Early in our first week back from winter break, a Kindergartner came to me with wide eyed excitement. "Lindie, come and see." At the time I was in the middle of unsticking and helping to zip a zipper. "Can you tell me?" I asked. "You have to see!" came the reply. "Is it alive?" I queried, as I finished the task at hand, and we headed toward the entrance to the tunnel that runs through our playground hill. "It's not now," the Kindergarten stated gravely. Two friends were waiting at the end of the tunnel, carefully examining something on the ground. As I came closer, I could see it was furry and immobile. It was a gray mole, now frozen on the mulch. "It's a mouse," one Kindergartner announced. "Let's look at it closely," I suggested. One child went to get some sand scoops to aid in handling the creature. When we turned it over onto its back, there were its two large front paws, much like the sand scoops and many times bigger than its tiny back feet. Its nose was pointed. I showed the children how large a mouse would be compared to this creature, and we talked about why its front feet were so large. Having had it identified as a mole, the children spent some time guessing why it had died. Many children thought it had frozen to death, and it was frozen. I shared that moles don't naturally spend time above ground. Some children supposed a predator had gotten the mole, but then been frightened away. One Kindergartner wanted the mole to have a proper burial, but with the ground frozen, we gave it a forest burial instead. The children decided to put the mole at the woods at the edge of the YG and OG outdoor classroom. The child who felt most strongly about burying the mole, carefully piled leaves over its body. "An animal might eat it," one child suggested. Yes, we all agreed that might happen. It's part of a forest burial. A few minutes later, the children announced they had found the mole's hole on top of tunnel hill. As we looked at the hole, which was not very large or deep and had none of the tell tale dirt a mole hole would have piled around it, I spotted the beginning of a mole highway of tunnels, starting just beyond the tunnel. I showed the children, and a few of them followed the tunnels to the edge of the boundaries of the playground. It was a brief interlude in our day, but one that really drew in this group, and showed me once again how being outdoors in nature is the best way for young scientists to learn.

Find out more about The Antioch School here!

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Updated: Oct 25, 2019

In 2018, a group of dedicated nature educators from northern Ohio met up at the Nature Based Early Childhood conference and decided to join together on Facebook in order to keep in touch.

Simultaneously, I have been working on a way to meet up with educators like myself in Ohio. Through a leadership cohort with the Dayton based Partners for the Environment, I found myself in need of a project that would bring about change in my area. Spurred by this process, I was able to reach out to folks I knew in Southwest Ohio, who had been meeting for two years already. At this time we found out about the group in northwest Ohio and planned a meeting!

In this meeting, at the Cleveland Metropark's Nature Preschool at Rocky River Nature Center, we brainstormed potential goals, dreams, and excitement about the nature based ice movement as well as finding each other! A follow up meeting was held back in southwest Ohio at Learning Tree Farm as well. Meanwhile, a survey (found on the Join the Movement page), was also providing opinions from folks who could not be present.

Using all of this data, we organized the goals and interests-and voila! A website was born! We hope that this is useful to the participants in our organization as well as educators and parents who are searching for this type of education. All in this group are encouraged to add and contribute to this website. Big things are happening-no one in this group is short on vision-stay tuned!

-Meredith Florkey, Director and Lead Teacher at Learning Tree Farm Nature Preschool

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