“I want to keep going.” What educator doesn’t want to hear those words? All I had to do was stop at the edge of our aspen forest and a keen Grade 3 student blurted it out. I can understand their enthusiasm. The branches were covered with spikes of hoarfrost, the snow seemed to be emanating the colour blue, the chickadees were flitting through the trees calling “chickadee dee dee”, the sun forced us to stuff our toques in our pockets with its warmth, and the taste of adventure was in the air. We were on a hunt to uncover the mysteries of winter.
And oh what mysteries have come our way. I watched quietly as one student discovered frost hanging from a tree like a bejewelled necklace. He slowly reached out and gasped as it swung away with his touch. “That is what I’m writing about” he whispered to himself. Then there was the spider, Billy. Resolutely marching its way across the snow as 21 grade twos circled and debated whether Billy would find anything to eat. On one occasion a parent and his group discovered giant holes metres apart on a snow crusted slope. “Can it be an elk jumping through the snow?” they pondered. But there are solemn mysteries in winter too; like the little shrew who lay dead, but seemingly untouched on a pocket gopher mound as a class of students said a prayer over it.
One class was treated to a herd of eight deer grazing just on the other side of the fence line. They sat quietly trying to inch closer when they thought the parents weren’t looking when suddenly they were glued to their seats. One deer had kicked another deer! What was going on? And then a third deer lay back its ears and nipped at a fourth. “Wooaaah” the students breathed as two deer rose up on their back legs and began pawing each other. A short 10 minutes later one student lay on her back both arms stretched out on the snow and exclaimed “This is the best field trip ever” as she stared up at the rainbow in the clouds her classmate had just spotted.
It is at times like these that I am most grateful that I am an educator at the ASCCA. It is at times like these that I am rejuvenated as a witness to the wonders that nature can draw out of students even in the cold winter months. It is at times like these that I appreciate most the foresight Ann & Sandy Cross had in donating their land to become an educational conservation area 30 years ago. It has become a doorway for so many children to reconnect to the beautiful mysteries found in the natural world.
For more information, please http://www.crossconservation.org/education-participants or contact us at 403-931-2042 or email@example.com