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Peace in the Forest

Peace in the forest
“One day I had the idea of using silence to test the children’s keenness of hearing, so I thought of calling them by name, in a low whisper…. This exercise in patient waiting demanded a patience that I thought impossible.”— Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood
 It is always energizing to be out in the forest each Friday. The fresh air in our lungs, the crispness of the snow under our feet, the smell of dirt, the feeling of rough sticks and bark in our hands, and the beautiful, tranquil sound of silence that fills in the space around us. To a child, that silence is magical.
Silence is important, but it is often an underrated commodity in our busy lives. Each day we are engulfed in so much movement and transition, that we focus on completing our tasks but forgetting to breathe and enjoy the moment. These moments are often fleeting and forgotten. As adults, we have the opportunity to portray the kind of peaceful citizens we hope our children can become. We can showcase our own ability to take time out of our day to “just be.” To this point Maria Montessori invented a game that she called, “The Silence Game.” It has very simple rules: sit, relax, and take in the moment. She believed that this practice could eventually lead to peacefulness within the child and could ultimately support the child’s work in their day to day lives.
Each Friday, I relish the opportunity to witness the magical aura of this silence as the kindergarteners venture into the forest and find their chosen “sit spots”. A sit spot is a place to not only rest one’s mind, but to observe the changing landscape around them. Once in our sit spots, we practice making silence and enjoying the peaceful harmony of the natural world. It is incredible to witness 18 children completely at ease and at home in this forest environment, while engaging in a practice that instills deep peace and satisfaction within themselves. Before we venture out to explore the forest around us, we spend 2-3 minutes enjoying the amazing view from our sit spots. We have noticed snow melting and wet bark. We noticed pops of color: bright green moss, berries, and pine needles. We use all our senses— taking in the scent of the pine,  feeling the dampness and stillness around us, and listening to the calls of wild birds. The children are given this time of silent observation and they begin to notice the big and the small changes from the view of their sit spot. Eventually, this exercise will include journaling and painting, but for now, we are engaged in the practice of just “being” in nature.
Once the children are called from this silence, they can continue to enjoy the moment or go off to play.  The focus is on the experience and they can have the time they need to observe. The forest has no clock, just the seasonal changes that tell us what we need to know. The forest is their playground the the space around them is their peace.
-Forest Friday’s