Posted by: jwhiff | June 4, 2011

Buntzen, Buddies and Bears (Oh my!)

I walked with my class down to Buntzen Lake for the purpose of writing inspiration and science this Tuesday, although all didn’t go as planned.

First, it ended up tremendously difficult to round up enough parent volunteers.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I have very generous parents.  I had gathered lists of parent volunteers the week before (they had agreed to be “on call” in the event of good weather) and cleared all the necessary permissions.  I simply decided to act on the weather report and notify volunteers the day before the outing.  Not a great start.  It was simply too short notice.  It literally took me three hours (between the evening before and the morning of the walk) to find the necessary 3 parents.

Then, after finally embarking, we had a great little walk to the lake only to find out that it was flooded and we couldn’t access the main beach.  Oh well.  I quickly entered “plan B” mode and decided to find a decent spot on the east side of the lake.  After a further 10 minute walk, I found a nice sheltered location that allowed us a nice view of the water.  Then the rain hit.  We were very much unprepared as it had changed from balmy and sunny to rainy (and thankfully still balmy) within a 45 minute period.  We wrote a little poetry in the rain, ate lunches and headed back as quickly as we could.  I hobbled back due to a twisted ankle, but no big deal.

Well!  Left a bit unsatisfied after that adventure, I still wanted my nature fix this week.  I was speaking with our young kindergarten teacher (who appreciates the power of learning in a natural setting as much as I), when she mentioned that she would like to get her students out into our little playground forest for some centre time.  I encouraged her to check out the bigger, more wild forest to which I like to take my students for some poetry inspiration.  We agreed that it would make a perfect buddy outing–my students would sit with their kindergarten buddies, simply modelling focused writing and sketching.  The K’s would have their own clipboards, pencils and paper.  We were both curious to see whether the little buddies would emulate the big buddies.

So…off we went the following day.  I was conscious of the fact that bears have been sighted off and on since the start of spring, so I made sure to enter the forest first, check things out and give the “all clear” before allowing my students and their young wards to enter.  About 6 meters in, I was trying to keep a young kindergarten boy on the trail with his buddy, when Graeme called out, “Bear!”  Well, sure enough there was a bear all right, standing up and checking us out from about 15 meters away!  Of course, I hustled everyone out as calmly as I could, all the while enduring the teasing of my grade 5 boys who giggled all the way to our next location–the playground forest on the other side of the school.

We ended up with some interesting writing of course…talk about inspiration!

I’m a little rattled now, but still determined to get my kids “out there”.  I’ve seen some of the best, most natural writing out of my most reluctant writers after our nature outings.  I can’t give up!


  1. It was great to read about your perseverance in getting your kids outside. I was given your blog address and look forward to reading more of your adventures in the fall.

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