Resources

Stories from Outdoor School 2021/22

April 1, 2022

Welcome! We’re excited to share stories of adventure, curiosity and connection from our Outdoor School 21/22 season each week. You can come here at any time to get a sense of what we’re up to and what has us excited. If you’d like to see some awesome photos or have the stories to come to you, follow us on Instagram or Facebook!

May 6, 2022

Spring is in full bloom! 🌱 Out in the parks, Instructors and participants have been witnessing leaves unfurling on trees, new colours popping up, bird songs ringing out, and a frenzy of animal activity. We’ve been noticing how Spring seems to move fast, with huge changes happening overnight, and green bursting from the landscape. “Oh world of green / of medicine and wonder / canopy of leaves / that I take shelter under / boughs hanging low / with fruit that’s flourishing / blankets of weeds / that heal and nourish me….” (“Oh World of Green”, by Kate Sutherland). With this season of great change in full swing, there is endless fun to be had. Here’s a bit of what we got up to this week:
🐒 Aquatic life has been a source of wonder for many groups this week! Frogs have been making many appearances, along with frog eggs, tadpoles, a turtle and even a beaver!
🌾 Some Coyote Pups learned about ethical harvesting and knot tying to make their very own cattail mats.
🌸 Flowers and plants continue to be a focus for many groups, with garlic mustard, plantain, trout lily, and dandelion showing up in abundance.
πŸ““ With all of the plants popping up, it’s a great time to Nature Journal! Many groups have been taking time to draw the plants they’re meeting this Spring.
🧡 In anticipation of an end-of-year trading blanket activity, many groups have been spending their time together crafting or working on projects. Some groups this week were able to make cordage, Sumac & Manitoba Maple beads, and even Alder Catkin dye.

April 29, 2022

We think this #kidquote sums up this week pretty well: “I have so many pictures in my heart now.” As we move through this world, we take thousands upon thousands of mental pictures. Some stay in our heads, but others move into our hearts. Our time together this week was filled with heart-level experiences, including fairy encounters, nature museum mysteries, new skills like archery, crafting from nature’s gifts, and more. ✨ We let pictures tell the stories that a thousand words could not – check out the Instagram post for more.Β 

April 22, 2022

This week and each week, we celebrate the earth and its many gifts through connection, gratitude, respect, shared learning, and reciprocity. Here are some of our adventures and learnings from the week:
🌳 Working with and learning from wood helped us to understand the importance of teamwork. We love how the rhythm helps us to work together, engages our senses and integrates different forms of creativity into our task.
πŸ’š Some groups collected garbage in celebration of earth day, to help care for the earth in gratitude for how it cares for us. While doing so, groups discussed the Indigenous peoples who have lived here for many generations and the ways they continue to steward this land.
πŸ¦‹ As the earth awakens from its much deserved Winter rest, we’re seeing a lot of action out in the parks! From deer to birds to butterflies to beavers, many of our friends have been spotted recently to much excitement. We feel honoured that we’re able to watch these animals, right in in the city we share with them, if we keep aware and quiet.
🌸 Many of us were awestruck by a beautiful meadow of…[can you guess who this gorgoeus blue being is!?]. We looked at a diversity of pollinators who enjoy spreading its pollen…which is also blue!
🐒 After reading the story of “Skywoman Falling” from “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, some Foxes made drawing of images that stood out to them.
πŸ‘‘ A big fallen willow branch inspired us to do some crafting – hoops, crowns, chains, baskets, and more!
🌱 Some groups have been noticing sprouting seeds. They marked the area with sticks so that they can follow the seedling’s growth each week.

April 1, 2022

And we’re back! This week marked the first week of our spring programs and we couldn’t be happier to be back out in the parks with kids. Spring continued with its surprises as we flip-flopped between sun and snow. As we gathered together, we talked about what wonders this season could hold – baby animals?! New plants!? How can we support all of these fragile new beings entering into the world and finding their way? We explored these questions and got up to some major fun, including:
🌱 Creating secret forest gardens by marking off a special area of the ground so that we can revisit those spaces week to week and witness the growth that will occur
🐦 Using bird language skits, where we speak first in bird language and then in human language, to introduce the 5 different “voices” of bird language: song, companion calls, alarm calls, juvenile begging, and aggression.
πŸ¦† Recognizing and celebrating National Indigenous Languages day by sharing a story of bird sighting using the Ojibwe words for robins, mallards and blackbirds.
πŸ‘€ Doing sit spots with a particular eye for birds.
🌳 Playing “Spear through the Y”. A game, somewhat similar to ultimate frisbee, that builds teamwork, hand/eye coordination, and awareness.
🦝 Practicing the setup of “critter hangs” to keep our belonging safe from critters interested in stealing our snacks!
πŸ” Finding cool nature mysteries of course! Wanna get in on the mystery? One group found this cool skull – any ideas?

March 4, 2022

That’s a wrap on our Winter season programming! This week, as we prepared to be away from each other and the parks for several weeks, many of our activities focused on stewardship – how we can give back to the land in gratitude for what it’s provided for us over this season? Recognizing winter as a time of difficulty and survival for many creatures, we offered seeds in support. Groups left seeds in tiny vole tunnels, sat quietly with seeds as birds came to them, used seeds to make bird feeders, built tiny nest structures to put seeds into, and scattered seeds on top of saplings. Some also collected garbage. Discussions about the Dish with One Spoon Treaty inspired deeper understanding on how our actions in tending to the land fulfill our Treaty responsibilities. By stepping into Treaty in this way, we care for the land so it can provide for all people and living things. We’re incredibly grateful to have the privilege of playing, learning and connecting on this land. We’re excited for the many adventures ahead in Spring!
Here are a few other things we got up to this week:
❀️ We saw our first red-winged blackbird of the season! Spring is near and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome other migratory birds back.
πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Groups wandered around the parks to spark memories of games and activities from the season. Watching how a specific area brought forth memories that had otherwise been forgotten was a reminder of our deep connection to place.
❄ Huge ice formations lingering in the West End are beautiful and exciting! But they can also pose risks. We talked about how we can navigate the ice safely. Instructors paid particular mind to how we can discuss safety in ways that children will understand and remember, integrating lessons from the book “A Promise is a Promise” by Michael Kusugak and Robert Munsch, a retelling of a traditional Inuit story on the dangers of ice and the importance of keeping promises.
πŸ•― Many groups made beeswax candles for their last program of the year. Candles encourage us to reflect on how we can capture light in the season of darkness. How bringing light that extends from bees who are nourished by flowers grown in sunlight can bring warmth and light into our homes.
🐾 During an epic game of ‘Hawk and Mouse’, the mice couldn’t find the hidden antler! So Instructors gave them a clue – “See this footprint (left behind by a human)? If you can follow the tracks, you can find the antler!” Inspired by challenge, kids put their tracking skills into action.

February 25, 2022

As we approach the end of our Winter season together, we’re trying to soak up and appreciate the magical experiences that winter offers. Here’s some of the fun and learning we got up to this week:
πŸ›· A Raccoons group spent their afternoon putting their rope, knots and woodworking skills to the test by creating sleds! The group made different prototypes to figure out what worked and what they wanted to improve on in future weeks.
πŸ¦… One group embarked on an “Earth Walk”, where they spent time trying to interact with the world using their different senses like sound and smell. Practicing movement in their different animal forms, they stumbled upon a bunch of cardinal feathers atop a log. The group discussed the mysterious question of β€œWhat happened here?”
❄️ Check out the beautiful bracelets that one group made in their “Winter Village”. Can you guess what this beautiful jewelry is made of?
🐧 It sure is icy out there! Many groups spent time learning (which felt more like playing) how to move safely on the ice, which included sliding, crawling, rolling, and of course lots of penguin shuffling!
πŸ’™ There’s not just ice on the ground – icicles decorate our surroundings. One group tried to see who could find the biggest icicle, and a group member shared the wisdom that it β€œDoesn’t matter if you find the biggest icicle, as long as you’re having fun.”
πŸ”₯ Fire was a recurring theme! One group had a tinder bundle competition to see whos tinder bundle burned the best. Another group Played played β€œWill it Burn?” with the added challenge to find anything other than a stick. Some kids even tried ice! The group discussed how some plants need heat to release their seeds. They talked about how some Indigenous peoples’ use controlled burning, and the benefits that fire can have on a landscape.
🏁 So much fun that you don’t even realize you’re learning? That’s what games can bring. Our Ravens group combined skills with games by creating different relay races. Activities included an ice safety component, flint and steel, and sawing through wood.
🌳 An Oaks & Acorns group spent their day focussed on trees! The group observed and discussed different branching patterns and even played a little Dance like a Plant.

February 18, 2022

This week, nature reminded us of its power. From heavy rains that transformed areas of our sites from grassy fields to roaring rivers, to drastic changes in daily temperatures, to waking up to a new blanket of soft snow this morning, nature – you are a wild and beautiful force. We are grateful to witness and spend time with you. Some of that time was spent:
🐾 Tracking animals through the landscape. Groups were especially into poop! Aka scat. Signs of rabbit and deer were abound.
🐦 Finding ways of greeting the birds. We’ve noticed much more birdsong lately and want to be ready to welcome many more birds back soon. We made more bird feeders and practiced stillness to invite the birds to come to us.
πŸ¦ƒ A couple of Coyote Pups and Fiery Foxes groups had a special visit from our Executive Director, Andrew, who brought stories of turkeys and gifts of turkey feathers to celebrate their winning of a program snow fort contest.
πŸ¦… Groups checked out a kill site, an area where one animal gave their life so that another may continue to survive. We practiced questioning around the site to spark our imaginations, and connect us with the animals and their stories.
🐺 More adventures of blood trailing were had. This week, “Shadow Fang” a wolf-like creature who visits at night gave us tracking challenges, while a special group of bunnies taught us how to evade getting caught.

February 11, 2022

What a beautiful time to be outside! Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately. How have you been making the most of your time outdoors?
🐝 Groups have been getting crafty! They made beeswax candles and bird feeders (made of pine cones, shortening, and nut-free birdseed).
🐦 A Coyote Pups group decided to make shelters for our bird friends too.
πŸŒ€ A few groups read stories from “The Trail of Nenaboozho: and Other Creation Stories” by Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt. They discussed how we’re all co-creating an ongoing story that others may tell one day, and how important it is to act according to the impact we want to have.
🌨 How do you move through a snowy landscape? Coyote Pups used a giant sled to carry their backpacks, working as a team to pull it along.
🐿 Various groups had a chance to play a new and exciting game about squirrels needing to find resources to survive. We’re especially excited about this game since is was dreamed up by one of the teens from Pine’s Teen Apprenticeship Program. Seeing teens drawing on their own Pine experiences and knowledge to contribute new content is incredible.
β˜€οΈ We felt extra grateful for the sun. Shout out to High Park Nature Centre for teaching us the word “Apricity [AH-PRISS-UH-TEE ] (noun)” meaning “the warmth of the sun in winter”. This wonderful feeling resonated with us this week!
❄️ Did you think there wouldn’t be mention of a snow fort? Gotcha! For however long the snow sticks around, you can bet that snow forts will be part of the fun.

February 4, 2022

Such a long period of snow! How did we get so lucky!? This week was filled with more snowy adventures, including:
🐾 Tracking animals’ movements through the snow. Groups got close to the ground and used magnifying glasses to examine tracks more closely. One group got to practice blood trailing – after a deer was scratched, it left a trail of blood (that looked suspiciously like ketchup) behind that kids were able to track through the landscape. Another group had a chance to follow the movement of a mink!
🍯 It may not quite be maple syrup season yet, but when someone brings a jug to program you make maple taffy!
πŸ¦… As one group sang “”Hawks Above in the Wintry Air””, by former Pine Instructors Paul Kitz and Isabelle McEwen, a hawk flew right above them! It was a magical moment of connection built through song.
🐺 A group read β€œThe Girl and the Wolf”, by Katherena Vermette, a tale of a little girl getting lost in the woods and a large grey wolf who helps her navigate home by asking questions that help her tap into her own knowledge and skills.
❀️ Did you hear that? It’s the cardinals and chickadees switching to their spring song! Many groups took time to listen this week.
β˜€οΈ An Oaks & Acorns (parents and tots) group talked about Imbolc, the Gaelic traditional festival celebrating the oncoming spring. We’re about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Spring is on the way!
πŸ•³ Groups continued to build marvellous forts from the snow. To mark groundhog day, one group made a groundhog city, a wondrous series of connected tunnels and castles.

January 28, 2022

We’re feeling so grateful that the snow has stuck around. This week was filled with more snow-filled fun and adventures. Sunny days made the world feel extra magical as the snow sparkled around us. Here are a few other things we got up to this week:
🍡 Many groups made teas to keep them warm and cozy in the chilly weather. Groups learned the Ojibwe words for the confierous trees whose needles they used for their teas, such as “giizhik” or cedar. To learn these words, Instructors used “The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary”, an online, searchable, talking Ojibwe-English dictionary.
πŸ₯Ύ Groups did lots of hiking and exploring through the snowy landscape, since body movement is critical in these temperatures.
🧀 Many groups played a fun game we call “how many items of clothing does it take”, where kids count how many items of clothing it takes for them to feel comfortable in the cold weather. Many kids won with 16+ items! Key items included warm pairs of boots, hats, scarfs, and gloves.
❄️ Snowfort building continued, as well as other snow-inspired fun like finding our way through a snow labyrinth, covering each other in snow, and jumping in snow piles.
🐦 Birdwatching was a favourite as many birds’ bright colours, like cardinals, blue jays and house finches, contrasted with the white snow.

January 14, 2022

Brrrr this week was a cold one out there…and we had the best time! At Pine, we believe children who get outside in any weather grow up resilient, adaptable, creative, positive and aware. Snow and cold weather pose challenges that help us grow, but they also present incredible opportunities for different types of adventures and learnings. Here are just a few of the adventures we got up to in the chilly weather:
❄️ We slid and rolled down icy hills to practice safe ways of moving through the landscape
πŸ“– Storytime is a favourite in any weather. One Coyote Pups group read “It’s a Mitig!” by Bridget George, which brings young readers on an adventure through a forest while introducing them to Ojibwe words for nature. A Raccoons group (10-13yo) gathered around for “Coyote Tales” by Thomas King, humorous tales “set in a time when animals and human beings still talked to each other.”
πŸͺ“ How can we use a hatchet to test ice safety? Some Run Wild (after school) participants explored this question.
🎨 We let the artists in us run free as we drew on the frozen ground AND made prints of bug trails on a tree by making paper rubbings and using berries to colour them in
πŸ¦… The coolest discovery! One of our school groups got to observe a hawk for about 10 mins and noticed it regurgitate something. When it flew away, they went to investigate of course and found the coolest of discoveries – a pellet! With some dissecting they discovered bones, including some teeth, a lower jaw bone and some other very tiny bones. Any guesses what this hawk might have been snacking on?
🐿 Some Coyote Pups (4-6yo) taught a baby squirrel (puppet) some safe ways to move along a fallen tree
🦊 A couple foxes (7-9yo) helped each other out sawing wood for their projects (spoons and bowls were in the plan)

January 7, 2022

With the chaos and hardship that this year has already brought, the stability, sense of calm, healing, beauty, and hope that nature offers feels like an even greater gift. We’re incredibly grateful that we’re able to continue providing a safe space for kids to get outside, connect with peers, and learn in person. The adventures of this week warmed our hearts despite the cold weather. We had so much fun that we didn’t snap many photos, but here’s the inside scoop on some of the fun:
🌲 Wally the Winter Wizard was grumpy about winter because they thought there were no plants. So Coyote Pups (ages 4-6yo) went in search of plants to create a bouquet of Β΄winter weeds’ and showed Wally that plants are still all around us!
❄ One Coyote Pups group talked about Indigenous people’s traditional dwellings, such as longhouses, and their importance during the winter months. They went about creating miniature longhouses, discussing how much work it was to build even that tiny version.
🐍 We practiced ice safety by doing penguin shuffles, rolling down icy hills, and even making up fun new games together like “Ice Snake” (where an instructor was a snake trying to tag kids, and kids could only move on the ice if they weren’t on their feet – lots of stomach sliding, bum shuffling, and giggles ensued!)
❄ We also explored ice further and how we can interact with ice safely by looking at ice crystals, testing frozen puddles with sticks, and throwing sticks into the semi-frozen river to see how fast they go and where they get trapped.
πŸ¦† We saw cool animals like ducks and Red tailed hawks. We also noticed those animals we didn’t see, like deer. We saw many deer in the fall – where did they go?

December 10, 2021

That’s a wrap on the fall season of Outdoor School! This week, groups reflected on the past 10 weeks, shared gratitude for all that the park has given us, and made sure to fit in some more learning and fun before we take a short break! Here are some of the highlights:
πŸš€ An Oaks and Acorns (parent + tot) group read “Not a Stick” by Antoinette Portis. Feeling inspired, they then imagined what different things the sticks they found could become – a toothbrush, an airplane, a rocket ship!?
πŸ’š Stewardship was a big focus as groups asked themselves how we can say thank you to the park for letting us spend time in this area. In one group, kids voted on which activity they wanted to do next by choosing which garbage bag to put their trash into.
πŸŒ• A couple groups discussed the moon – its different faces and phases, and how many Indigenous peoples follow lunar calendars, with different names and teachings for each of the 13 moons.
🌲 The chilled weather inspired more shelter and tea making! Some groups talked about how the Haudenosaunee showed European settlers how to make tea from coniferous needles to cure them of scurvy.
πŸ¦… One group had an awesome experiencing getting up close and personal with a hawk!
πŸ”¨ A Raccoons (10-13yo) group had a chance to try their hand at blacksmithing. They heated up nails and hammered them into small knife-like tools.

December 3, 2021

This week, nature brought us some extra special joy and inspiration in the form of SNOW! Here are some of the top highlights from a week filled with them:
🐾 Snow makes for some really great tracking! Fluctuating temperatures throughout the days and nights meant that some tracks were captured in hard snow and ice. Some groups ventured off to find signs of animal friends, cut them out from the ice and bring them together to ask questions, compare tracks, and feel inspired by the peers’ finds.
❄️High energy activities working with snow, like making snow forts and snowfriends, kept our hearts pumping and our bodies warm in the lower temperatures.
🌨 An Oaks and Acorns (parent + tot) group discussed how some Indigenous peoples have many words for snow. What words do we have to describe snow in English? How does our language influence our relationships with the land?
⛏ When the snow melted, the soft, wet ground was perfect for our very own archaeology dig! Discoveries included animal bones, leaves with signs of bugs, old bricks and more.
🧢One group made sumac bead jewelry by cutting small sections from a branch, using sticks to poke out the pith on the inside, and stringing the beads created on twine.

November 19, 2021

What a time to be outside! Our days have been filled with new games, skills and celebrations. Fire building and shelters were big inspirations this past week as we prepare for winter. Here are a few of the highlights:
πŸ”₯ Practicing fire skills like collecting materials to create bow drills, using bow drills to get a coal and light tinder bundles, playing “Will it burn?” to collect and test whether different natural materials will burn
🍁 Decorating a tree for a tree festival
🧚 A tiny door holds new messages from the fairies for kids to find each week!
πŸͺ’ Learning how to tie quick release knots to help in our shelter building
⛺️ Building shelters from the rain
🌳 Enjoying a game of Ultimate Tree, complete with mud sliding (during ultimate tree we split into three teams at three trees, team members need to try to touch another team’s tree and get back to their own without being caught!)
🐺 Filling the park with laughter and screams during a game of Wolf Pack (a wolf tries to tag deer by throwing bean bags; when deer are tagged they become wolves themselves)

November 12, 2021

Our time lately has been filled with nature mysteries, high energy games, and amazing encounters! Here are just a few of the incredible outdoor experiences we’ve had:
🦊Kids practiced their sneaking skills with an obstacle course they built ourselves
🌳A corkscrew tree caught our eye. A true #NatureMystery! What happened here?
πŸ’€And a skull! too?!? The nature mysteries continued…
🐿Squirrels continued to provide inspiration as kids build and spotted dreys (what’s a drey you ask…!?)
🐾Tracking was a highlight as the mix and rain and sun created clear prints in the mud
πŸ’§We welcomed new volunteers this week! During training, a key point of discussion was what the ravines looked like in the past and how we can all contribute to river health in the future. (Pssst – Volunteering at Pine is a ton of fun. Please reach out if you’re interested in volunteering too!)
🧭Groups practiced mapping and orientation to learn about the four cardinal directions, note of where the water flows and discussed how we can use these observations to navigate.

November 5, 2021

With all the sun this week, we’ve been wandering farther and exploring new areas of the parks! Our time was filled with leaf play, tracking, nature art and learning from squirrels. Some highlights include:
🐿 Many kids connected with squirrels by playing a game where you hide a small wooden bead somewhere, go on to other things, and then try to find the bead again…how hard it can be to find your cache!
🍁 We’ve been curious and asking questions about this long autumn – We saw a great blue heron!? There doesn’t seem to be quite as much red in the landscape. What will this long fall mean for animals?
πŸ’§ One of our Oaks and Acorns groups (parents + tots) read a book called “Nibi is Water” by Joanne Robertson, which sparked curiousity in kids about Nibi (meaning “water” in Anishinaabemowin) and supported an ongoing conversation among adults about how we can introduce other languages and cultures to children as they grow.
What a great week filled with sunshine and joy. Onwards to new adventures next week!

October 29, 2021

Moments from another great week at Outdoor School!
🌳 Collected cottonwood buds and made cottonwood salve
πŸ” Budding bryologists got an up close look at the wonderful world of moss
πŸ§šβ€β™€οΈ Built a boat to send down the river as a gift to the fairies
πŸ’š Created a dye from buckthorn berries that is going to be used to dye cordage and t-shirts
πŸ”₯ Practiced setting up tarps on rainy days, which made the perfect shelter to practice our bow-drill skills
πŸ‡ Harvested wild grape and rose hips for tea
🐞 Met some neat new friends
We’re looking forward to all of the adventures to come next week! ✨

October 22, 2021

Snapshots from a great week!
🐟 Watching the dark bodies of salmon swimming in circles just below the surface and at moments catching sight of their silvery scales glistening in the light.
🦌 Sneaking up on deer friends
🐾 Membraning and softening an eastern grey squirrel hide
🌳 Processing norway maple for project wood
🌾 Finding giant phragmites (and talking about their impact on the surrounding ecosystem)
πŸ„ Checking out mushrooms at various life stages
What magic will next week hold!? ✨

October 14, 2021

Outdoor School programs began last week and stories of adventure, connection and curiosity are already pouring in. Check out a few of the special experiences that groups have had:

🐒 Finding a baby snapping turtle
πŸ™‚ Making new friends
πŸ‚ Creating rainbows from fallen leaves
πŸƒ Building homes for squirrels
🐌 Discovering a world under fallen logs and rocks that is home to worms, snails, mysterious eggs, and wolf’s-milk slime mold
πŸ” Going on scavenger hunts to identify hazards in the area and how we can keep each other safe
πŸ—ΊοΈ Creating a map of special places within the park. Some of our favourite spots include β€œMud Island”, β€œRock/Sea Glass Beach”, β€œCamouflage Woods”, β€œLunch Logs”
🐍 Catching sight of hawks and snakes, including a Dekay’s brownsnake!

We can’t wait to create more memories together this season.