As we get ready to launch into winter in our new pandemic world of education and child rearing, things are getting real. Winter in the north takes outdoor learning to a whole new level. We all know that playing outside is the safest way to be this year to see friends and family and to protect ourselves from the virus, so here are some guidelines from Fiddleheads on enjoying and making the most of outside time in winter.
Everyone, but especially children, can feel vulnerable in winter. And their instincts are right! They are. A cold child goes through a very predictable trajectory. They often don’t say that they are cold. They just get grumpy and then start to cry and want to go in, and as their distress progresses, they invariably cry for their mothers. It’s heartbreaking to see, (this is why we prevent getting cold and insist on such strict gearing up guidelines,) but the distress always disappears as soon as they get warm again. Even when we are warm though, winter in the north often means grey skies, rain, snow, wind, and early darkness. In the middle of the day the light can be slanted, muted, and it seems to never get bright. This is psychologically challenging, and affects our mood, our energy level, and our outlook on life and on the day. Winter is a time of challenges. Perhaps this year like no other before.
But because of this fact, it can also be a time of deep and transformative learning like no other. Enjoying ourselves outside, and learning to be comfortable and joyful outdoors during this dark and cold time of year is truly triumphant. It offers us enduring lessons of resilience and teaches us that we can have some control over our own response to adverse situations. These sure are good things to know.
Here are some tips for successful and happy family and school outdoor adventures for extended hours in winter:
As a reminder, we spend 3-4 hours, or more, outside every single day. This is prolonged exposure, which feels very different to our bodies than a quick 20 minute trip to the playground. If you don't generally spend prolonged periods of time outside in all weather, (and few of us do these days,) then please keep in mind that you may not be able to easily judge if your child has the appropriate clothes on, and so it would be best to pay extra close attention to and follow the guidelines below.
This is what your child MUST arrive wearing or bringing to school if the forecast is in the 40s or below (which it likely will be soon and for the rest of the winter):
-A warm winter hat
-Gloves or mittens, preferably wool or wool blend. Your child should have two pairs of mittens or gloves to wear every day, in case one gets dirty or lost. Please consider investing in wool gloves or mittens, as this is the only material that stays warm when it is wet. I'm sorry that so many mittens and gloves disappear. It is the way of the world. You wouldn't believe how much time teachers spend trying to keep track of everyone's things. Clippable gloves or the good old fashioned stringed mittens that go through the inside of the parka can be helpful. We also coach children that if they are warm and want to take their gloves off they should put them in their pockets, which may be a good thing to encourage at home as well. Waterproof mittens and gloves are great if you can find any that are comfortable enough to wear.
2 layers on the bottom if it's dry
1. longjohns or leggings
3 layers on the bottom if it's rainy or wet
1. longjohns or leggings
3. rainpants or rain suit
3-4 layers on the top
3 layers equals=
1.long sleeve shirt
2. sweatshirt or sweater
3. winter weight snow duty parka
4 layers equals=
1.long sleeves shirt
2. sweatshirt or sweater
3. fleece or light coat
4. light parka
If it is raining a fully waterproof layer must be worn over the top of these other layers. It cannot replace the above layering, just add it on.
If it is dry and highs in the high 40s to 50s it is fine to wear sneakers or hiking boots with 1 pair of warm, heavy socks.
If it is wet and highs in the high 40s to 50s it is ok to wear rain boots with 1-2 pairs of warm, heavy socks.
If the highs are below the mid forties and dry, please wear insulated winter shoes and one pair of warm, heavy socks. You can also try wearing rainboots, one to two pairs of warm heavy socks, and fleece rainboot liners. LL Bean makes these in children sizes.
If the highs are below the mid forties and it is wet, please wear WATERPROOF, not water resistant, insulated winter shoes and one to two layers of warm, heavy socks. Here you can also try wearing rainboots, one to two pairs of warm heavy socks, and fleece rainboot liners.
Once we get to highs in the low 40s and 30s, then switch to full snow gear, but please don't send snow gear for wet fall weather. It is heavy and most brands are not waterproof for rain.
Whew. Thanks for your attention and dedication to ensuring that your children are dressed appropriately so that they can fully appreciate and enjoy their outdoor school experience!
Here is an incomplete list of good gear brands, just to give some ideas for where to stock up if you need effective, durable items:
Recommended rain gear brands:
The North Face
Wool socks and mittens-
Fox River Double Ragg
Boots and rainboots-
Hello Fiddleheads families,
I hope that this finds you all well, secure and happy. After much consideration, research and discussion, we have decided that Fiddleheads will be reopening in January as a reduced, modified, fully outdoors program. It has been a long road from our sudden and supposedly temporary closure last March to this decision now, and we have had to make many adjustments in how we will conduct our program this winter/spring, so please read this message carefully while considering if you will choose to participate. We are currently re-enrolling previously enrolled families, and we will open any remaining slots up to our waitlist and new enrollment in early December.
After avidly following the reopening of schools this fall, it appears that when following clear public health guidelines, schools and childcare centers are relatively safe and have not been a significant cause of outbreaks. Multiple studies now continue to support this evidence. We will be following all required and recommended guidelines and we are working to further reduce risk as much as possible by keeping our group size small and steady, and committing to a fully outdoors program this winter/spring. Preschool age children are not required by state law to wear masks at school, but we will be encouraging mask use as much as possible, and we will practice mask use with the children when hiking on trails or in any other situation where social distancing with anyone outside of our group is not possible. (I have been working at a private school in Maine this fall that reopened with small class sizes in a mostly outdoor program with masks required and social distancing attempted to be maintained. I work with 5-7 year olds. I just want to be clear from the trenches here that although we will be encouraging social distancing when possible, we will not be requiring it during free play time, because that is just not possible for young children. We will be encouraging masks, even during free play, but mask use for many children under the age of about 6 or 7 is imperfect over longer time periods. Staff will be masked at all times when near children, and will support them and model for them, but please just be aware that this is the reality.) If we stay outside, keep our group small and stable, and if we all practice caution and accountability within our own households and transparency with each other, we believe that we can confidently and safely reopen for regular programming.
We will be conducting a full semester from January 11th through June 11th, barring any changes in regulation that might affect our ability to operate. We will be reopening as a recorded program with the state of Oregon, and will run programming from 9 am-1pm. We will not have aftercare this winter/spring. We will be fully outdoors. Pickup and dropoff will be at Mt Tabor Park. According to emergency childcare guidelines during the pandemic for a recorded program, we will have a capacity of ten students total, and we will be offering a single price, five day a week program only. This is the biggest change and I’m sorry if it will be inconvenient to some, but because of our reduced capacity, we can’t conduct the program in any other way right now. We can't honor previous tuition contracts and enrollment schedules, and we will only be re-enrolling families who can commit to this new schedule. (To be clear, we do not require that children attend all 5 days, but since we cannot enroll more than 10 children total in the entire program, the fee, which reflects a 5 day a week price, will be the same for all enrolled families.)
We are also changing our pricing structure from last year. It will now be a flat fee of $5300 for the semester, which is $800/month per child after the deposit. The change in price reflects the required additional regular cleaning, sanitizing and prep hours outside of programming, and additional materials required for the school to operate according to necessary guidelines and procedures during a pandemic, and also higher pay for staff working during the pandemic.
To keep us all safe, and to be in compliance with state guidelines, all children will need to have their temperature taken upon arrival at school, and parents will need to sign a waiver agreeing that their household is symptom free and low risk. We will be making some behavior requests for participating families. We will request that if any household member is ill with any of the following symptoms: cough, headache, runny nose, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, that all children from that household stay home until symptoms are passed for 72 hours, and if two or more of these symptoms are occuring at the same time, all family members stay home until they can demonstrate a negative covid test. We request that all families with any household members travelling out of state quarantine for two weeks before returning to school, or alternatively quarantine for one week and demonstrate negative covid tests for the household. We request that all families limit travel on public transport as much as possible, refrain from attending any large indoor gatherings, and if they attend small indoor gatherings, to do so with caution and discretion.
Because we will be conducting an entirely outdoor program beginning in January, it will be imperative that children are attired and prepared for the weather. We have detailed guidelines for clothing and gear, outlined below, and we will complete a gear check each day at dropoff. In the past we have had spare gear on hand and have dressed children as necessary with it at school if they were unprepared, but due to the pandemic we will not be able to clothe children this year unless it is an emergency. Thus they will need to be reliably prepared with their own items.
Clothing List for the winter:
Children will need to be attired in this full list of gear every day, and also bring the appropriate additional clothing daily, like extra gloves, socks etc, in sealed, waterproof bags. We can always remove layers if it warms up, but it is necessary to be prepared. We will be conducting a daily gear check along with our temperature check at morning check in time
Warm Clothing Layers:
-Long underwear tops and bottoms (preferably wool or fleece)
-Long sleeve shirt/sweater
-Easy to move in pants, like sweats
-Wool socks (send 2 extra pairs)
-Wool or waterproof gloves or mittens (4 pairs)
--Scarf or neck protector (recommended but not required)
-EITHER fleece AND a light parka, OR a heavy winter parka
-Waterproof Outer Layer worn over the top which is either a full body rain suit OR rain jacket and rain pants OR snow pants if it is snowing or there is an expected high under 40 degrees fahrenheit
-Insulated, fully waterproof boots
In addition to the gear above, each child should bring an extra set of the following clothing:
-Sweater or sweatshirt
Thanks so much for your attention and consideration, and your continued interest in and support of Fiddleheads. We appreciate it, and we look forward to hearing from you. And we really, really look forward to being able to have regular school together in the forest again! May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be filled with joy.
It has been a joy to continue our unique curriculum with families this fall safely through our online program. We have learned about squirrels, seeds, spiders, leaves, trees, and we are moving on to forests and welcoming winter as the semester deepens into the season change. We are so grateful for the families enrolled in this pilot program, and in the wonderful support and feedback that we have received. Here are some scenes from Fiddleheads online learning.
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