My time working at the newly formed Forest Kindergarten has been amazing! I truly did have a lot of fun; it was actually a job I looked forward to coming to in the morning! When I first found out I was placed at Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation I was curious to know what I would be doing since I wasn’t familiar with the Fells. I checked out their website and came to the assumption I’d probably be in the forest doing outdoor activities like hiking. When I found out I’d be working with the Forest Kindergarten I was thrilled, because I love working with kids they’re just able to see the world differently than adults do (and are super adorable)! They’re able to be much more attentive to things that adults often overlook things like the changes in nature. Too often in our lives we’re consumed with the bigger picture and the issues we’re dealing with, usually out of our control, that we miss the small things in life that have major impacts. These small changes are what children notice and help bring to our attention. Something that may seem so insignificant to us like the leaves changing color is an amazing observation to a child who is learning about the world around them. With the first week in play I really had my attention focused on the kids and what they were interested in on our adventures. However, with each week subsequently I also began to notice new things in the forest that I didn’t notice before along the same trail. Honestly it was our young explorers that helped me realize this, because with each coming week a new group of kids would point out something that I didn’t see the week before (or at least didn’t notice). This got me thinking that although I was in the forest surrounded by nature I wasn’t really looking at it. When I began to really look, I started to really notice features like the different shaped leaves and a variety of flowers I didn’t see just the day before! What I also noticed towards the end of the program were parents coming a little earlier than the start of the program with their children to just go on a short walk through the forest! This got me thinking that this program is really fantastic because not only is it getting the kids excited about nature but the parents excited enough to explore nature themselves! I felt as though this was a beginning of a great cycle, where these children would grow up to bring their kids to explore natures outdoors and so on! I also started to think about after school programs, summer programs, and just regular grade school and what I realized was that going out and exploring nature itself isn’t really incorporated as much into the curriculum. Therefore, children unintentionally are learning not to care for the natural environment that their fortunate enough to live in. It’s a mindset that many people have, which is why our environment slowly continues to deplete before our eyes. This is why programs like the Forest Kindergarten really help young children grow up with a certain amount of respect and appreciation for the environment. An appreciation they’ll pass on to future and current generations!
~ Regine Borgella is a student at Salem State University, studying Biomedical Science. She came to us through the Malden Youth Employment Program and co-led Forest Kindergarten this summer.