Welcome! We’re excited to share stories of adventure, curiosity and connection from our Outdoor School 22/23 season. 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!
April 25, 2023
What a wonderful time we had outside with Teens this past weekend! Our Teen Wilderness Adventure group welcomed spring, held special gratitude for trees (especially old growth beech), and got up to a whole lot more fun together:
🔥 We practiced our fire skills in the rain – no small feat, as sustaining a fire becomes more difficult when wood is wet. It was great to challenge ourselves and practice this life saving skill!
🌼 We did some sit spots with the dandelions, which have already become abundant with the coming of spring! After spending time with the dandelions, we harvested the roots and leaves for a variety of purposes, including making tea. Spending time with plants before harvesting them fosters a deeper appreciation for their life and the sacrifice they offer to us. It encourages us to acknowledge our impact and respectfully harvest, taking only what we need and sharing thanks for the gifts we’ve been given.
🍚 We made a stir fry out in the field using spring greens and other ingredients. Cooking and enjoying meals in nature is a rejuvenating experience that connects us to the land.
🧺 We practiced weaving cedar baskets in the field, a skill that Pine mentor Jasmine taught many of us at our March Community Nature Night! Pictured is the damp cedar baskets that we crafted. The spring rain made the cedar easier to bend and craft into baskets – yet another gift of rain!
We had a great time in nature this weekend and are already looking forward to our last session coming in June. It’ll be bittersweet to have the last weekend with this group, but we’re excited to take what we’ve learned and apply it to our every day lives!
April 21, 2023
Another great week spending time outside at Outdoor School! We’ve been enjoying so many different aspects of the season – the blooms, the birds chirping, crafting, and making connections along the way! Here are a few things we got up to this week:
🪵 Our Coyote Pups (the 4-6 age group) began learning about basic carving safety procedures so that they can continue to expand their skills. We used woodworking rasps, which is similar to a file, to get used to the feeling of working with tools!
🐛 On Wednesday, the Coyote Pups got curious about what was happening away from plain sight. They found that beneath the logs and stones, life was teeming! This red backed salamander is an elusive but abundant park resident.
🦥 Our Oaks and Acorns group enjoyed making like sloths and hanging out on the logs. Practicing animal forms is a great way for us to connect with animals by imagining how they act in the wild!
🌷 With the new season comes lots and lots of beautiful blooms! Colour was catching out attention this week, peeking out from sheltered places.
We’re having so much fun outside! We are so grateful for the new season and all the adventures we’ve had in our explorations. We’re looking forward to next week and what memories we are yet to make!
April 14, 2023
My, my, my – what a wonderful time we’ve had in the sunshine this week! We hope that you’ve been spending loads of time outside in this summer-y weather too! Here’s some of the awesome things we’ve been up to in celebration of the warm weather:
🌷 We’re starting to notice the abundance of spring ephemeral flowers that have just started popping up! With the river levels coming down after a dry period, special treasures like tracks and crayfish claws were revealed.
🪵 During Run Wild, we used the extra daylight to personalize carving projects with burned engravings. Carving and other crafts feel more possible now that we don’t need to wear mittens!
🐼 Ravens got crafty on Tuesday! Taking advantage of the warm weather and shady spots provided by the trees, we worked with some natural materials (wool was cleaned in preparation for later spinning or felting and White Pine bark for little baskets) – as well as some not so natural materials: paracord is useful for so many things including lashing structures and making bracelets and decorative knots.
🪢 It turns out that paracords can be useful for other things too…like jumping rope!
We’ve had an absolute blast in the parks this week, and soaking up the sunshine as it thaws the remnants of winter.
April 6, 2023
🌧️🎵 Rain rain, we love you so / You help all of our plant friends grow. 🌧️🎵
Yesterday, we geared up and headed outside for an amazing rainy day. Coyote Pups learned about our kinship and responsibility to protect the park and the places we play. They talked about how the Spring rain helps the forest and wanted to help out too! So they worked together to keep raccoons and other animals safe by cleaning up human garbage that they might mistake for a snack.
We don’t have to wait for a sunny day to enjoy Spring! Going outside in the rain with good boots and great attitudes helps kids build resilience, confidence in their own abilities, and comfort in the outdoors no matter the weather. Try these tips when heading outside on a rainy day with your young ones:
🧥 Gear up with waterproof boots and outer layers (pants and jacket or rain suit), and don’t forget to layer in cooler weather!
💧 Are you getting wet? Waterproof wear isn’t foolproof. Ask kids to monitor themselves and communicate when it feels like water might be seeping through their clothes.
🏃🏾♀️We can get colder faster when it’s wet outside. To keep our bodies warm, get moving!
💦 Check the depth of puddles before jumping in for a good splash sesh. Looks can be deceiving and we don’t want to go for a swim!
⛈ Watching the skies can help us know when a storm is moving in. We can also keep our ears open and notice how birds going quiet can give us a heads up.
⛺ Seek shelter during harsh weather. Watching the rain from under a bridge, tarp, tent, or other shelter can be a curiousity-filled and calming experience for all.
💙 Share gratitude for the rain, all the life it gives, and the experiences it offers.
April 3, 2023
What a great weekend we had with our East End Weekend Wanderers! It’s really starting to feel like spring, and we’re loving it!! 🌷
🦆 We were all so excited to see so many birds back in the parks!! We were able to see some hawks duelling – and maybe courting(?) – and songbirds like kinglets, chickadees, and mystery warblers.
🐣 We engaged in play as baby songbirds, and tried to imagine what it would be like to experience the world as them. As we trained to become adult birds, we practiced our teamwork skills, nest, building, and flight patterns to evade predators.
Some groups spent time cleaning up the land to take care of it in its more sensitive spring state, while others explored the newly melted ponds. It’s so important to give back to the land that provides us with so much!
💀 One of our participants discovered a skull and partial carcass. We spent some time as a group examining it and taking guesses as to what animal it may have belonged to – do you have a guess?
🐰 We were so excited to spot an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit! They hopped away into the bushes. A few participants tried to follow them and find them, but without luck. This was a great lesson in being still and quiet, as this will make animals more likely to come out of hiding than chasing them or scaring them.
🕊️ One of our favourite games this weekend was one where the kids paired up and hid, then made companion calls to each other, just like bird companion calls! After a while, the instructors pretended to be predators and tried to find the hidden birds. One of our participants was especially well hidden under these branches and fallen trees!
We’re having so much fun outside in the spring season. With every season comes new adventures, and we’re definitely making the most of spring. We hope that you’re enjoying your time outside, too!
March 31, 2023
And we’re back! After a 3-week hiatus for spring break, we’re so glad to be back in the parks – exploring, adventuring, learning, and wandering! We’re especially thrilled to have new friends joining us for the spring season – it’s never too late to get outside and build connections! Here are a few of our favourite stories from the week:
🦆 Birds, birds, birds! Our feathered friends are a particular source of inspiration this time of year. Many groups are keeping their eyes to the skies, welcoming returning birds and adding ones they successfully identify to the Master Species Lists being built in the East and West End. These master lists and the friendly competition that goes along with them help to create excitement and interest around birds. Now is a great time to start building your own bird list at home! And perhaps even invite friends and family to join in some good-natured competition of your own to see who can spot the most species this spring.
🌲 After the storm on Wednesday, we found an abundance of White Pine bark that had fallen on the ground. We took the opportunity to use some of this precious bark to craft sheaths for our knives and create pouches.
☕ After one chilly and rainy morning, we welcomed the warmth of Cedar tea, which boosted our spirits, and the return of the sun in the afternoon dried us off! We were reminded of how grateful we are to have warm, dry shelter to return to at the end of our day.
🎉 Different age groups had a chance to join together on Thursday to celebrate being back outside together. Mixing age groups creates opportunities for role modelling and shared learning, and encourages kids to develop strong social and collaboration skills. Plus it’s a ton of fun to make new friends and play games as part of a big group.
This week, you could feel the excitement for Spring among kids and mentors alike. We can’t wait for the new adventures a new season brings!
February 24, 2023
Wow! We definitely have had a lot of snow these past few days – and we are LOVING it! ❄️ The snow provides us with so much inspiration… here’s a few things that we got up to this week while having fun outside!
🧊 Some Coyote Pups built a snow fort – we had so much fun working together to build a structure that we could then enjoy playing in and around!
🧙🏼♀️ The “winter wizard” made an appearance at Pine. They tried to selfishly hoard the suns rays to themselves, but the crafty villagers snuck past enchanted goblins to sneak up on them and steal the precious rays for their villages! Our Thursday Ravens and Foxes love sneaking and strategizing. We had so much fun using our imaginations and playing this game!
🪵 We made a “travois” which is a sled made out of sticks! We had so much fun pulling each other around and experiment with how to make it even better.
🌨️ Our full day programs hold so much potential – with 6 hours spent outside, we have the opportunity to fit in so many different activities, like make a “travois”, build “quinzees” (snow shelters), identify winter versions of our favourite plants, craft icy sun catchers, and even make all-natural mandalas.
February 17, 2023
This week, some groups took a little time to create Valentine’s Day cards – nature edition! 💕 It was such a special way to share joy with loved ones by drawing inspiration from nature. Plus, a pun is always fun 😉
We also got up to a bunch of other fun, like:
🍂 With the group at Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre, we learned about recognizing different plants and then challenged our memories by using the plants to create art. A Coyote Pups group joined in on the tree train this week too, learning about different trees’ leaves and bark.
🐦 Yesterday morning, one group heard a bird call that we haven’t heard in a while – the first Red-Winged Black Bird of the year! We can’t wait to welcome many other birds back in the coming months. Plus, a group got to witness a very special happening when a Red-tailed Hawk swept off a branch and dove at the ground in an unsuccessful hunting attempt.
☀️ We took advantage of warm, sunny days to pull those gloves off and do some crafting.
🌧️ When the rain came, we built our own forest and a shelter our squirrel friends. But where do they go when we haven’t built them a home!? We checked out dry places inside trees.
💀 When temperatures got chilly, groups took long walks through the park to keep their bodies moving and warm. On one wander, a Fox group came across a racoon skull on their wander and decided to create a mantle for it. What a cool find and beautiful way to pay respect.
🦉 An Oaks & Acorns group read “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen, a poem book about a father who takes his daughter out owling on a cold wintry night, in an area where owls have recently been heard. We love how books spark curiousity, open our awareness, and motivate us to learn more.
February 10, 2023
We’ve had quite the week! From wet, rainy days, to beautiful blue skies and sun, we had some wonderful mixed weather adventures! Here’s a few things that we got up to:
🌧️ We spent some time under the bridge during the heavy rainfall, with lots of crafting taking place! We made some natural candles, carved, sang, and participated in some team building initiative challenges.
🦅 In our Thursday Adventure Out Ravens program, each person has chosen a focal mammal species to focus on – and yesterday, we created plays centred around these mammals! We noticed the ice under the bridge had released and flowed down the river, which was amazing to see the effect that this had on the river beds. This inspired our plays to be focused around extreme weather events and how that might affect our focal species.
☀️ On Wednesday, we had some beautiful sun and blue skies for our Oaks and Acorns caregiver and tot program! Some of the winter birds started singing their spring songs, which is typical of chickadees and cardinals this time of year as they reestablish their pair bonds.
🐾 With the snow still on the ground, it made for great track sighting! We were so excited to see lots of different types of tracks this week – can you guess which animals left these tracks in the mud and the snow? One our tracking adventures we also came across lots of signs of eating, sparking a discussion about how much food animals need to consume during very cold weather and where some animals, like rabbits, spend their time when the temperatures drop.
🧊 A Humber College intern who’s currently working with us brought coloured ice cubes to explore shelter building in a new way. One group used them to build small shelters that they placed in shade and sun to compare melting times. The ice cubes even inspired an impromtu game of soccer!
February 9, 2023
A story of long-term relationships with the land 💚
Last week, a Pine mentor, Hannah, was walking through King’s Mill park (West End) with a group of Raccoons (10-13yo), when one participant mentioned knowing a good place to stop for a snack. Leading the group to their destination, he explained how he’s participated in Pine programs at that location for the past 8 years. He told them of how the spot they were headed to was a meadow when he first began visiting, but he’s seen it change over time into what is now a forest (growing in the photo shown here!). The group enjoyed their snack by the meadow-turned-forest and the memory stuck with Hannah, who recounted how awesome it was to hear of the participant’s strong connection to this place, built over many visits over many years, getting to know it and grow with it as he would a friend.
February 3, 2023
Given the chilly weather, a special #highlightoftheweek for many groups was making Cedar tea! In gratitude for its gift, one Raccoons group decided to write a song to the Cedar tree. Sung to the tune of “Hey Jude”, it goes a little something like this:
Hey Cedar Tree
We’re making cedar tea
Thank you for sharing
Your vitamin C
We took some leaves
Not too much
We put the leaves
In our clutch
Thank you Cedar Tree
You do a lot
We’re so grateful for the many ways nature provides for us and protects us, especially during challenging days, and for how sharing in song can lift our spirits, connect us to our human and more-than-human communities, and teach us so much! #singingisasurvivalskill
January 27, 2023
Snow, snow, snow! With the big snow storm on Thursday, we’ve found great adventures to be had while spending time outside this week! Here’s a few fun things that we got up to:
🪚 All of the children in our Oaks and Acorns caregiver and tot program helped to stabilize a stick while one of our instructors sawed it to make a shelter from the snow. This is a great way of encouraging teamwork with little ones, while also practicing safety at a young age. Becoming aware of human-made tools and how they can help us transform things is a valuable lesson that our acorns learned this week!
🐻 Lots of programs this week had fun playing like animals and acting out animal forms. These games help us think about the body mechanics involved in how animals move, as well as about how we can track and interpret the natural world. Plus, we love roaring like a bear and sneaking like a fox!
🐾 Similarly, lots of our programs this week found an interest in tracking since the snow allows for easy spotting of animal tracks. In our Monday program with Phoenix Montessori, we accidentally spooked a rabbit and ended up getting a peek at their den! After talking a lot about designing and building our own shelters, it was super cool to see an animal’s shelter up close.
🦌 In our Thursday Foxes program, we found some deer beds and other signs of deer – including their droppings! This sparked a conversation about why deer feel that they are comfortable in the park that we operate out of, as well as what some factors might be to influence that.
🕯️ We also tapped into our creative sides this week, drawing some of the tracks that we saw and making candles. It was so much fun to see the variety of projects that everyone came up with!
January 23, 2023
Teens had a blast this weekend during their winter gathering! One special activity they shared was smoking vole skin (over a fire they prepared) that they had skinned at their fall gathering. Working through complex projects such as turning skins into leather takes patience and perseverance. It highlights the amount of time, work and skill that is required to create textiles and clothing that can often be taken for granted when we buy them from a store. Through this project, teens have also had a chance to engage with anatomy and by focusing on something as small as a vole (related to mice), recognize the immense value of everything in the more-than-human community. We are so grateful for the vole whose death has created opportunity for learning and growth.
January 13, 2023
This week we got back into the groove of things by reorienting ourselves to the spaces, agreements, games and wilderness skills that make the Pine experience and community so magical. Here are a few highlights:
🔥 At one of our school programs, every single student was able to make a fire that was so well-built, they were able to monitor them without touching or adjusting anything for a full 5 minutes! In addition to putting our fire building and safety skills to work, it was a great lesson in practicing foresight, anticipating outcomes, and observing with patience.
👂🏼 Our Adventure Out Ravens group challenged themselves with tying knots and setting up tarps…blind-folded! Guided by their peers, this practice helped empower senses that we don’t use as often as vision, and built trust between doer and instructor.
🐣 Many groups made pinecone bird feeders to support animals who are in survival mode as winter settles in.
🌊 One group of Foxes ended their day by doing a sit spot where they took time to think about something they’d like to leave behind in 2022, and something they want to bring forward to 2023. After finding something to symbolize what they would leave in the past, they sent it down the river on a piece of bark.
❄️ A group of Pine staff returned from a very special winter camping trip earlier this week. They had a chance to spend 3 days testing gear like wall tents, cozying up around fires , enjoy winter (there was snow!) in each others’ company, share knowledge, and swap stories near Bancroft. Did you know elk have been reintroduced to Ontario in that area!? A very special thanks to @cedar_ridge_camp for hosting us!
🎨 One Coyote Pup group made berry art! They were interested in plants so they followed their curiosity to investigate the properties of some, including the spiky teasel and the downy cattail. Nature inspires us to get artsy and honour its beauty.
As the weather gets cooler, we’re getting up to cool things too! Winter is a magical time to get outside and experience nature in a new way.
December 9, 2022
As programs wrap up for the season and we prepare to part ways until January, we’re taking time to reflect all the fun we’ve had this fall and how much we have to be grateful for!
🌿 This week, one of our Coyote Pups programs made wreaths out of natural materials we found in the park in time for the holidays
🌾 We had lots of fun playing with different materials in the parks!
🌲 Making conifer tea was an awesome experience – especially learning about the benefits and history of conifer tea (did you know that Indigenous peoples showed European settlers how to make tea from coniferous needles to cure them of scurvy?)
🦌 So many of our wildlife friends came to spend time with us – this season, we saw quite a few deer, heard tons of unique bird calls, saw salmon running in the Humber River, and helped a baby snapping turtle across the parking lot!
❄️ We spent some time in the snow, and came up with different ways to stay warm – bundling together, making fires by friction, and running around playing games
🪵 Some places in nature make perfect hideaways for humans, just like this log that one of our Coyote Pups could fit right into
We can’t wait to see what the winter season has in store for us! Surely lots more wonderful adventures and explorations.
November 30, 2022
How do you spend your weekends? We spend ours outside, wandering through the parks, finding nature mysteries, playing games and having fun with friends! In fact, the past couple of Weekend Wanderers gatherings have shared some especially exciting times together. They built a balancing structure, roasted some apples, the Foxes tracked a Coyote Pup up the ravine, sang songs, and explored the area with the freshly fallen snow, among other nature adventures.
November 25, 2022
How nice it is to spend time in all different types of weather this week! We had an adventure-packed week, and our West end Weekend Wanderers programs ran last weekend too! Here’s a few things that we got up to:
☃️ At Eastview on Monday, we made lots of different snow people, and with teamwork we made a super tall snow person!
🥄 Practiced coal-blowing spoons in our Monday Run Wild program, especially cool that the coals are so visible at night.
🪵 We made shelters and enjoyed doing our sit spots with the Monday foxes
🐢 We helped a baby snapping turtle out of the parking area at Kings Mill with the Wednesday Coyote Pups. There has been more than one sightings of smooshed turtles this week, so we hope this little one made it.
On Wednesday, we found a bird’s nest. We’ve been loving all the birds that have been in the area this week – red-tailed hawks, chickadees, robins, downy woodpeckers and nuthatches!
❄️ On Thursday, the Coyote Pups did some target practice with our snowballs! We also played “cold potato” and built a “snowpire” – which of course is a mixture of a snowman and a vampire!
November 18, 2022
What a week to be outside! This week we prepared for winter and welcomed the snow by:
🪵 Designing and building shelters
🥄 Coal burning spoons
❄️ Building, playing and experiencing SNOW! We also reflected on how nice it is to be surrounded by people who like winter and welcome the snow! Sharing gratitude can be an incredible way to change our perspective of challenging things.
🧵 Making sumac beads for necklaces and keychains
🐺 Working as a wolf pack to explore a hollow log in our den
🎶 Singing and jumping around in the cold, appreciating how it warmed our bodies and made us so happy – singing really is a survival skill!
November 10, 2022
Our Monday Coyote Pups had an especially exciting week! In just 3 short hours, they fit in a lot of fun. Together, they:
☀️ Spent time in the fall sun! (It fills us with so much warmth and happiness)
☕️ Made cedar tea (Packed with vitamin C and healing properties. We’re so grateful for what the land provides)
🌼 Practiced moving quietly through the goldenrods (When we’re quiet, we disturb less and see more!)
🌲 Identified conifer trees with the help of field guides (How many conifers have you met in your area!?)
🐇 Played games like Run Rabbit, Run (In this tag-based game, rabbits must avoid a hungry coyote. It’s incredible to get in the mind of animals to understand how they move, their needs, the challenges they face, and how they’re connected to others in their community)
November 4, 2022
The fall fun continues! From exploring to crafting to games, we had the best time together outside this week. Here’s some of what we got up to:
🧭 An Adventure Out Foxes group created an obstacle course with rope and helped each other navigate through it.
🌸 One group made willow rings, inspired by a Pine volunteer sharing that in her home of Latvia they have a midsummer tradition of making rings with summer wildflowers and throwing them up into oak or apple trees to try to catch them on a branch, believing the success of the throw predicts future happenings.
🦌 An Adventure Out Ravens group played with different kids of materials, making all kids of creative crafts from felted animals to leather bracelets.
🍁 A school group from Royal St. George’s College went searching for different kinds of leaves…and found 94!
🌊 An Oaks and Acorns parents and tots group read the book “Nibi is Water” by Joanne Robertson, which led to discussion about how Nibi (meaning “water” in Anishinaabemowin) takes so many interesting forms this time of year like dew and frost.
🎃 A Run Wild group carved gourds in celebration of Halloween!
🪶 Nature museum items sparked curiousity and inspired kids to activate their different senses.
October 28, 2022
What a beautiful fall week we’ve had! We are feeling so incredibly lucky to be able to spend time outside while the seasons are changing, the weather is pleasant, and the colours of the leaves are so vibrant. We had a very eventful week here at Pine – here’s what we got up to:
Went searching for leaves and found an intact bird’s nest – inside the nest we found baby bird bones!
💀 Came across some natural Halloween decorations
🍂 Found a big pile of leaves… or is there a person in there?
🪵 Enjoyed time carving in the sun
🐌 Made a home for our new friend “Sluggy” the Slug
🍁 Met the trees with our eyes closed, hearts open, and feeling the trunks with our hands
We’re having a blast outside this autumn! Excited for all the future adventures we will have this season.
October 21, 2022
We’re loving this wonderful autumn weather! Bundling up and spending time outside with the leaves and the squirrels has been so much fun. This week, we got up to lots of exciting things:
🏠Built a home for squirrels and baby birds – doormat included!
🍂Made lots and lots of leaf piles. Perfect for jumping!
☔️Figured out some creative ways to keep our feet dry
🍃Built a super cool mask made out of all natural materials
🪵Made friends along the way
We’re having so much fun outside as the leaves are changing colour and falling to the ground. Loving this season and everything that it brings!
October 17, 2022
Our Weekend Wanderers (East End) program kicked off this past weekend and what a great time we had! One of the foxes groups went for a wander to look for hazards and admire the beautiful fall colours. A few minutes into their walk, one participant came across a dragonfly on the ground that had passed. The group decided to make a rainbow out of leaves to lay the dragonfly to rest for a time (one participant drew it too!). Then, they buried the dragonfly, with a page from a notebook to write “Bye dragonfly” and another page for everyone in the group to sign their names for the dragonfly. Participants also had a chance to practice making cordage out of dried daylily leaves, experiment with different materials’ flammability (they found green materials don’t burn well because they contain water, dry garlic mustard is good tinder, and tiny sticks burn easier), and more! Outside is a wonderful way to spend a weekend.
October 14, 2022
We’re totally falling for fall 😍🍁 Surrounded by vibrant colours this week, we:
🏃🏿♂️Played games that got our blood pumping and taught us animal characteristics
☁️ Sat quietly and admired the sky
🐦 Journaled about birds we’d sighted
🍄 Checked out some awesome fall fungi
🌧️ Used the rainy day as a chance to practice setting up tarps and tying knots
🥄 Practiced peer mentoring and leadership by gathering for a big “crafternoon”, where different ages were welcomed to help each other make crafts
🧭 Talked about talking about the Carrying Place Trail while practicing navigation, and reflected on how Indigenous knowledge and routes continue to guide our travel today.
🐢 Were visited by some REALLY cool friends, including a biiggg turtle that some of us named Van Gogh (Did you catch that TMNT reference? Any ideas what kind of turtle Van Gogh might be?)
We’re so #grateful for the time we get to spend together as the seasons change.
October 7, 2022
Our first week of Outdoor School programs is finishing up today! We’ve been so lucky to have some great weather and it feels amazing to be back in the field! Our week has been filled with deer sightings, tracking fur and scat, finding feathers, playing games and simply enjoying reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones under gorgeous skies. We also spent a lot of time watching the water – witnessing the salmon running upstream in the west end, and reminding ourselves of the rivers’ names before they were called the Don and Humber Rivers — Wonscotonach (Burning Bright Point) and Niwa’ah Onega’gaih’ih (Little Thundering Waters) in Anishinaabemowin. What a week!