by Amy Lemieux
We left the building at dusk and within moments heard, “Look at the half moon! It’s a half moon! And stars! The stars are out because it’s night time!” This little girl’s exclamation was the reminder we all needed to notice our surroundings, familiar spaces that look entirely different in the dark.
As the person who “sits at the desk,” this night hike was the best possible reminder of the part of our school’s mission that I don’t see on a daily basis; getting outside with children in all conditions. What a gift; an exclusive demonstration of what being outdoors with children can offer them at a time when youngsters are “sheltered” from what has only recently been considered too risky for them.
Here is an excerpt taken from the article, “Children That Play Outside in All Weather Grow Up Resilient” by Andrew McMartin:
“Most challenges, risks, and hurdles are swiftly removed from childhood in efforts to prevent anything bad from happening to the children that we love. Imagine children that have grown up playing outside in all manner of challenging conditions, in all seasons of the year. Imagine how they’d be different than kids taught to come inside when it’s raining, or cold. Kids who play outside in challenging weather are more positive, more creative, and more adaptable. They don’t let challenges stop them. They rise to challenges and find ways to carry on in spite of them.”
That night, there was a reverence for our outdoor spaces in the dark. We began at the big snow pile, a familiar space right next to the building. As children noted the increasing darkness, teachers kept the mood playful, laughing, jumping and sliding down the hill of snow themselves. We decided to venture to the boulders and flashlights were turned on for the hike. “It’s getting really dark now! Turn on your flashlights, guys!” As we approached the boulders we heard this exchange.
“Let’s hold hands. We should always hold hands at school.”
“The boulders look like monsters!”
“No, they look like giant marshmallows.”
“Let’s go find out.”
“They ARE the boulders.”
Lying in the snow, looking up at the sky, a child asked, “Why isn’t the sun out all the time? Where is it?”
Another said, “Hey! There are little lights up there! Airplanes.”
“Those lights aren’t coming. They’re staying there. They’re stars.”
“We should hold hands again.”
On we continued around the edge of the woods and through the pines. As we walked, a girl said, “I love this. I love my flashlight at night. I hope we see a fox!”
“Yeah, I think the deer are sleeping in here.”
Toward the end of our hike, there were two stragglers, tired from trudging through the deep snow. A teacher stayed behind, giving them a chance to rest and play with their flashlights. Seeing how far ahead the larger group was, a girl said, “It’s really dark now. I want to go back to our school. I’m a little scared.” The boy with her put his arm over her shoulder and said, “I’ll protect you.” And off they went to join their friends for hot chocolate on the playground.