nature play, Partnership Highlights, programs

New Nature Club in East Point

We are so happy to announce a new partnership with the City of East Point Parks and Recreation Department to bring a Nature Club to children in their after school program. Some partnerships are just “made in heaven” and with a little help from a nature loving mom, Jasmine Crisp, with her own organization (The Love for Animals Outreach) who made this introduction we’re off to a great start!

We visited the Jefferson Park Recreation Center in late July for a nature play session and had a great time getting to know new friends as we talked about everything from nature at their homes, to clouds, to animals, to food! The like-minded dreamers who plan this program saw potential in getting these city kids outdoors and teaching them that there is nature all around them even in the city. Serving close to 60 children ages 6 to 8, Sparrow’s Nest Play has greatly expanded not only our program hours but our reach with this one program offering.

We are planning four hours of programming a week on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays and the possibilities are endless! They have a wonderful interior courtyard that could be perfect for gardening and raised beds. I can already see a pollinator garden and vegetables growing with kids tending them as they learn where their food comes from and how to grow it. The front of the property, while it faces a fairly busy parkway is completely fenced in and shielded by overgrowth that runs along a drainage culvert. There are fruit trees growing on the hill and birds in the brush, along with evidence of rabbits and other wildlife that visit to feed in this little urban Eden.

With access to the city’s many parks, paths and new Nature Trail, we’ve got the makings of a first class Nature Club. Our sessions begin in September and run through November, with plans to extend this Nature Club into the winter beginning again in January through Spring! Now more than ever, your donations will make a lasting difference in the life of a child as they come to know the wonder of nature! Look for more details to come about Special Projects and Sponsorships for this promising program in a great community!

events, nature play, programs

Come Meet Us

Pop Up Event February 12th at Rooted Trading Company from 11am - 4pm

We’re thrilled to be partnering with our friends at Rooted Trading Company for our very first Pop-Up Event on Saturday, February 12th from 11am to 4pm. Our goal is to recreate a mini Sparrow’s Nest Play experience so families can learn about us and try us out before making a commitment to our afternoon enrichment program, Nature Play Adventures, beginning in March at Powder Springs Park. Here is what you can look forward to…

For Parents:

  • This is a great chance to meet our staff and ask questions about our program.
  • Watch your children interact with our staff and the kind of play we practice each day.
  • Pick up articles and information about the benefits of nature play and time spent outdoors for children.
  • Cash in on discounts on our annual Registration Fee!

For Kids:

  • Play in our fort with our “campfire,” small world play, and other nature toys.
  • Enjoy looking through our books about nature and the great outdoors.
  • Make a fun nature craft to take home while making new friends!

Similar events are also planned for March and April, so if you don’t catch us in February you can watch our Facebook and Instgram for announcements about upcoming events.

programs

January at Nature Play Adventures

We are more than a little excited to be gearing up for our Nature Play Adventures program which will begin in January at Powder Springs Park. Here is a short preview of what our forest friends will be discovering through play and projects…

Birds in Winter

A fun part of getting to know “our forest” will be cataloging the birds that we observe there. We’ll begin identifying birds by sight and even by call for our running list of birds that live there. We’ll learn about their ideal habitats, as well as that they eat during the winter months. On our project list will be bird feeders – both for home and for “our forest.”

Winter Tree Study

We’ll also get to know our native plants and trees by mapping our forest. It’ll be a little tougher without the leaves to help us identify them, but it’ll be a lot of fun to see if our deductions based on bark and other observations were correct in the Spring when leaves come out! We’ll take some sticks and twigs from our favorites and do some nature weaving this week.

The Winter Sky

Noticing the signs of the seasons will become a daily part of our rhythm, so we’ll begin by taking note of times of sunrise and sunset each day. We’ll review each season’s solstice or eqinox and learn how this affects the length of our days and temperatures. Noting the small changes each day will sharpen our observation skills immeasurably. As we notice that we often have “wet” winters here in our region, we’ll make a rain gauge for our base camp.

The Moon

Building on our knowledge of weather and seasons, we’ll discuss the phases of the moon. We’ll research the Farmer’s Almanac for moon phases and learn about special moons like “Harvest” and “Blue” moons. We’ll be sure to have lots of books on hand about the moon and it’s phases.

Add to all of this a dash of Outdoor Safety Skills and the splash of ongoing fun that will be getting acquainted with “our forest” and you’ve got a recipe for adventure. Tell a friend about our program while there are still spots available! To register today go to our Registration Page.

environmental justice, nature play, programs

For Love of Place

I’ve spent much time during the last few years bemoaning “used to be” and what we don’t have. I have grieved for the political system we haven’t had, the compassion unspent and the justice unseen. It has been a topic of constant conversation in my home and with my loved ones. We have kept our eyes on the horizon longing for a sign of hope.

Through it all, I’ve lived in the same place – the same physical location. My son finished high school and began college here in this smallish suburb of metro Atlanta. It has a rich history with which I am still acquainting myself. While tensions ran high across our country and diversity seemed to bring tension and strife in many communities, our little town just “kept on.” For the most part, white, black, and brown folk continued to wave and say “How you ta’day” when they met in the local Mexican restaurant. We don’t know one another by name, but we’re familiar enough to know where we know one another from.

Jason and I like that about our town. We like that the diversity is something that is a part of being where we are physically located in our county and state. It is in harmony with our values, and with who we wanted our children to be when they became adults and had families of their own. We aren’t naive enough to think it always works out perfectly in our community, but we do sense an intentionality here. Our love of this place is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to invest our hearts here in the name of Sparrow’s Nest Play.

The past is our definition. We may strive with good reason to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it. But we will escape it only by adding something better to it.

Wendell Berry

Born of privilege, we realize we’ve had opportunities others have not enjoyed. The realization of those inequities has made it impossible for us to continue on as if we never knew about all people on the margins. Our identification with the autistic community and those who identify as “neuro-diverse” have awarded us opportunities to experience some of those margins ourselves.

COVID has only highlighted areas of drastic inequality. When many schools went to virtual learning, it wasn’t an issue for areas with wifi access or families with technology to support that kind of learning. For others, it was impossible. Some families saw this as an excellent opportunity to try out forest schooling and nature play as alternatives. However, these programs are often expensive and comparable to private school options. For families of lower income, this was not an option.

We realize many parents in our community are working extremely hard to provide for their children. This can often mean working a job and a half, which means utilizing an after school care program to assist with childcare. Sure they’d love to pick up their children right after school and let them go home and play outside in the fresh air, but that option is simply not open to them. For those families, the school after care program is the most cost-effective option, even if it does mean three additional hours each day inside a crowded school cafeteria.

Sparrow’s Nest Play wants to partner with families in our community to change the way children spend their afternoons. Using our town as an educational hub, we want to immerse our kids in nature and creation care every afternoon, engaging them in projects that will enrich their minds and build relationships.

Through a partnership with Rooted Trading Company and the City of Powder Springs, we will be bringing our Nature Play Adventures Program in Spring 2022. We’ll be starting small, with only room for 6 students – but we’ve always believed that it is the smallest of things that really make a difference.

Please consider helping us in our endeavor by sponsoring this program so that we can make it a cost friendly option for families in our community.

creation care, donate, nature play, programs

Sponsorships Change Lives

We’ve recently posted a series of articles about the Physical, Social-Emotional, and Cognitive benefits of exposure to nature. Without listing them all again, there is research-based evidence to support:

  • Extended time playing in nature creates the minds business leaders call “21st Century Leaders” creative thinkers, innovators, problem solvers and collaborators
  • Nature play promotes healthy bodies during a time in our history when childhood obesity is at an all time high
  • Place-based learning and care for the natural world create learners who are adaptable, compassionate and interconnected to their community

At Sparrow’s Nest Play, we are in the process of putting together our VERY FIRST DAY of Mini-Camp. This day of learning will expose children to nature play through crafts, den building, tracking, nature journaling, and outdoor safety lessons. But we need funding to help get things started. Listed below are some of the ways your donations will add to the experience for a child at a day of Mini-Camp.

Please consider introducing a child to the wonders of creation by sponsoring a child or activity. Donations of any amount help us further our mission at Sparrow’s Nest Play.

creation care, nature play, programs

What I Learned in Forest Teacher Training

A few weeks ago, I sat at my kitchen table with dear friends who have agreed to form my first board at Sparrow’s Nest Play and made a confession. I told them that as passionate as I was about nature play, creation care and just living, I didn’t have a clue what a session with children would actually look like. I had a bunch of disconnected thoughts, but no real cohesive plan for how to fit my philosophy into a construct that included daily schedules and a curriculum framework. While I wasn’t discouraged, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that it set off a bit of “imposter syndrome” for me, and I felt discouraged.

Forest Teacher Training from the Forest Teacher Training Institute has completely changed those feelings for me. I have left this 30 hour certification with everything I knew I was missing and so much more! If you are at all interested in the forest school movement – even if you are not sure where your passion might take you – I encourage you to investigate this course of study. Here is just a taste of what I have taken with me…

Community is at the heart of the nature play and forest school movement. I have spent many frustrated years in the “for profit” markets where all resources (access to philosophies, curriculum, and even people) were commodities to be purchased. I’ve always resisted this in favor of an approach that was based on sharing for the good of the greater community. Not only does the forest school movement generally reflect this spirit, the daily practices share the value of honoring the community of learners. (See my post on Kinship from my Forest Teacher Training Diary series.)

Daily Rhythms and Rituals have now replaced the space in my mind once occupied by the dreaded “Master Schedule.” After studying FLOW Learning, as well as the Waldorf philosophy of “inhale/exhale,” I have a totally different approach to organizing learning activities. The variety of ideas I have been exposed to helped me to create sample schedules for everything from a One-Hour Session for a learning center or daycare, to a Full-Day Session for a day of camp. I’ll be making my Teacher Training Portfolio available soon so you can see how Sparrow’s Nest Play will approach learning together.

Before my training, I was somewhat at loose ends when I considered how to approach curriculum. As non-commercialized as the forest school movement is, you can still find those willing to sell you complete curriculum with scope and sequence for your group. I was unsure if this was how I “had” to approach it. I learned that becoming co-learners with the children means that I will have the liberty to let the children show me their interests and build from there. Of course, this means having about 20 or so curriculum units “pre-planned” and organized seasonally so you can be prepared to capitalize on an encounter with nature. But the freedom this brought me immediately took so much stress from my lens of what curriculum had to be that I was immediately able to create a Seasonal Curriculum Framework. It will also be included in my portfolio.

And the delicate, random and fear-producing questions I had answered are just too numerous for me to write about, but here are a few:

  • It is okay to have multi-age groups?
  • Can I incorporate sustainable living and justice issues?
  • Can animals be a part of a nature play environment?
  • Will I really be able to keep the kids safe?
  • Are there ways to envelope families into the forest experience?
  • Can I do “forest school” in an urban area?
  • Will the ideas from forest school work if I want to start with an after school program?
  • Do I really know enough if I’m not a naturalist?

The answer to all of these lingering questions was “Yes!” Now my enthusiasm is brimming over and waking me up at all hours of the night.

I’m also humbled to say that I’ll be able to continue my certification to earn my Forest Director Certificate because of a generous scholarship. I am beyond thrilled to extend my learning to include topics like Site Development & Risk Evaluation, Developing Forest School Culture and Identity, Staff Development and Program Assessment, Marketing and Proposal Development, and a seminar in the Global Forest School Movement. The end product of this certification will be my own formal Proposal Presentation for Sparrow’s Nest Play.

For all of you who are following our journey at Sparrow’s Nest Play, I appreciate your comments and all the ways you are encouraging me to put forth the ideas of creation care, nature play and just living into the world. Please continue to follow our blog, as well as our social media on Facebook and Instagram to see where our journey takes us next.