Each spring and fall we embark on our Forest Day adventure, a tradition that has been a part of our program since our very first season. Forest Day is loved by all with both returning Farm Sprouts and teachers looking forward to a day filled with hiking, discovery, a special snack, and most importantly, the opportunity to engage in free play in a forest learning environment. The feelings the forest provoke are varied and at times unexpected or intense: joy, wonder, curiosity, awe. As we live in an urban environment and in a technology age, opportunities for free play in the forest may be limited. Farm Sprouts often independently note the stark shift in light from the bright pastures to the dark woods as we enter, eliciting excitement or for a few, fear, overcome with the support and guidance of teachers. The forest spurs children to engage in new challenges, to assess and accept the risk inherent to learning and growing, to test the limits of what they can do with their bodies and minds. It’s inspiring and a marvel to observe.
Some of our colleagues out East created a great video, titled “The Best Day Ever: Forest Kindergartens in Vermont” on their efforts to create these opportunities to learn and grow in the forest as a part of their regular school week. Ms. Brooke studied with both David Sobel and Eliza Minucci through her time attending Antioch University New England. In recent news, Washington just became the first state to license nature-based preschools. We’re grateful we’ve been able to create a program like this for our community!
Not only did we spend a good chunk of our time in the forest, but we also took some time to play in our straw maze and welcome the newest additions to our farm: a mother rabbit and her six kits! Our special forest snack is always popcorn with our very own Tollgate maple syrup for dipping. Farm Sprouts were encouraged to lick their plates (but only in the forest!) We owe our thanks for this delicious treat for dipping our popcorn to our operations team, our maple sugaring volunteers, the sugar maple trees, and our winter Farm Sprouts! They helped tap trees, haul buckets of sap, and supported the volunteers with good cheer and great questions. While we munched our popcorn snack, we enjoyed the book, Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. Farm Sprouts noted that some leaves were beginning to change color and we identified the differences between beech and sugar maple trees. Other discoveries included fungi, insects, acorns, some munched by animals, and the tubing for our maple sugaring operation that makes our forest special. We concluded our day with our goodbye routine, giving special thanks to the trees.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson