seuss stories are pretty magical – they always captivate even the rowdiest of kids!) We also made some butter from whipping cream, which was fun, though involved lots and lots of shaking on my part… But it was finally successful! Our second recipe was somewhat rushed, but we did manage to send them each home with a nice hot carrot muffin. Before they headed home, Eve taught the kids a fun song with repeating lyrics and actions: “I’m a knife, fork, spoon, spatula! Cha cha cha!”. The repeat kids were still singing it the next day… (And yes, it’s still in my head on a regular basis…)

Making trees out of paper bags. And decorating them as the kids wanted (we gave them cotton balls, tissue paper, construction paper...)

Making trees out of paper bags. And decorating them as the kids wanted (we gave them cotton balls, tissue paper, construction paper…)

Friday’s theme was Nature Arts.¬† For our morning theme, we chose trees. We read Barbara Reid’s book “Picture a Tree” – great book showing the different roles of a tree through all seasons. We also did a little drama activity, acting out different animals in the forest. Then we made a couple of tree-themed crafts. And then we went on a little outdoor adventure to feed the chickadees – with the kids, we made a paste of ground flaxseed and water, which we used to stick birdseeds to trees.

In the afternoon, our theme was birds. We started with a visualization and drawing activity, where they had to imagine their favourite outdoor place, and then draw the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, etc. of that place. We then took turns explaining our picture to the rest of the group. Again, an amazingly attentive group! Then we headed outside to feed the chickadees again with the food the kids had made. And then it was time for snow sculptures! We had sculptures ranging from raccoons and squirrels to couch-slides to trees and wolf tracks. So much fun to let them (and us) have some slightly structured free-play time in the snow, and creating art in the process. We were all getting a bit chilly and hungry by the end, so we headed back for a snack and a story – I read them a beautiful book called “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen.

A wonderful woodpecker, created by one of the 6-year-olds.

A wonderful woodpecker, created by one of the 6-year-olds.

And then time for the take-home craft: clay birds. Ok, some of them veered off the bird theme somewhat (but nearly everything had wings in the end, including a flying snowman and a flying pizza, among the owls, chickadees, woodpeckers…).

I am so thankful for these three amazing days spent in High Park. It’s such a wonderful place to be and to work at any time of year. But not having spent time there in the winter before, it was just so lovely and energizing to discover it in a different light and to have a chance to really enjoy some beautiful winter weather!

Happy growing (and snowing and playing and crafting and baking and skiing…)!

Can you spot the snow angel?

Can you spot the snow angel?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Eve and I will also be running a March Break camp at the same location! Excited!

    Reply

  2. […] Nature Arts day, we had a tree theme in the morning (like last year), where we read “Picture a Tree” by Barbara Reid, and made two different tree-themed […]

    Reply

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