Please Bring Warm Clothes - MnAEYC

Please Bring Warm Clothes
Learning to Love Snow and Ice
With Children and Families
In the Frozen North
Marlais Brand
Dodge Nature Preschool
Winter 2012
This fun and exciting workshop addresses the oft-dreaded spectre of winter. We Minnesotans
pride ourselves on our hearty, outdoorsy spirit, but when it comes to getting our students outside,
teachers can find Old Man Winter a bit intimidating. This presentation seeks to dispel our frigid
fears and to challenge attendees to get kids outside during the coldest months. I will introduce a
wide-variety of fun cold weather activities to engage children and family members of all ages with
varying degrees of access to nature.
My Background:
I teach full time at Dodge Nature Preschool in West Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have worked with
young children in the field of nature-based education for more than a decade in the Twin Cities,
collaborating with the Dimensions and Arbor Day Foundations and Dakota County Soil and
Water. I also taught Advanced Writing and Art History at the Field School in Washington, DC, as
well as Creative Writing and Composition at The University of Maryland. I’m an avid gardener, a
prairie enthusiast, a Minnesota enthusiast, a blogger, an erstwhile writer and a mother of twin
Dressing for Snow Success
Be prepared to get yourself, and your kids outside.
How cold is too cold?
No such thing as too cold. Resist setting a temperature cut-off. Limit time outside based on
conditions. The act of getting dressed, if only brave the elements for a few minutes, creates a
habit and a belief that the outside world is part of our daily life. Share your approach with your
Frostnip v. Frostbite
Frostnip is much more likely. Look for rosy, then white patches on cheeks or earlobes. Treat
with warm hand or compress.
From the Mayo Clinic:
Frostnip. The first stage of frostbite is frostnip — a mild form of frostbite in which your
skin turns red and feels very cold. Continued exposure leads to prickling and numbness in
the affected area. As your skin warms, you may feel pain and tingling. Frostnip doesn't
permanently damage the skin.
Superficial frostbite. The second stage of frostbite appears as reddened skin that
turns white or very pale. The skin may remain soft, but some ice crystals may form in the
tissue. Your skin may begin to feel deceptively warm — a sign of serious skin involvement. If
you treat frostbite at this stage, the surface of your skin may appear mottled, blue or purple
as it's warmed or thawed. With warming, you may notice stinging, burning and swelling. A
fluid-filled blister may appear 24 to 36 hours after rewarming the skin.
Severe or deep frostbite. As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin,
including the tissues that lie below. You may experience deceptive numbness in which you
lose all sensation of cold, pain or discomfort. Joints or muscles may no longer work. Large
blisters form 24 to 48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard as the
tissue dies.
Necessary Gear:
Snow pants, warm socks & functioning boots, jacket, hat (that covers ears), neck warmer,
waterproof, insulated mittens. *Post a dressing chart & tell parents what they will need from the
Commitment & Community: Outside Every Single Day
Share your mission with colleagues & families, in writing. Get buy-in. Consider “outside start”
days. Invite family participation.
Clothing Bank
Build a supply of extra gear, then there are no excuses. Put it in a common place; give everyone
access. Supply a wide range of sizes-- accomodate older siblings and grown-ups. Ask for
donations. Publish a wish list. Ask for help (can parents organize or launder for you?). Get old
pillow cases for sending home messy/wet stuff.
Practice Makes Perfect
If gearing-up is a habit, kids will gain autonomy. Confidence and motor skill development are nice
by-products of daily dressing.
Weather as Curriculum
Exploring ice and snow through Science, Art & Literature and bringing winter into the
classroom. With group experience and inquiry, comes social/emotional growth.
Science & Nature
Simple experiences and observations lead to discovery and development. Developmentally
appropriate practice for young kids means learning through hands-on, natural experiences (more
doing, less talking). Think about how to give kids Nature in context or in situ. Wonder, fun & joy
are the primary drivers of discovery for children. Examples & Outcomes:
-melting & freezing: hypothetical thinking
-tracks & animal signs: reasoning & deduction
-observation: comparison & reflection
-animal adaptations: cause & effect
-bird feeding: perspective-taking and empathy
Art & Literature
Again, simple experiences, often initiated by the child, and then facilitated by the teacher, lead to
discovery and development:
-color mixing: observation and prediction
-winter books & stories: knowledge, imagination & empathy
-journals & story acting: imagination, initiative, autonomy, self-confidence, social
interaction, patience, verbal and non-verbal communication, literacy, joy & more...
-dramatic play: deeper understanding, imagination, creativity, perspective-taking,
communication, literacy, social skill...
Interest to Inquiry, How Facilitation Works
Example: general interest in raptors led to a focus on owls. Kids visited an owl & talked about
owls. Books, photos and stuffed animals were found. Owl Babies was acted out. Owls moved
into the art area. Kids wrote with quills. An owl class party was organized. Owl stories were
written in journals and acted out. One class’ owl drawings were admired by another class, and
“owl fever” spread to that class.
Snow Structures
A little bit of structure goes a long way. Introduce a simple building project, and let everyone get
involved. Cooperation, with a goal, takes more teacher initiative, but the rewards (both concrete
and developmental) are many. Simple tools: hands, feet, shovels, hand saws. Not-so-simple
tools: hose (ice), snow blower or snowplow (for making really big piles).
-Forts, Igloos & Quinzhees
-Otter Slides & Ice Slides & Tunnels
-Snow People & Dramatic Play
Snow Sports
Like anything else, winter fun can be more or less structured. The youngest children enjoy
simpler activities, while older kids will appreciate games with rules. Each of the following
activities can be enjoyed, through participation or observation, across skill levels. Most can be
adapted for handicapped individuals too.
A winter hike can mean walking down the sidewalk with instructions to look, listen and feel. Hikes
can have a destination, or be a meander. Not all hikes have an initial mission; children are likely
to discover an agenda if you encourage observation and do not put a damper on play. “Hike”
parking lot snow banks or “hike” to frozen puddles. Consider safety, but try to say, “Yes,” more
than you say, “No!”
Snowshoeing & Boot-skating
Find a puddle and slide. Boot skating on frozen creeks and ponds is great, but make sure you
consider the depth of the water below, and know the depth of the ice. Carry ropes and walkie
talkies, always have more than one teacher and always check ice depth!!! Snowshoeing may be
too challenging for the youngest. If you’d like to try it, do so without a major investment-purchase 1 or 2 pairs, or ask for a donation. Meet families at a nearby regional park that supplies
snowshoes (my City Hall rents them).
Sledding & Kick-sledding
Cardboard boxes provide cheap and very fun “sleds.” Ask for donations. Encourage big groups
to sled together on one sled (long plastic cheap sleds can hold a lot of kids). Set up hay bales for
inexpensive buffers. Talk about safety.
Invite someone who knows how to demonstrate. Kids love watching, they enjoy the dogs and the
skijorer can usually offer rides.
Making snow stuff is in itself exercise and sport.
*Warming Up
Never underestimate how fun and rewarding it is to enjoy hot chocolate or cozy time inside after
chilly play. Share a big blanket at Group Time. Pop popcorn etc.
Fire & Ice
Discover joy, surprise and simple fun while you cook & eat outside in winter.
Fires are possible with the very young; discuss safety; establish rules; be prepared (matches, firestarters, access to water)
Stuff on a Stick
Bagels, bread dough, apples, marshmallows, bread...
Frozen Foods
Flavored ice, ice cube pops, syrup on snow, frozen yogurt...
Frosty Fun
Dodge holds a big annual winter event by the same name, but it is easy to brainstorm your own
frozen adventure. Pick a SIMPLE theme (bagels, fort-building, night hike) and enlist help
(someone to start a fire, bring food, supply flashlights etc).
Community-building Events
Literally building a community-- a collection of quinzhees--is a great way to build community in
your school. Invite families and friends, or multiple classes, to participate in the fun. Or party with
a mission, like “Children’s Night In” the scholarship fundraiser at Dodge.
Simple and low-stress is best for kids, and adults. Informality lets everyone take on as little or as
much as they’d like.
Play Dates
School families and friends can get together, without you! Help with a contact list, or supply a
space and let them plan for fun.
This is a short list of places to look for more inspiration.
Gear or Clothing Bank Ideas
REI, LLBean, Lands End; contact “Direct to Business” divisions for info & applications for
donations and grants
Kicksleds & Snowshoes
Vermont Kicksled Company, Mountain Boy, Tubbs, MSR, Atlas
Dodge Nature Center, West Saint Paul
Tamarack Nature Center, White Bear Township
Lebanon Hills, Eagan
Three Rivers Park District: 20 parks in all
Ritter Farm Park, Lakeville
Snowplay by Birgitta Ralston
Thanks so much for this opportunity to share our love of nature, and our enthusiasm for
introducing everyone to the Great Outdoors, in winter!
Marlais Brand
Dodge Nature Preschool
1715 Charlton Street
West Saint Paul, MN 55118
[email protected]