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.
Do you remember the day you took your first field trip? I don't remember the details of mine, but like most of you, I would imagine that you do remember the excitement that surrounded going someplace new, someplace different, someplace FUN! After three years of having guest speakers come to visit us at Playschool, we finally checked "going on a field trip" off the bucket list.
Today, was another day with temps. below zero and if it weren't for the little ones all hidden behind their "ninja masks" you never would have known. On days when the weather is especially chilly we tuck into the forest or down in the valley to protect ourselves from the wind. Today we went to the outdoor classroom and while the children played I started a campfire.
From my experiences, fires seem to be a place where people naturally gather to sit, to sing and to share stories. A place to build community. As the fire that I was tending to came to life and started to dance with flames of red, orange and yellow most of the children came over to sit next to me... silently at first and then after a few minutes they started up their own conversations. Their conversations turned into stories. And their stories turned into silly stories. Before long everyone was giggling.
I am not sure what sparked the first silly story but before long everyone had one that they wanted to share. That is when we started our group fill in the blank story... the kids loved the MAD LIBS type story telling. Together they contributed to story after story and likely would have sat there the rest of the day laughing with each other if their bellies didn't tell them that they were hungry. So before we headed in for a warm up and lunch we ended with a story about a king that went to the zoo to pet a dinosaur ;) (3-4 year olds humor is the best!!)
(Next time you need a giggle just narrate a story and include your little ones by leaving blanks to fill in. It makes for some really good, silly stories! Bonus: it helps build language and literacy skills.)
Yesterday was a beautiful, winter day. White snow covered the ground and the sun even peeked out from behind the clouds for a bit in the morning.
As the children played in the Pine Tree Forest I noticed a small group of them were off to the side jumping from a large rock, that was covered in snow and thick green moss. During the year and throughout the seasons this rock transforms from boat, to bug, to a castle but on this particular day it was a stage. Watching the children do all kinds of "tricks" with their bodies as they made their way off the edge of the rock brought a huge smile to my face. They were so proud of their fancy moves that they were exhibiting that they began to challenge their friends to replicate them by saying "you try!".
This simple game of jumping from a rock not only challenged these children to have body awareness as they moved their bodies in certain ways when they attempted the "the double dare twist" but while they played they listened to their peers coach them saying "no, you do it like this..." (imagine what it would look like to see a chipmunk dressed in flannel trying to fly- that's what it looked like and that is why I couldn't help but smile).
Without any interruptions this game continued for more than 50 minutes as these friends shared ideas, created new names for their tricks and tired over and over agin to perfect their moves. If only we could find such joy in something so simple... Rock + Friends = FUN!
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.