A stroll through the garden becomes quite an adventure when you are 3. Throw in a magnifying glass and some rope and the world becomes a truly exciting place.
This morning we tied up the ponies and climbed into their paddock to have a look around. The children, each equipped with a magnifying glass, trudged around in the mud cautiously looking for clues: prints and droppings, nests and food. The piles of manure drew much attention, as usual, and soon several curious eyes are peering closely at the stuff.
Someone finds a hoof print in the mud and an ant hole with chains of ants carrying grains and seeds to store for the winter. They clamber over each other in their haste, causing the children to giggle at the funny sight.
Ripe acorns have dropped to the ground beneath an acorn bush; their little hats still attached to the trees. On Fridays, a biologist joins us and she answers all our questions that inevitably crop up, like why do acorns have hats? To protect the acorn, the delicate seed of the mighty oak tree. We also think about which animals like to eat acorns: squirrels, bears, birds, mice, ducks and of course Piglet. We stuff our pockets with acorns to plant them in the forest, on our way back to the hut. We also feed a few to our ducks and to the neighbour’s pigs on our daily rounds.
A bag is always on hand to pick up stray bits of rubbish that, unfortunately, are an inevitable part of the Greek landscape. A discarded coffee cup, the rubber sole of a shoe that the earth has churned out from a half- a-century- old landfill, bits of plastic floating on the breeze and the list goes on. The children’s attention is drawn to the importance of collecting our rubbish and we tell them “leave nothing but footprints”.
Soon we reach the end of the paddock and the edge of the wood, where there is a steep drop in the ground. We tie a rope to a tree and one of the teachers lets herself down slowly, as the children look on with interest. One by one, they slide down the short distance to the bottom of the slope, where we discover a cluster of trees that forms a protective nest. We weave a few more branches through and soon we have a shelter where the children huddle together to listen to a story. As winter approaches and the forest animals are preparing to hibernate, the story today is “Apple trouble!”; the tale of a hedgehog who, just as she finishes digging her nest for the winter, gets a ripe apple stuck on her spike and can no longer fit in her hole.
On the slippery climb up the children give each other a helping hand; friendships are consolidated and teamwork is initiated as they pull and push and support one another.
Filled with impressions from their morning stroll the children return to the hut to paint and make.