Summer is coming to a close and we are welcoming a new school year. As I shift gears and prepare for a new school year at our Early On Centre, I'm naturally reflective of the past two months of summer ... spent outdoors leading Nature Camp. Each week we welcomed a new group of campers ages 3.8-6 years old to our "tadpole" crew and through the weeks we witnessed the joy and wonder of experiencing the forest, nature and all of the wildlife therein. The forest was their playground, trees became their playthings and imagination took lead... Some children were with us for 5 days, others a couple of weeks and some joined us for most of the summer! For many children the moment we walked through the threshold of the forest sheer joy seemed to take over and they were quick to get to excitedly climbing a tree, grabbing a scoop to dig or a magnifying glass to explore our surroundings.
For a few, it was more challenging and they were a bit more apprehensive. I loved watching that apprehension slowly disappear throughout the week as the worry or anxiety about getting wet or dirty was replaced with joy as they jumped through the mud and puddles. Seeing tears and irritation in response to a rainy day turn into imaginative engagement as we ran through the rain pretending to swim in the ocean. This summer we searched for treasure, erupted a volcano, caught frogs, investigated life cycles, played games, crossed logs, hiked, painted, created and so much more! The true joy for me as a leader + educator was seeing the confidence, sense of accomplishment + connections grow throughout the summer - not only for the children, but within our camp counsellors as well!
My takeaway from this past summer is the importance of putting aside the agenda- and being open to the experiences and moments as they arise. Listening, watching and observing for cues and signs of interests and connections. There were times that I got caught up in the routines and the schedules + honestly it wasn't pretty. I got hung strung, our counsellors got stressed and the kids honestly just didn't have a great time. Even with everything I know - about children, mindfulness and mental health. I got caught up in the pressure to keep an agenda. There was so much freedom when we were able to let go of the agenda and allow space for the organic moments to happen throughout the day. It was a great reminder of the importance of self-reflection and reflective practice as a leader and educator. We have never quite "arrived", rather we are a student first - learning as we go!