Afterschool programs are a great way to get kids outdoors exploring the world around them. Especially in winter! A little patch of woods becomes a whole new world when it is covered in snow and tiny footprints. And since kids usually have snow clothes for recess, they are ready to go outside anytime.
This January, Dawn took some of Grantham Village School's K-3 grade students out into the forest once a week to explore the winter world. They discovered how plants and animals survive cold New England winters.
They tasted the Vitamin C that builds up in conifer needles, compared the bark on trees to their winter coats, followed animal tracks off the trail and sometimes right up to their homes, witnessed the mess left behind from a hungry squirrel, and followed "Bear" tracks until they found out that bears hibernate during the winter.
Then, they looked for good hibernating spots and tested them with grapes. If the grape was frozen when they got back from a short hike, it was deemed a bad hibernating spot. If it was not frozen, it just might work for an animal.
The forest opens up in the winter, so it is a great time to go off trail, which can be really exciting. You can see everything in the distance and if you start to feel lost, you can always follow your own tracks back to where you began. There is also a quiet, calmness that comes with snow. It insulates the ground and absorbs sound, which gives many people a feeling of peace.
Most of us don't venture outdoors when there is snow on the ground or when the temperature is below freezing and we miss out on all the winter world has to offer. Mysteries and adventure abound in the forest after a fresh snowfall and the twenty degree days aren't too bad. So bundle up and go explore! And take a child or many children with you, so you can see the world anew through their eyes.