We did it! We did winter Forest School! I was nervous about taking a group of kids and expecting them to be outside for hours in weather that we normally hustle through to avoid.
I was wrestling with my own hesitations around safety and the practicality of playing outside. Cold temperatures are not even the main road block to being outside for prolonged periods of time. It's all the logistics that go along with cold temperatures. The extra clothing, bathroom breaks, finding a time and place to eat, getting too hot, getting too cold and all the other fun things that come with whatever the snow brings.
The weather can be such a wild care. If the thermometer says it is cold (-20 to -30) you can generally prepare yourself. However, we have some very strange winter weather in these parts. There are days where the temperature at 10:00am is -19C (-22C with the windchill) and then -9C by 1:00. It can also go the other way and what seems like -12C in the morning can quickly turn to -25C by noon, especially with any kind of wind chill.
Wind chill is what we call it when the north, wintry wind blows into the weather and the temperature feels like it is much lower than the thermometer can record. We have also have Chinooks which are warm weather systems that come in over the mountains and create bubbles of warm temperatures. This can cause snow to melt and jackets to be tossed off to the side. The tricky part of these little weather bubbles is that the snow turns to ice and the ice turns to puddles of cold water. It is certainly easier and safer to go off into the forest during a Chinook, when the weather is colder or the wind chill is high we must stick closer to home and our warm shack.
While I had some fears about being outside for hours in the winter months I knew we needed to live through it in order to really know it. This is the heart of experiential learning! I must experience a thing to learn about a thing in a meaningful way.
So what kinds of things did I learn?
The birds start coming back in February.
Snow is everything. It is construction, it is imagination, it is magical thinking and it is adventure.
Socks will make or break your day.
There is water in unexpected places and as a general rule it's good to be prepared for wet AND cold.
Snow gear makes bathroom breaks painful.
We can actually spend 80%-100% of our day outside. At a certain point it becomes normal.
Art is difficult in snow gear unless you use snow as your medium and/or your canvas.
Snacking gets complicated.
Be prepared for a few different possibilities and then go with the weather, change as it changes and flow through the day like a river through ice.
Ice! Ice is magic too.
Winter makes lots of great noises and it can also wrap you up in quiet.
As I am writing this a flock of birds is landing in the trees outside. They know that winter is on it's way out. Being outside for the whole winter, through the deep cold, the wind, the snow, the blizzards and the sunshine has really given me a sense of anticipation for spring. I can't wait to see the snow melt away and the grass again. I'm excited to watch it happen and to learn more about how we do forest school here.