Sol Forest School- Sandia Mountains
SOL FOREST SCHOOL (ABQ)Sandia Mountains: At Sol Forest School, our "Treeschoolers" are not only allowed, but encouraged, to climb trees. As co-facilitators in their learning and play, we are there guiding them through new experiences of risk and adventure. In terms of tree climbing, we provide pre-teaching whenever possible in the form of dialogue (i.e. "Look for a branch as thick as your wrist to stand on") and sometimes, modeling. We are also there for our new climbers, covertly spotting and offering specific directives such as, "Think about where you are going to place your foot next" or "Take a quick break, steady yourself, and look down for a moment. Do you feel like you have climbed high enough for today?". What we don't do is offer physical help. We explain this to the children before and as they climb, sharing with them that it is important that they do all the work, because this is how they will stay safe.
This November we had a new Treeschooler join us named Bennie. Bennie is an adorable, vivacious, ebullient, sometimes dreamy, three-year-old boy. Soon after Bennie joined us, we noticed he was very interested in climbing trees, like his older brother. One day several of our older Treeschoolers were climbing a favorite Juniper tree that is old, gnarled and tall, and Bennie wanted a turn. After the other Treeschoolers came down Bennie quickly got to work trying to figure out how to make his way up the tree and into the first little "seat" that this tree offers. He struggled with his initial approach, going from one side to the other, trying to determine how to start. Despite his might, his little legs could not reach the very first low branch that would offer him enough lift to make the next move. He called out several times, each time growing in more intensity, "Teacher, help me! You supposed to help me!" but I calmly explained that he could do the work and that I would be there to spot him. This pattern went on for several minutes and Bennie was growing frustrated.
Just as I was intuitively sensing that Bennie might soon give up (it had been nearly 10 minutes), he stopped in his tracks, pointed to his sweet little curly-haired head and exclaimed, "I know! I need a rock. Friend rock will help me!". He then did a quick visual scan of the forest floor and found a rock roughly the size of half a standard brick. I caught myself thinking, "That's never going to work", but kept quiet and readied myself for what I was certain would be a failed attempt. Bennie's small hands labored to get "friend rock" in just the right spot, on top of the old Juniper's exposed roots. He checked more than once to see if it was steady, took a deep breath, and stepped up on the rock. Believe it or not, that 2-3-inch advantage did the trick and in no time, Bennie was up in the old tree, making his way to the first seat. From here he sat down, looking like a King with a wide grin across his face. With a deep sense of satisfaction, he then simply said, "Teacher, I did it!".