This past week while many of the local schools were on break I invited Playschool graduates from years past to join the little ones and myself for a few days in The Secret Forest. To have our old friends back in the space that they helped create felt so right. Seeing them walk through the door in the morning, listening to their excitement as they ran down the trails and connecting with their families at pickup brought back so many good memories.
The children that have left Playschool have left with experiences that have prepared them for their journeys beyond these woods. And even though they don't practice raising their hands and wait to get called on, standing in a line or filling out worksheets these big-little ones assured their younger peers, who were curious about "real school", that when they got to kindergarten they knew what to do!
When I asked the graduates what they missed the most about their days at Playschool their honest answers reminded me to slow down and appreciate some of the smallest parts of our daily routine:
"The lupines in the summer."
"Show and Tell!"
"That bird! I remember it!" (a black capped chickadee)
"My favorite place... The broken down tree."
"Making fairy houses."
Watching these friends pick up right where they left off with their old friends was something that I hoped for but it was better than I imagined. They told stories and shared memories of things that they used to do together, they played together (sometimes talking and other times in silence because its as if they understood each other so well that words didn't need to be spoken) and when the day was over they parted ways knowing that the next time they would get together to play in this space that is would feel as though no time had passed.
These growing spirits continue to inspire me and bring me such joy. It has been a week filled with homecomings. I look forward to years of reuniting old friends for new adventures
deep in The Secret Forest.
Just this past weekend was our 4th annual Family Sledding and Potluck. It took place on a cold night with temperatures barley reaching above zero, As families started to arrive at 5pm with sleds in tow, food in their hands and a smile on their face you could tell it was going to be a great event, and it was!
Inside the building there was a buffet of warm food, tables filled with people catching up on life, and a bounce house that was never empty. Outside the stars were out, the fire was crackling and when you looked at the sledding hill you saw head lamps bouncing up and down and heard shills of laughter :) With over 50 people in attendance (babies, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, parents and friends) there was no shortage of fun being had.
Around 7:30pm while everyone was packing up their little ones to head home for bed I overhead a parent say "this was the perfect night"... I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you to everyone for filling my heart with so much LOVE for this amazing community that we have here. I am already looking forward to our next get together :)
This past week has been so full of fun and possibly even a few new family traditions. January 31st- February 3rd was the 32nd running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. After a month of preparing through play, activities and having had a real life mushing experiences the children from Secret Forest Playschool were looking forward to race day.
On a sunny Sunday, with temperatures well into the 40's, many of the families (parents, grandparents, siblings and friends) from Playschool gathered at the Highway 2 gravel pit, just outside Two Harbors, to see for themselves what all of the excitement was about. With the barking dogs, the giant snow mountain and the starting line in the distance the scene walking up to the starting line was electric!
Watching the dogs jump in the air with anticipation of their journey ahead and seeing their mushers come by every 2 minutes was thrilling! After more than an hour of cheering and wishing the teams well the crowd cleared and the race was on (for some their journey would be over in 38 miles, for others 119 miles and for some others not for 383 miles).
From our classroom the children at Secret Forest Playschool continued to follow the race as the teams traveled up the trail (and then back down). We watched the GPS tracking map, the timing sheet and (their favorite) iFan Sports live video stream. These features allowed us to be be a part of the race from a distance. We tracked everyone who raced (paying special attention to the marathon teams).
It was well past bed time (for 3-5yr olds) on Wednesday night when Beckie Hacker and her team arrived in to Billy's Bar. With her headlight shining and her dogs guiding the way down the cold trail she we meet with a crowd and warm welcome. And you better believe that some of Playschool's mini mushers were there to congratulate her :)
This year the Red Lantern was given to Beckie, for being the last musher to complete the race. In my eyes, this is the person that deserves the most attention as she brought with her the most important lesson... to never give up. Beckie finished her race in just over 39 hours total, after overcoming injury, challenges and likely a few disappointments. Beckie is a great role model for these mini mushers; teaching them it's not always going to go according to play, be easy, or fun but that if you go out and finish what you started in the end it will be worth it.
Congratulations to all of the mushers, their dogs and handlers! And a BIG "thank you" to the board, volunteers and supporters. We can't wait to join you again next year, for the 33rd annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.
I am Meghan Morrow, the founder and lead teacher at Secret Forest Playschool in Duluth, MN. This blog is a way for me to share some of the amazing moments that I witness and the lessons that I learn from some of the wisest people I know... children.