Letting Nature Take the Course: Finding Our Rhythm in Early Learning

By: Diane Kashin, Ed. D, RECE. It was in 2015 that the York Region Nature Collaborative offered the first Rhythm of Learning in Nature which is an opportunity for like-minded educators to come together to experience nature in dialogue with the Reggio Emilia Approach and influenced by forest school practices and Indigenous ways of knowing.  This year will mark the fifth time educators have found their rhythm in nature together with others. The first time we offered Rhythm along with a forest school camp on site at Swan Lake it was like a dream come true. This year another dream is realized as Rhythm will become a true ECE retreat! When we gathered in the past, in a mansion by a little kettle lake called Swan, surrounded by forest and trails, attendees from out of town had to find their own accommodation. This year we move across the street to Lake St. George, a bigger kettle lake, also surrounded by forest and trails but with the addition of overnight accommodation! This way when the day ends, we can still be together, in nature, with nature. We can have a campfire, we can paddle the lake and watch the stars in the night sky. From this satellite view below, you can see Lake St. George, unique in its lung-like formation. The red marker indicates the location of Swan Lake where our forest school camp will continue to take place. Rhythm attendees are welcome anytime during the week to walk over (it takes about 5 minutes) to spend time with the children in the forest school camp.

Both Swan Lake and Lake St. George are part of a kettle lake system that includes the much larger, Wilcox Lake, a wonderful location to watch the sunset after a day of nature-based early learning. In the past, Rhythm has been rich with attendees from all over Ontario, other provinces in Canada, the US, UK and even Australia. This year we are thrilled to welcome Niki Buchan from Australia! Niki will be coming to Rhythm to facilitate after presenting the keynote address at the 2nd Annual American Forest Kindergarten Conference! Niki will be sharing her knowledge about practical outdoor play in ways that support learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She has a wealth of experience with natural-based early learning! We will also be joined once again by Hopi Martin who shares the importance and significance of the Land as Our First Teacher and understands and will share the significance of the water that surrounds us.

Kettle lakes were formed by retreating glaciers. During the week that is Rhythm we will be able to explore all three lakes as well as the Oak Ridges Moraine which is known for its rolling hills, forests, meadows, wetlands, ponds, river valleys and lakes, which provide habitat for many plants and animals. It is the thickest piece of glacial material anywhere in Ontario, created about 13,000 years ago during the last ice age.

We will be inspired by all those who attend whether they be Rhythm returnees or first time Rhythm participants. Our goal for the week is to make deep connections and build relationships with each other and the land. We will heed the words of Loris Malaguzzi who reminds us that …

We are – and we must be convinced of this – inside an ecosystem: our earthly journey is a journey we make along with the environment, nature, the universe. Our organism, our morality, our culture, our knowledge, our feelings are connected with the environment, with the universe, with the world. And here we can find the spider web of our life. ~ Loris Malaguzzi

Spaces are limited for Rhythm of Learning in Nature so register early for an experience that will stay with you forever. This testimonial from one of our previous attendees, really tells the story of the week.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week at the Rhythm of Learning in Nature conference. I learned so much about teaching outdoors, and it reinforced my beliefs about the importance of having children connect with nature to promote learning and mental health. As we had all our instruction and activities outdoors, we practised what we preach, and it gave me the chance to reconnect with nature too. The facilitators were very knowledgeable, and my fellow attendees were able to add their experiences and expertise to our learning as well. The professional and personal connections, resources, laughter and support shared were a bonus to this truly educational and enlightening week. ~ Leslie

The Rhythm of Learning in Nature is a very special week of professional learning. In an emergent way it lets nature take the course as we find our rhythm of learning in nature. When you learn in nature and with nature, learning naturally results. Every year of Rhythm has been wonderful and memorable. #Rhythm2019 will continue that tradition. Hope you can join us!

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