Family Cycling Adventures
Here’s a great idea for being active and spending time with those you love, even during social distancing in the pandemic.
The Ernsting family meet up for family cycling adventures on nearby trails. Kids, parents and grandparents can all join in. Pack a delicious lunch or snack as an added enticement for the trip! Make sure everyone brings water to drink, uses sunscreen and wears a helmet.
Going exploring on bikes relates to several of the Pathway Landmarks:
- LANDMARK 4 – Visit a favourite outdoor place every week (Age 4-5 years)
- LANDMARK 9 – Visit an outdoor place that is special to you (Age 6-7 years)
- LANDMARK 13 – Travel by yourself or with a friend on a familiar route (Age 8-9 years); Let the children help plan the route if you’re working on Landmark 13
- LANDMARK 14 – Try several kinds of outdoor recreation that don’t need gasoline or electricity (Age 8-9 years)
If you live in the Peterborough region, we’re blessed with wonderful trail systems, both in town and in the county. We also have great cycling support services. Get started close to home with the City of Peterborough Trails Map. Peterborough and the Kawarthas also have some great cycling route maps and other info for keen cyclists.
Keep trips short if you’re travelling with young children, and lengthen the trip as kids build strength and confidence. Try cycling to a place where kids can explore and play, to break up the trip and give kids a rest. Sharpen your eyes and ears while you’re travelling to listen for new sounds or look for interesting bugs, birds or animals along the way.
If you need help with repairing or finding a bike, or some guidance on how to cycle safely, contact BIKE, Peterborough’s community bike shop.
BIKE and GreenUP have changed-up their Pedal Power program, normally offered to schools in June. This year, it’s Pedal Power from Home and is available to families online. While the available prizes wrap up at the end of June, the excellent cycling workshops are available throughout the summer. They’re filled with fun activities, bike drills and information focused on road safety and bike handling skills that families can do from home.
Bird of the Month:
Meet the Yellow Warbler!
Summer is a perfect time to go searching for new feathered friends. This perky ray of sunshine is quite common in our area in spring and summer. Incredibly, the tiny Yellow Warbler flies all the way from South and Central America every spring to find places to breed in North America. Look for reddish streaks on the breast (males), a black beak and sweet black eyes in an unmarked face. Listen for its song – it sounds like it’s saying “Sweet, sweet, I’m so sweet…”
Yellow warblers feed mostly on insects, and can be found around woodland edges, streamsides and brushy areas. Look for them in late spring and early summer, as they often start their long migration south during the month of August. To learn the yellow warbler’s song, check out the Cornell birding website, ‘All About Birds.’ Getting to know the birds around you is part of LANDMARK 12 (Who Else Lives in Your Neighbourhood?).
Don’t be fooled by another common yellow bird – the American Goldfinch. Male goldfinches are also bright yellow in the summer, but they have a black cap and black wings. Goldfinches stay here for the winter, and are commonly seen all year at bird feeders.
For a bigger challenge for older children and youth, try reporting your bird sightings to eBird to help track trends in bird populations worldwide. This is LANDMARK 22 (Become a Citizen Scientist). Check out the Merlin website to help you learn to identify the birds you see. Watching birds is great fun, and a good focus for walks outdoors.
Photo by Kyle Dueck
Early Years (0-3)
- Look for little things to explore that are within reach and eyesight – an ant hill, a worm, a flower budding, interesting tree bark, or a patch of grass. Draw your child’s attention to some detail like “the bark feels bumpy”, “the grass tickles”. See if they can notice something as well. It’s helpful if your child can actively participate, like digging in a patch of dirt or “hugging” a tree. Make a little rhyme for the life you are noticing like “my big tree is bigger than me” or “squirmy squirmy wormy worm” that you can recall later. Try to revisit that spot once a week for several weeks to look for changes/similarities.
- Go for a walk in a variety of weathers – rainy (look for puddles), hot (look for shade), cold (run to stay warm) etc.
Ages 4-5 years
- Make a poem about all the things you notice this week outside and pin it on your fridge. Use a pattern starter, for instance, “I like” X 3, or “I hear”, “I smell”
- For example: I like (the lilacs), I like (the wind), I like (the ants)
- Gather some loose natural material and create a design on the grass or sidewalk using cut grass, pinecones, pebbles, sand, etc. Take a picture and share with a friend. See if your friend can make something to send to you!
Ages 8-9 years
- Make a list of different ways you can go up and down your street by yourself – walking, running, hopping, etc. Predict how long each method will take and then record the actual time. Challenge a friend to try your ways and have them think of one more. Keep the game going as long as you can. How many ways did you think of together? What was the fastest way? What was the slowest? Which one did you feel most proud of? Why?
Ages 10-11 years
- Choose one natural area you have been to. Research an animal, a plant, and a tree that grows there. Make a video that highlights what you love about this place, and some cool facts you know about at least 3 things that live there – an info-mercial!
- If it is a provincial or national park, be sure to send them an email to tell them what you have made, and share it if possible. If it is a neighbourhood place, share with a neighbour and ask them what they love about that space. Maybe you can do a neighbourhood survey to see if 10 people all love the same thing!
Expanded Support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation
We have received very good news that we’re delighted to share. The Ontario Trillium Foundation has approved significant funding for a three year expansion of the Pathway Project! That means we’ll be able to support our goal that every young person in our region can experience the 30 Landmarks outlined in our Pathway Guidebook. We can continue to work together to nurture the stewards of tomorrow!
Now that we’ve completed our pilot phase, we’re ready to expand our reach in a big way! While we’ll be focusing most of our supports in the Peterborough region, anyone can participate, and work through the Landmark activities as their children/students learn and grow.
The 30 Landmarks are a great place to start for anyone who doesn’t already spend a lot of time outdoors, and for those who do, we’re setting up lots of ways to share ideas – by reports submitted to the website, through social media, newsletters, magazine articles and through the regional workshops we’ll be hosting for teachers and parents.
The Pathway Project is a collective of many regional partners, directed by Camp Kawartha. The Trillium funding will help many of these agencies provide guidance and support to schools and families as we build a culture that nurtures stewardship and kinship in every child. We can now help with the cost of schoolyard projects, art materials, ‘loose parts’ play materials, bus subsidies and expert visits, as long as they help children with Landmark experiences. More details soon, as we ramp up the expanded project. It’s all very exciting!
Especially after spending so much time indoors and with limited contact with others during the pandemic, our kids need the Pathway’s Landmarks now more than ever. Opportunities to explore and treasure the outdoors, and build meaningful and supportive relationships with others in the community, will be important steps in restoring wellbeing in our children and youth, as well as the adults who care about them! We hope you and the children in your life will travel the Pathway with us.
Getting to Know Your Local Birds!
Did you know that the average child recognizes hundreds of corporate logos but fewer than 10 local plants or animals? Getting to know your ‘neighbourwood’ is an important first step in connecting with the natural world.
While some local birds fly south for the winter, many stay around, and can be a focus for lots of winter sleuthing, especially if there’s a birdfeeder nearby. Here’s an activity that exercises the memory and observation skills, in preparation for going outdoors in winter, especially with Grade 1-2 children working on Landmark 12 (Getting to Know Local Plants and Animals). Older children and adults can play too.
Winter Birds Memory Game
This idea is inspired by a Christmas gift of a game of birds from around the world, where the goal is to find matches of males and females of the same species. This version has a simpler, more local focus, based on common winter birds in the Peterborough area.
Find pictures online of any of the following birds:
- Black-capped chickadee
- White-breasted nuthatch
- Northern Cardinal
- Blue Jay
- Hairy Woodpecker
- House Sparrow
- Red-breasted nuthatch
- Rock Pigeon
- European Starling
(if you know of others in your area, include them too)
Paste the pictures into a template of squares (2.5” to 3” are ideal), and make sure you have two copies of each picture. Use card stock or bristleboard if possible, so you can’t see through the paper when they’re placed face-down. Write the name of each bird on each square.
Turn all the squares face-down on a table or other flat surface. Every player turns over two cards, saying the names of the birds on each card, then turning the cards face-down again. The goal of the game is to remember the location of each card that was turned over, so you can turn up a matched pair when it’s your turn. If you find a matched pair, you take them off the table and keep them. Whenever you find a pair, you get an extra turn. This game can be played by various numbers of people, but 2 to 5 people are best, so you don’t have to wait too long for your turn.
To make the game more permanent, you can laminate the cards so they’ll last through many games. For older children, you could make sets of local flowers, animals, insects or trees. The memory challenge of the game is a great mental workout for all ages!
Survey Report Available
At the start of pilot testing, educators, parents and grade 7-8 students completed surveys that assessed attitudes, behaviours and potential barriers to integrating Pathway Landmarks into daily life. 689 surveys were collected from local schools and homes, which provided fantastic local information about children from birth through the elementary grades.
Many thanks to everyone who helped to prepare, complete and assess the Pathway start-up surveys, and especially to Trent University Professor Lisa Nisbet and her assistants in analyzing the results.
Survey results are available in three formats:
Samples of start-up survey learnings:
- Educators and parents reported an interest in doing more activities outdoors, but need ideas and support to help increase outdoor time
- Parks and conservation areas were consistently mentioned as favourite places for families to visit
- Teachers are challenged with limited access to natural areas within walking distance and high costs for bussing; 100% of Grade 5-6 teachers said that easy access to natural areas near homes and schools is very important for their students
- Outdoor time decreases considerably during winter months in all age groups, both at home and at school; ideas for winter activities and advice on dressing for the weather could help overcome this challenge
- Older students (grades 7-8) spend considerable sedentary time every week; opportunities to mentor younger students in outdoor activities would build their leadership skills and boost their physical health through increased activity
- Schools would appreciate help from the community, such as:
- Mentors to accompany primary students on walks in the neighbourhood
- Opportunities to meet animals in primary grades
- Help with growing food or wildlife gardens in grades 3-4
- Finding nearby renewable energy demonstrations for grades 5-6
- Finding opportunities for involvement in meaningful community projects in grades 7-8
Pilots a Big Success
Many thanks to all the great folks at our six pilot communities who worked so hard to make Pathway Landmark activities a regular part of their day. Three cheers to Peterborough Child and Family Centres, Compass Early Learning and Care, Millbrook South Cavan Elementary, St. Joseph Elementary in Douro, Queen Elizabeth Elementary, and Immaculate Conception Elementary for their great teamwork, super ideas, and dedication to the wellbeing of our kids and our world.
Here’s a sample of success stories:
- All elementary grades reported an increase in outdoor activities
- Preschool and Kindergarten educators provided many new creative sensory and nature-based activity centres and opportunities to interact with living things
- All Grade 1-2 teachers involved their class in gardening (up from 44% in start-up surveys)
- 56% of Grade 3-4 teachers had involved their class in planning a trip (up from 0% in start-up surveys)
- All Grade 3-4 classes tried new outdoor activities, with increases in growing food, nature art, growing wildlife gardens, tree planting, keeping bird feeders and outdoor exploration
- All Grade 5-6 classes visited a public park as well as an outdoor education centre while they pilot-tested Pathway Landmark activities
- 80% of Grade 7-8 classes explored a stream (up from 14% before the pilot project), 100% participated in a multi-cultural event (up from 29%) and 60% helped with a habitat improvement project (up from 29%)
We were encouraged to hear that all educators said the Pathway Project benefitted their classes, with 69% responding ‘very beneficial.’ Teachers noted improved behaviour, increased physical stamina, improved ability to focus attention, increased outdoor confidence and respect for living things, and greater interest in being at school.
Based on these responses, we are working to expand the project and its community supports.
Wet and Wonderful – a Mud Puddle-and-Pie Activity Guide
The season of wet-and-muddy is upon us, and with it, an opportunity to embrace all manners of sensory play, mud-puddle math, nature art and interdisciplinary integration! Have boots? Will play!
Mud puddles provide endless hours of sensory fun, and an incredible opportunity for authentic learning!
How deep is the water? How much water is in a really big puddle? What could it fill? A bucket? A bathtub? How could we even measure it?!
In her blog Puddle Play – Rethinking the ‘Math Classroom’, Deanna Pecaski McLennan, PhD, elaborates the “measurement, counting, capacity, classification, time and quantity” that can all be explored authentically in a puddle. This is rich learning where play and adaptive reasoning intersect.
Math can happen anywhere, and outdoors doing something most children love is the perfect place!
Tool tips? Try:
- Turkey basters That turkey baster that only gets used twice yearly?! An incredible (and FUN) instrument of transfer and measurement: squirting distance, volume transfer – comparing between one container and another.
- Measuring cups
More math and measurement?! Try Mud Kitchens!
Cooking up delicious “recipes” in a mud kitchen requires only a few second-hand kitchen implements like muffin tins, metal bowls, collanders and spoons. This can be on-the-ground immersive play or hands-in-a-sandbox in a wood or brick enclosure (pictured below). Second-hand stores are inexpensive sources for utensils, and places like the Re-store offer inexpensive sinks and accessories for more elaborate builds!
Everybody Outdoors! at St. Joseph’s, Douro
On a crisp, cold March morning, fun was brewing at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Douro! Grades 1-4 classes brimmed with excitement for a special morning of community guests and outdoor play.
Principal Julie Selby organized the day around four rotating activity centres. Mrs. Selby led one centre herself, with a class set of snowshoes; students had a grand time traversing the large schoolyard, and wending their way through the evergreen forest on-site. There were many pink cheeks and smiling faces of busy explorers!
A second station featured Jacob Rodenburg of Camp Kawartha for animal games and dramatic play. Students tried ‘stalking’ like foxes to capture the ever-vigilant Jacob-Rabbit, and following animal tracks in the snow. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) game ‘Snow Snakes’ was a big hit, with students testing how far their waxed wooden ‘snakes’ could slide over the snow.
Pathway Coordinator Cathy Dueck focused on forest-related fun with an evergreen tree identification relay that had everyone warming up with running, sorting and laughing! Then, a forest scavenger hunt sent student detectives to find treasures in the forest and store them in egg cartons to show the class.
Puppeteer and musician extraordinaire Glen Caradus led the fourth activity centre, where students were treated to his ‘Plugging into Nature’ puppet show, showcasing the adventures that await us when we turn off the screens and go outside! Glen also worked his musical magic and had everyone enthusiastically joining in with his rollicking songs.
All in all, a great morning for everyone!
And for their own pre-March Break adventure, the Grade 7 and 8 students spent a day at Kawartha Nordic, learning how to cross-country ski, exploring the trails and building memories. So exciting to see the Pathway project in action. Many thanks to principal Julie Selby and all the wonderful staff at St. Joseph’s.
PCFC Pathway Pop-ups
Peterborough Child and Family Centres (PCFC) are racing down the Pathway with PSK Pop-ups. Ellen Mortlock shares how the Pathway has “popped up” within their 6 drop-in hubs – bringing creative and fun opportunities for exploration and play that engage young children and their families with the Early Years Landmarks.
130 families + 6 locations + 1 month + 9 ‘pop-ups’ = 23 total hours of playful Pop-up fun!
By Ellen Mortlock
The Peterborough Child & Family Centres were excited to be picked as a Pathway to Stewardship & Kinship pilot site. As the Early ON Centre for Peterborough City and County, we provide rich play and learning environments for children ages 0-6, their families and caregivers. During the month of February, to highlight the three landmarks for children ages 0-3, we hosted uniquely designed Pathway Pop-ups. These special events ‘popped’ up within our regularly scheduled programs.
130 families + 6 locations + 1 month + 9 ‘pop-ups’ = 23 total hours of playful Pop-up fun!
The families dressed up like animals, explored animal tracks and fossil rocks, played in a ‘frog pond’, among many other nature based activities. The nests, snake skins, and skulls on the touch table sparked many great questions and engaging conversations.
Another of our programs, the School for Young Moms, embraced the winter weather and the Pathway landmarks. Our pregnant and parenting teens were encouraged to “Go outside and play” with their infants. Each family was asked to take part in a nature scavenger hunt and the young women rose to the frosty challenge. They documented their experiences to share with the group at the end of February. Pictured below is a young mom who brought her daughter outside to enjoy the cool air and bright sunshine while she searched for animal prints in the snow.
We have enjoyed snowy fun in our outdoor spaces and are looking forward to the warmer spring weather and the mud that comes with it. We’re ready to trade in our snow pants for splash pants and embrace the gooey, dirty, mucky exploration. Our staff are excited to implement more great nature-based activities with our families as the season changes. Bring on the rubber boots!