Dogwood Digest

Hello friends!

Welcome to the Dogwood Digest!

Here at Dogwood Forest every week is full of learning, exploring, creating, and playing. We started the Dogwood Digest (as an email) to let our forest school families know what we got up to each week. It got us thinking... maybe the rest of our community would be interested in reading about what we do too! So here we are! At the end of each week we will post our most recent adventures right here! We hope you enjoy :)

Week 9 (Nov 14 - Nov 20, 2022)

Move over Fall, Winter is here, and we are ready for it! Although it is not officially winter yet, we had our very first snowfall of the season and it was so exciting. The ground was completely covered with snow - enough for snowmen and snowball fights - we had the neck warmers we made last week and extra layers as well as some warm up strategies, so we were toasty warm, and we have been working on our fire building skills all season long so we made sure to always have a fire ready for us.

This week was all about using our imaginations, storytelling, and sticks. We read “Stickman” and “Not a Stick” to kickstart our imaginations. From that point on, sticks became the adventure for the rest of the day, imagining them to be anything but just a stick. On paper we took small sticks, and drew them into elaborate images of dragons, birds, flowers and so much more! In the forest we used sticks to create villages, cafes, and forts. We found endless amounts of “not-a-sticks” on our hikes, using them as canes, telescopes, lumberjack axes and even bird wings! Up at the Den, we acted out characters from our stick villages through life as a stick person, and down at the Nest we played Stickarades (Stick Charades), choosing sticks of various shapes and sizes as our props and guessing what they could be. We can’t forget about the snow! It provided a fun start to our mornings, where snowballs and small structures were made, and as you walk through Dogwood you may or may not find a few new snowmen hanging around. The snow provided us with a great opportunity for animal tracking where we learned that our quiet forest isn’t so quiet after all - lots of squirrels and rabbits, but even large deer, coyotes, and a turkey roost!

The Rangers began preparations for their final activity with the sprouts. They will be leading activities involving animal tracking so this week they learned all about animal signs and animal tracks. They mapped out the location of various signs in the forest, learning that our marsh trail is an animal highway, and played Sardines - a hiding game where one person hides, and everyone has to find them using their new tracking knowledge. The snow couldn’t have come at a better time for this!

Roots and Shoots also used their imaginations to play with Winter Gnomes! We began our morning searching for gnome hats in the forest and then made our own gnome sculptures with the snow. We hiked through the forest, working on our agility now that we have more layers on to stay warm! Some friendly chickadees and nuthatches even followed us all along our way, so bird feeding was a magical experience. Scooter gave us each a wooden gnome and we added a scarf and built it a home in the forest. Finally, we played games like Gnome Says to keep our bodies moving and warm!

On Friday we welcomed children to Dogwood for one of our PA Day Programs and it was an incredibly fun day! We played freeze tag (appropriately named for the weather), where we had to use each other's names to be unfrozen, and went on a long hike ending in the cedar forest where we were able to follow coyote and deer tracks through the snow, feed the birds right off of our heads and use sticks and branches to create forts and huge animal homes. In the afternoon, our free play allowed us time to climb and play at the mud kitchen where we created dishes involving snow! We created a teepee fort which was our cafe and had an amazing talent show where we signed up to showcase our very own special talents - including singing, hula-hooping and even surfing!

SNOW much happened this week, there is no possible way to fit it all into one short newsletter, so make sure to ask your forest schoolers about what their favourite parts of the day were. We had so much fun and we know that next week will only be better. See you all again very soon!

Week 8 (Nov 7 - Nov 13, 2022)

Despite the warmer than normal November we’ve been having, the weather is finally beginning to show signs of change. Our daily temperatures have dropped, the birds are more active than ever collecting seeds for the winter ahead, and like chipmunks who go into hibernation or geese who migrate, we stopped seeing some animals altogether. Mother Nature couldn’t have given us a better opportunity to talk about animal adaptations, which just so happened to be this week’s focus.

Our games-with-aims helped us learn all about animal adaptations this week. Adaptations are changes animals have made over time to help them survive in their environments. For example, mammals who stick around during winter tend to get a thicker fur coat for warmth and lighter coloured coat for camouflage - a physical adaptation - whereas animals who don’t like the cold will hibernate or even migrate - a behavioural adaptation. The game “Fire Keeper” opened up a discussion about how animals adapt to having limited senses, and the game “Who Am I” led us to really think about every detail of an animal - including where they live and what they eat, and how those factors play a role in what they look like and how they behave. In the afternoon we talked about how humans must adapt to our changing environment as well. We adapt to the winter by wearing thicker layers to stay warm, so we decided to create neck warmers! We chose our favourite colour of fleece, used scissors and our knot tying skills until we created our very own winter adaptation! We ended our day with one final game - the Bird Beak Game. This game allowed us to explore how birds have different shapes and sizes of beaks based on the food that they eat. For example - ducks have bills that allow them to filter out water when eating fish, and woodpeckers have long skinny beaks which allow them to drill holes in bark to get to insects. As we played, we adapted our “beaks” which allowed us to collect food easier. Many other things happened at Dogwood. Down at the Nest we started our Weather Journal and helped Mama Bear prepare juniper, sage and lavender for the winter, while up at the Den we hypothesized which leaves were crunchier and why, started woodworking projects and built a spiderweb at the play structure.

It was the Ranger’s week to lead the sprouts in an activity. Since this week was all about animal adaptations, we began with a read aloud of When Winter Comes and talked all about how animals and plants prepare for winter, and what changes they have to make in order to survive in their environments. Every Sprout had a Ranger buddy and together we cut and knotted until we created our own neck warmers! Later on, we learned how to use and maneuver scoops to catch and throw a ball - we even created 2 different games this way. We also worked on our build projects and made major headway towards their completion.

Roots and Shoots explored birds this week! We searched for woodpecker homes in trees, fed the chickadees and nuthatches at the pond, heard a story about a bird and her lost song, and hiked new trails along cedar west and through the boardwalk. We even had some nuthatches follow us all along the way

The Wilderness Wolves were back this week for their final Fall session. We explored how to build and start fires based on weather conditions and materials available. We learned the importance of various fire structures like the lean-to, teepee, and log cabin, and had success lighting our own fires with matches! We even tried our hand at using flint and steel. Together at the mud kitchen, we used our imaginations and prepared “Wood Beef” dinner, served with an assortment of herbs and spices - yum! But what is a day at forest school without feeding the birds! We watched a bird as it used a tree cavity to store seeds it had collected.

We’re never not busy here at Forest School, but we always find time to stop and appreciate our surroundings and we hope that you can too. Don’t forget to add some layers “to adapt” for next week as we are expecting snow and rain. See you all again soon!

Week 7 (Oct 31 - Nov 6, 2022)

A new week has come and gone here at Dogwood Forest, and can you believe it is November already!? The forest is constantly changing - the bright and colourful treetops are now bare and browning, but here at forest school we see that as a good thing. Now, the sunlight can peek through the trees to warm the forest floor, making those cool mornings feel a little warmer. We also know the leaf litter will be awesome nutrients for plants and trees and provide insulation for little forest animals.

This week at forest school our focus was mapping and orienteering. We took a tiered approach to our learning. Stage 1 was creating a map as a whole class - we talked about the fact that maps are jam packed with all kinds of information and can be used for many purposes. We mapped out our space, making sure to include a title, directional arrows, a legend, and key features represented by shapes and symbols. We talked about where we are in relation to other things, and the difference between saying “right and left” versus, “east and west”. Stage 2 was creating our own maps - we mapped out spaces we already knew like our rooms, our backyards, our cottages, etc., as well as imaginary lands, all while including those important features. Stage 3 happened in the afternoon in the form of a scavenger hunt! Taking everything we learned and practiced all morning, we split into groups. Each group received a map with numbers and a secret message that needed to be decoded. We raced to each location, then raced back to decode and the winning team got to choose our final game of the day. Up at the Den, we added to the play structure by planning, designing, and constructing to create a hammock, shelter, and spider’s web/swing. We continued our conversations about empathy by writing positive messages to be added to our positivity box. The whittling wolves began creating gnomes, and redesigned the gnome village by creating miniature homes, fire circles, beds, fences, and trails. Down at the Nest we improved our mud kitchen to include stumps, which would allow all forest schoolers to reach the table regardless of height. We wrapped the handles of our mallets to help with storage and grip in the chuck hut and while we were training the birds to land on our heads, we watched as Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches fought for space in the tree, realizing that nuthatches are very territorial.

The Rangers worked on preparing their lesson for the next week. They learned how to make no-sew buffs (neck warmers) with fleece, determined how their lesson would go, what they would talk about, challenges that may arise, and pre-cut the fleece for the other forest schoolers to use. Our co-op nursing students also presented a lesson about communication - the group talked about verbal vs non-verbal communication and participated in activities which challenged and built on their own personal communication skills.

Roots and Shoots explored spiders! They made a big web out of ropes and then had to navigate their way through without getting stuck. Then, using pinecones and pipe cleaners, they created their own creepy crawly spiders. The spiders continued on their hike, stopping for a quick game of “who frightened Miss Muffet (Scooter)” in a new location called Fox’s Forest and ended in the Cedar Forest, where they made their own webs out of sticks and yarn and played in the forts that the bigger kids had built. They had lots of fun using their spidey-senses this week!

Our in-school programs with DCDSB have officially kicked-off this week for the 2022-2023 school year! Our facilitators will be going to schools to run outdoor programs in the schoolyard with the goal of supporting educators and students in taking their learning outside on a regular basis.

Lastly, thanks to generous donations of pots and pans from our Dogwood families, the mud kitchen at the Nest site is officially up and running (and already very well loved)! This week it has been a kitchen, a cafe, a store and even somewhere to hone our cake decorating skills!

We are looking forward to seeing you all again next week for another chance to explore, learn, create, and play!

Week 6 (Oct 24 - 30, 2022)

As leaves change from vibrant hues of reds and oranges high in the trees, to bright yellows and shades of brown, we found that now there are more leaves on the ground than there are on the trees. The thinning tree canopies helped us appreciate the sunny days and warmer weather Mother Nature provided for us this week. So, in true forest school fashion, we took Mother Nature’s cues, and this week was all about leaves!

We started our days working together on community jobs; we chopped wood, started fires, fed the birds, and even began 2 new jobs - weather wombats, who collected and presented weather data, and bark barks, who collected bark to help start our fires. With the PA Day on Monday, we had some extra friends drop in to spend the day with us. It was awesome to see our forest schoolers teach our new friends how to chop wood, feed birds and play! They even got a chance to watch a pileated woodpecker fly from tree to tree. Then we read some books to inspire our inquiries about leaves. Down at the Nest we read the book “Leaf Man”, where we followed the main character as he blew in the wind, and saw images created using only leaves. This allowed us to identify various leaves and creatively imagine leaves in different ways. Up at the Den we read “Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” which helped us think about why leaves fall and opened discussion about empathy and kindness. The Seeds and Sprouts built on the idea of empathy and set goals and strategies to help ourselves and our friends feel happy, calm and excited throughout that day at forest school. On our morning hike we went on a leaf hunt, collecting leaves based on their types, colours, size, and shape, stopping for multicoloured and tie dye leaves, figuring out which tree they came from and marveling at how unique each one was. We worked together to build huge leaf piles, not hesitating to jump in them and covered ourselves entirely until not even a toe could be seen - the ultimate autumn camouflage. In the afternoon we used the leaves we collected to create. We sorted, cut, and glued until we created something new out of leaves! We even practiced finding symmetry in leaves and making imprints to keep in our folders. We ended our days playing a game about squirrels and foxes. We talked about how leaves have many uses in nature, one being insulation, which animals like squirrels and foxes use for their homes. We took turns collecting “leaves” and tagging each other, in order to build up our homes for the winter.

Tuesday’s Foxes learned to use tools safely and effectively like peelers and knives throughout the day to create a nature pen. Thanks to Clover, students had the opportunity to work on removing sunflower seeds from the flower and feed them right to our feathered friends. We learned all about foraging, finding buckthorn berries, grapevine, and mint on the property. From there, we made a wreath, took home some mint tea bags and most of all mashed, boiled and filtered our buckthorn berries to create ink for our journal entry using our pens. The Foxes were physically active and imaginative in their activity and play and even held a talent show.

The Rangers learned about animal adaptations. They played games exploring an animal's heightened sense of hearing when their other senses are muted, as well as learned that a Blue tailed Skink’s ability to lose its tail is a form of defense. In the Teepee they talked about both physical and behavioural adaptations, did some research, and created posters presenting different animals and their adaptation.

Roots and Shoots explored pumpkins! They spent time in mushroom valley searching for pumpkins, playing pumpkin bowling, and balancing on logs over pumpkins. They especially loved playing as chefs in the mud kitchen, making all kinds of pumpkin, leaf, and mud food combinations!

It was a colourful and energetic week here at Dogwood Forest and we are looking forward to what our first week of November has in store!

Week 5 (Oct 17 - 23, 2022)

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the forest schoolers are exploring! While it continued to rain on and off again this week, Mother Nature brought us colder temperatures, so it was important that we stayed dry and warm. That meant daily warm fires, more layers and spending more time in the teepee (not complaining).

This week we put our survival hats on! We became experts at knots, learning how to do the overhand knot and the girth hitch. Down at the Nest we had knot relay races to challenge our friends, challenged ourselves by closing our eyes, and by the time we were able to tie a knot behind our backs, we knew we had mastered it. Up at the Den we practiced tying knots on trees, lugged around logs with our girth hitch and even built a teepee by lashing 3 logs together and using a tarp as rain shelter. On our hikes we played games that explored different animal strategies for survival. We played “Checkpoint” and “Fox and Squirrel”, as a way to explore a predator’s ability to stalk and hide when trying to capture its prey, and a prey’s ability to see and hear when they are in danger. We also had the opportunity to paint our clay creations from last week and finally take them home. There were many other exciting things that happened this week! The Monday Seeds worked as “leaf lemurs” with Mama Bear to collect, dump and spread leaves at the base of trees and all around the Den site, while the Sprouts down at the Nest worked as “Straw Squirrels” to spread leaves and straw on the trail leading into the site. With all the traffic in and out of the forest and the rain, the trail was beginning to get muddy and slippery - our efforts immediately helped create a better trail and will prevent ice build up once the colder weather comes. The Wednesday Sprouts also loved getting their grill on and enjoyed being campfire cooks during lunch – they cooked their pizza, hotdogs, and grilled cheese! On Thursday, the Seeds began our weather wombat journal and discussed how we can measure temperature and wind. We worked as “stacking stags” to stack chopped wood by passing it to the person beside us and worked on our communication to let our teammates know whether it was a light or heavy log.

The Rangers had a big week too! For the last few weeks, they have been preparing and practicing their leadership skills and program planning. This week they put all their hard work and planning into action. They lead not one, but TWO activities with the Sprouts. In the morning they led the game Predator-Prey and taught about animal diets and needs. In the afternoon they taught how to create boats out of Bristol board and string. They discussed how traditionally these would be made from birch bark and showed which knots would work best. We are so proud of how far our Rangers have come.

The Roots and Shoots program explored fall colours with leaves! They collected all kinds of leaves along their hike to High Point where they made pictures and patterns with the leaves, then chose a shape to make a stick frame around the picture. They practiced their focus and fine motor skills to pick off the dried kernels on corn cobs to leave a snack for the squirrels in the forest. It was a lot of fun throwing the leaves up above their heads to have them rain down.

Finally, we held our first “Roots” adult program on Sunday for a group of 10 with Mosquito & Doe leading the activities. We learned about some leaf identification and whittling “how to”, hiked through the forest, stopped to play some games (a reminder that we’re never too old!), fed the chickadees, whittled some roasting sticks, and ended our time at the fire using our new sticks to roast a tasty snack. It was a fun experience, and we look forward to the next one!

Looking ahead to this upcoming week, we are expecting sunny and warm weather - a nice break from the chill and the rain! We are excited to see what our fall forest has in store for us this week!

Week 4 (Oct 10 - 14, 2022)

As October pushes on, we begin to see the rainier and windier side of Fall, and with that, more leaves on the ground. Despite the gray, rain-filled skies, the forest floor now matches the vibrant yellows and oranges up in the trees.

This week our Forest Schoolers were seed scavenger hunters - we collected, counted, and sorted through a variety of seeds found in our very own forest! We imagined what could be inside of a seed, and even cracked a few open to see if our theories were correct! We talked about the different seeds we found and asked questions about the way they looked. We noticed that some had similar features - like the hard shells of walnuts or acorns, or the fluffy feathers of milkweed or dandelions - and learned that a seed's appearance has a lot to do with how it travels. We put our imagination caps on as we read about Miss Maple and her journey to gather and take care of seeds and talked about how seeds travel in a book called A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds. We discovered that some seeds get carried by wind or water, while others hitchhike on the fur of animals or socks of humans! Some seeds get forgotten by squirrels who hide acorns for a later date, while others - especially those inside of fruits - go through the digestion process of animals and end up in a place far away from where it started. Down at the nest we spent some time in the Teepee, especially on those rainy days. We read books, had mindful moments listening to the rain on the canvas, and when a lone milkweed seed accidentally made its way towards the fire, we saw how it got swept up towards the top of the teepee and concluded that heat must rise. Up at the Den, the heavy rain gave us the opportunity to see how many buckets we could fill with rainwater, and we played an epic game of “capture the seeds” in the forest. Wednesday forest schoolers rebuilt the fence boundary lines and smashed and processed a huge amount of clay. It appears what started as a small project has become an ongoing activity. In the afternoon we planted our own garlic seeds around the apple trees to help prevent pests and covered them with straw to help them survive the winter. We used the clay that we harvested and processed and used our imagination to create! Next week, if our creations are dry, we hope to paint them and take them home.

Our Rangers were reminded of the game Nukem this week. A game like volleyball, except instead of “volleying” and “bumping” the ball, you have to pass and catch the ball at least 3 times before sending it to the other side. It was a great way to build on skills and self confidence and allowed our Rangers to grow stronger as a team. Next week, the Rangers will be leading the Sprouts in an activity, so to prepare themselves, they first needed to play the game themselves. As they played, they thought about what adjustments they would make so that their lesson and activity would reach their audience better, and spent much of the afternoon brainstorming, planning, and preparing.

At Roots & Shoots, we explored our senses! We went on a raccoon hunt, using our sense of touch to feel soft moss and rough bark. We used our sense of hearing to find a hiding Mosquito in the forest and tested out our sense of smell and taste during snack when the “shoots” had to guess which food their “root” was giving them to eat. Of course, we used our sense of sight to take in the beautiful fall colours all around us and once again found enjoyment splashing and playing in the creek!

On Friday, we hosted a field trip for the Grade 9 students at Pickering College. As part of their Global Leadership Program, the students are learning about sustainable design so that they can design an outdoor education space for their own school. The students toured Dogwood Forest, learning, and engaging in activities about how structures were built, types of materials that were used, and how we try to minimize our impact on the environment, all with the goal of promoting sustainability. In true Dogwood fashion, there was an opportunity to explore, learn, and play and we had a great time working with the Grade 9 students!

Although it was a short week, there was not a shortage of things to do. We look forward to another beautiful fall week in the forest!

Week 3 (October 3 - 7, 2022)

What a week to be outside! The trees are beginning to turn vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow, and signs of fall are everywhere! Just like humans, the animals are also beginning their seasonal transition. We have been noticing many more feathers on the ground, indicating that birds have begun molting in preparation for the colder months. This time of year is particularly confusing in terms of clothing - hats and mitts in the morning, but t-shirts by the afternoon. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. You never know what fall will bring!

This week we tuned in to our 5 senses to explore the forest even further. One by one, we “supercharged” our senses. We played Fire Keeper, where one person stands in the middle of the circle blindfolded, using their keen sense of hearing to pinpoint when someone is trying to steal their sticks. You’d be surprised at how precisely you can hear while not being able to see. For our sense of smell, we channeled our inner bears, wolves, and elephants! On a piece of brown felt (for better camouflage), we placed a few drops of essential oils, and even pickle juice - and hid them in the forest. Then, we used our noses to sniff out where they were hiding. Our sense of sight and observation was challenged through our observation station. A small section of the forest was roped off and a few items were placed strategically inside. After having a minute to take in as many details as possible, everyone was asked to turn away while the facilitator made a few small changes. When everyone was asked to return, we called out different changes that we noticed. Our final sensory activity incorporated all 5! We closed our eyes and visualized sounds, tastes, and smells, and used oil pastels to abstractly draw out what they looked like. We find that often, our senses lead to feelings which manifest in our brains as colours, shapes, patterns, or even memories. For example - when we smelled peppermint, many drew red, green, swirls or even snowflakes! Some tips we learned for improving our senses, such as: 1. blocking out one sense tells your brain to focus more on your other senses, and 2. Practice! The more you practice intentionally tuning into your senses, the more you will notice, connect, and appreciate everything going on around you. As busy as this all seemed, there was even more going on! We chopped and stacked wood to prepare for the colder months, added Feeder Flock to our growing list of community jobs, enjoyed the new features on our climbing structure up at the Den, and built new forts!

Our Rangers discussed different tools that were invented based on a need and how they evolved to what we know them as today. They also became inventors and began an ongoing project that will last the next couple of weeks. They established a need at Dogwood and brainstormed ideas to invent a solution. So far, we are looking at building a drying rack for wet winter clothing and a “wood taxi” to shuttle wood from the shed to the fire pit. In the afternoon they harvested birchbark from fallen trees, wore it as clothing, made different shapes, and created birch bark canoes.

Roots and Shoots celebrated the harvest! They searched for vegetables, like onions, garlic, squash, and carrots in the forest that Doe had strategically hidden; then they sorted and counted them and made “soup”. They explored the forest and the garden, and especially loved feeding the chickadees and finding hidden birch bark hearts along the way (thanks Rangers!).

Wilderness Wolves, the newest 4-session program where students specifically focus on developing wilderness survival skills, met for their first session this past Tuesday. They were power hikers, learning how to follow trails with tree markers, and enjoyed learning how to tie specific knots and then use those skills to build shelters. They also learned about sustainable harvesting of herbs and even made spearmint tea!

One final note, we have some exciting news! We are officially announcing “Roots” - our first ever forest school program for ADULTS! The first program will begin on Sunday October 23, from 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, where we will go through a typical forest school day - exploring, learning, playing, creating, and even cooking! For more details and how to register, visit our website. We are so excited to be able to finally offer this highly requested program.

It was a busy week here at Dogwood and we’re sure your child has more stories of their own from the week! A reminder that we do not have programs this Thanksgiving Monday, October 10th and we wish families an enjoyable long fall weekend with your family and friends!

Week 2 (Sept. 26 – 30, 2022)

Fall is here and it’s not waiting for anyone to catch up! Week 2 started off with rain. Mornings were cooler and damp, but by the afternoon the chill had subsided, and our hats had come off!

This week our Seeds, Sprouts & Saplings focused on building their hatchet and knife skills, as well as exploring soil. Now, we know what you’re thinking - “Soil? Really? What’s so interesting about dirt?”. Turns out, a lot! And as one forest schooler taught us, “dirt” is not the same thing as “soil”. Our soil is a combination of sand, silt and clay - each classified by their texture and size. Together, we were able to feel and describe these three types of soil and determine which particles are bigger, heavier, and most likely to sink. In the same way there are “Little Miss” characters, we created our own characters that represented the 3 different types of soil and their sizes. For example, there was Mrs.SANDwich, Little Mr. Fun Silt, and Little Miss Swimmer (because clay particles stay suspended in water for longer). We continued our soil exploration by becoming miners! We mined for clay, pulverizing it, then sifting it until we got the perfect consistency. By next week we should have perfectly smooth clay, ready for creating! (A fun way to understand the process of extracting resources and turning it into a usable product!)

We were also introduced to one of our community jobs this week as well - Woodchuck, and that was a hit (no pun intended). We learned how to safely and effectively chop wood using the hatchet-mallet method, and then how to chop smaller pieces of wood for kindling and tinder using the knife-mallet method. But wait… there’s more! We explored fire building led by the Rangers, different types of fall flowers, created mandala art using fall-coloured leaves, played in muddy water and spent time building forts! Our week was definitely a busy one, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Wednesday, our Rangers were able to reconnect to themselves, thanks to a wonderful lesson on mental health and wellness led by our co-op nursing students who are with us for the Fall term. We talked about the basics of wellness, what that looks like for us personally, as well as coping strategies to implement in our everyday lives that can help us feel confident and ready to take on any challenge. In the afternoon they brushed up on their leadership skills. They created, practiced, and led a program teaching the Sprouts all about fire building. It was a very successful lesson, and through conversation and reflection after the fact, it became obvious that our role model Rangers felt a lot more confident than they were going into it. It was such a fun afternoon that ended up with everyone - Rangers, Sprouts AND facilitators included - playing and climbing on the brand-new play structure.

This week our Roots and Shoots program explored a new creek in Mushroom Valley with their little duckies and loved getting their boots stuck in the mud. They played a game where they took turns being a cheeky fox named Swiper, who hid the duckies from Scooter. It was then up to her to figure out who Swiper was!

We learned, played, explored, and created. We connected and reconnected to our friends, to our environment and to ourselves. This week was so full, and we are all so happy to be able to share it together. Looking ahead to the next few weeks, we will be creating pine pitch glue. If anyone happens to be spending some time in nature and can collect pine sap from an oozing pine tree into a tin can, we would be greatly appreciative - not to mention a fun exploration activity to do with the family! See you all again next week where we will be exploring our five senses.

Week 1 (Sept. 19 – 23, 2022)

A BIG welcome to all Dogwood families, returning and new! It’s a new school year here at Dogwood and we are so excited to be back in the forest with everyone! Over the summer we have made some exciting additions to our space; the new play structure at the Den has been a huge hit, and the marsh trail now allows us to hike through a variety of different landscapes where we get to explore new areas of the property. This week we also held our first ever Open House where families were able to hike the trails, connect with others and the space and meet our awesome team of facilitators: Mosquito, Doe, Otter, Pine, Owl, Pollywog, Dragonfly, Clover, and Scooter.

This first week of forest school saw so much excitement! We said goodbye to summer and hello to fall. The weather, however, was not so sure of itself. It was sunny when it called for rain, and rainy when it called for clear skies. It was 30 degrees one day and 6 degrees the next. Moral of the story: pack layers and expect the unexpected. We spent this week getting to know each other and the space. On our hikes we hunted for mushrooms and were pleased to find all shapes, sizes, and colours! We must have searched every corner of mushroom valley for the most unique mushrooms. On Monday we found a salamander under a log and on Wednesday we found a baby salamander in the same spot! Up at the Den we played and explored, climbing the new play structure, swinging and testing our physical abilities. We found beechdrop, baked mudpies over the fire and even started a new rock band with original songs and lyrics. Down at the Nest the chickadees were not shy. It seemed as though they, too, were excited that Forest school was back in session. We built forts, made mud people, spent time in the teepee during rainstorms and practiced teamwork through games. On Thursday we even got to help Mama Bear and Mosquito harvest vegetables from the garden before the first frost of the season sets in. This week we also worked on building their folders, where all of our forest findings and projects will go. We took time in a sit spot to find and meet a tree, sketching what it looks like and noting small details. Our intention is to return to that same sit spot each week and observe any changes that autumn will inevitably bring.

Our leadership-based Rangers program on Wednesday began once again and it was as if there was no time apart at all. We discussed our earth, its atmosphere, and our carbon footprint. We spent time discussing current issues regarding our carbon impact and ways of remedying them. We became innovators, engineers, and politicians, and set personal goals to reduce our carbon footprint by the end of the term. We also planned an activity for next week’s sprouts group, where we will be able to demonstrate and practice our leadership skills. Stay tuned for what we are teaching them!

Our Roots and Shoots program returned again this year, happening twice a week on Monday and Thursday with Scooter and Doe! This week they explored the forest for signs of squirrels, learned what squirrels need (leaves & sticks for nests, water & food), and planted acorns. Playing at the creek was definitely a favourite activity!

Our once-a-month Fox’s program on Tuesdays met this week to enjoy the first week of Fall, and in true fall-harvest fashion, they learned about selective harvesting. They built a home with a tile floor and served up mud icing cake. They practiced their saw skills, had a talent show, and took time to journal.

We had our first Fall PA Day program on Friday as well! The groups went on a leaf hunt, creating their own collection of various shapes, sizes, and colours and worked on leaf rubbings. They also learned about and built their own mini fire pits in the forts that they built together.

Finally, on Saturday we welcomed the Port Perry Run Club and Running Waters Club to Dogwood Forest – they took part in a trail run/hike, a short forest meditation, and had the opportunity to network with the community. It was an awesome opportunity to connect with nature and friends!

Needless to say, it was a very busy week at Dogwood and we are all so happy and excited to be back. As fall pushes forward and the weather becomes cooler, please remember that layers (including waterproof ones) are your best friends. It’s better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it. See you all next week, ready for some more forest adventures!