Making bannock with children

                Author: Heather Stafford Cooking with children is such a rewarding experience. Preschoolers can learn basic math skills as they measure and count ingredients. They explore new language and procedural writing while you read the recipe together. Allowing your children to take ownership in preparing food makes them more likely to try new things which they have created. Cooking also comes with a whole set of exciting sensory experiences, there’s the sights, sounds and smells involved in cooking, the feeling of touching ingredients and kneading dough and of course tasting the final product! Finally, allowing your children to help in the kitchen boosts their confidence as they gain a sense of accomplishment by helping the family with something important.1 When we bring cooking outdoors, we can double the reward of that experience by spending time in nature and learning even more new skills!  As the York Region Nature Collaborative begin to prepare for our next exciting Family Adventure Walk in the forest on May 26th at Lake St. George Field Centre, we discussed offering a snack to participants, and the topic of bannock came up. Bannock is a traditional food of many Indigenous people. “The Inuit call it 'palauga,' it's 'luskinikn' to the Mi'kmaq, while the Ojibway call it 'ba`wezhiganag.' Whatever they call it, from north to south and coast to coast, just about every Indigenous nation across North America has some version of bannock.”2 You can read more about the history of Bannock here.  At the Family Adventure Walk, we will have bannock balls prepared ready for children to roll out into a long worm and wrap around a stick to roast over the fire. We hope that you’ll try making it at home, or the next time have a fire as well! You can find many recipes for Bannock online. I decided to try the one we will be making for the event with my own children in preparation for our event.   Bannock Recipe: 4 cups flour ½ cup sugar  2 tbsp baking powder  1 tsp Salt  2 tsp Cinnamon  ½ Cup shortening  1-2 cups water  Makes approximately 40 pieces      The first step is to measure all the ingredients into a bowl. My daughters worked on filling the measuring cups and spoons right to the top. We decided to cut the recipe in half since we only had a bit of time before swim lessons.         Before adding any of the wet ingredients we stirred up all the dry ingredients together. Then comes the fun part, we added the shortening and water and then we got to get our hands dirty! At first the dough was really sticky, my older daughter got right to work mixing with her hands. My younger daughter was a little more hesitant and waited until the mixture got less sticky before getting her hands in on the action.       Finally, we dump the dough out of the bowl and onto the counter so that we can knead it a little. Grandma taught my daughters how to knead dough, so they’re always excited to try! Because we were in a bit of a rush to get to swim lessons we didn’t have time to make a fire. Bannock is also known as fry bread, because instead of baking it in a pot, or wrapped around a stick over the fire, you can also fry it in a pan with a little grease. We decided to try out frying the bread, this can be done over the fire, or if that’s not available as in our case, on the stove! Once we made a nice round lump of dough, we ripped it into 4 pieces and patted them into flat pancake shaped pieces.     With a little help from a stool and learning tower, both girls got to try their hand at flipping the bread in the pan. They found that the bread was a little thicker and less floppy than pancakes, so it was easier to flip. They also noticed that they had to be careful that the fat didn’t splash when the bread was flipped.       And after all their assistance making Bannock, they were super excited to try it out. Our experiment got a passing mark from both kids! I got to try it too, and I think I like it better baked over the fire. I’m really looking forward to making it over the fire with my family at the Family Adventure Walk. For the event, we will be pre-making the dough to make it a little easier. Families will get the chance to roll their dough balls into long worms. Then each person will wrap their worm around and around a stick and roast it over the fire, similar to roasting a marshmallow.                Don't forget to register for the Family Adventure Walk !! References:  Gavin, M. L. (Ed.). (2021, November). Cooking with preschoolers (for parents) | nemours kidshealth. KidsHealth.   CBC/Radio Canada. (2018, June 20). Bannock: A brief history | CBC radio. CBCnews.        

Family Adventure Walk in the Forest: A Tribute

  York Region Nature Collaborative Family Day at Kortright Centre for Conservation    Honoring Dr. Diane Kashin’s Vision: A Legacy of Nature, Education, and Community In the heart of our Nature Collaborative, there lies a vision that started it all – Diane's vision. She envisioned a place where early childhood educators could immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, a space not just for learning but for exploration and growth. Diane's dream extended beyond the professional realm; it was about creating an environment where children could also connect with the outdoors. For the past seven years, we've been privileged to organize an annual adventure walk in the forest, a testament to Diane's commitment to bringing families closer to nature. This wonderful event not only allowed families to explore the great outdoors but also showcased the transformative power of nature.  Educators guided families through immersive outdoor activities, adventures, explorations, creating memories and fostering a love for nature in both young and old. Diane's legacy is not just a memory but a living, breathing force within our community. We continue to carry the joy of these events ensuring her vision remains with the YRNC and TRCA. As we reflect on Diane's love for the outdoors, her dedication to children, and her unwavering belief in the impact of early childhood educators, we find inspiration to push forward. In honoring Diane, we embark on a journey to cultivate a community where nature, education, and the spirit of collaboration thrive. Join us in celebrating the legacy of a visionary who believed in the profound influence of the outdoors and the pivotal role of early childhood educators. Together, we'll continue to sow the seeds of knowledge and appreciation for the world around us, inspired by Diane's enduring legacy.   Family Adventure Walk In The Forest: Winter 2024 On February 19, families gathered at the Kortright Centre for Conservation for a memorable Family Day filled with sunshine, laughter, and outdoor adventures. The day's activities were centered around getting outside and spending time in nature, providing families with a unique opportunity to connect with nature, engage in outdoor play, and learn about nature in the winter months. The York Region Nature Collaborative organized the event and so thrilled to see that over 100 families had attended!!       The joy of interacting with over 100 families was evident as they embraced the pleasures of outdoor cooking. The connection between play and learning became apparent as families experimented with open-fire cooking, fostering creativity, teamwork, and even encountering risky play. The aroma of roasting marshmallows filled the air, creating a delightful atmosphere that resonated with the spirit of Family Day. Exploring and engaging activities included, Snow Snakes, and other interactive adventures The winter sun glistened on the snow at Kortright Centre for Conservation on February 19th, creating a magical backdrop for families seeking adventure on Family Day. Among the diverse array of activities, one of the TRCA (Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) educators, early childhood educators, volunteers from the community, took the lead in guiding children through the enchanting world of snow snakes and other interactive experiences with snow and ice.      As children gathered with excitement, the TRCA educator introduced them to the art of crafting snow snakes. These creations involve molding snow into elongated shapes, resembling snakes, and then releasing them down a specially constructed track. This interactive activity not only allowed children to engage in winter artistry but also provided them with insights into the principles of physics as they observed the varying movements of their snow snakes. Children, in particular, relished the experience of tasting freshly cooked marshmallows while basking in the winter sun with their families. The event successfully merged the joy of play with the warmth of familial bonds, leaving everyone eagerly anticipating the next Family Walk and more time spent in nature.   From playing in the snow and sledding to experimenting with food-coloring painting on the snow canvas, the day was a celebration of the diverse ways in which families could connect with the winter environment. A highlight of the day was the creation of ice art using pre-made ice blocks. Families worked together to arrange and, in some cases, playfully smash the ice blocks, turning them into unique sculptures. This tactile experience not only allowed for creative expression but also showcased the transformative power of the winter elements.    Fabric and Stick Forts, Photo credit Cindy Green Another engagement and exciting aspects of the day was witnessing families and children engage in building structures with natural materials and building forts with fabrics.  The outdoor environment provided a canvas for creativity, where families listened to children's thoughts and followed their lead. Together, they constructed forts, dens, and wooden structures, capturing these moments with photographs to cherish the memories. The winter adventures at Kortright Centre continue to serve as a reminder that nature, play, and education can seamlessly come together to create meaningful and joyous experiences for families, ensuring a love for the outdoors and the great appreciation of the Land in which we are invited to engage with nature and other ways of knowing. Comments from the Community and Volunteers ” The Family Adventure Walk in the Forest began with a sacred fire and ceremony, paying tribute to the late Diane Kashin, the visionary behind the event. Families celebrated the winter wonderland by participating in various activities, from sledding and snowshoeing to creating ice art and traditional den building”-Eunji “February 19 was a beautiful sunny winter Family Day . I had the pleasure of meeting over 100 families at the Kortright Centre for Conservation. It was pleasure to interact with the families and introduce them to Fire and Food. Like any form of play, outdoor cooking is intertwined with a vast array of learning experiences. It involves experimentation, creativity, teamwork and first encounters with risk. It was evident that the children loved tasting the cooked marshmallows and spending time with their families outdoors. I am looking forward to the next Family walk and spending more time outdoors.”   Donna  The next Family Adventure Walk will be on May 26th, 2024. Visit the website and follow us on Instagram @yr_naturecollaborative  for updates and information. Looking forward to the next event!                        

Moving Forward in a Good Way

By: Dr. Diane Kashin, RECE   I am currently the volunteer chair of the York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC). I am a retired early childhood education professor, committed to the mission of the YRNC to increase access for ALL PEOPLE OF ALL AGES to nature in York Region and beyond! During my long career in early childhood education, I have been passionate about professional learning. To that end, I have been working with YRNC so that we can offer meaningful experiences for the early learning community. I am so energized by the direction the YRNC has been taking in the past few years and grateful to Gokoomis (Grandmother) Jacque Lavalley, Oshkaabewis (Helper) Hopi Martin, and Fire Keeper Johnny Moore. It is through the relationships that we have established with the Indigenous community that we have been able to move forward in a good way offering experiences for children, families and educators. Our next conference is Land as Teacher: Renewing Relationships. This is the second time we are offering this conference and we hope to make it an annual event. This family friendly conference represents a unique professional learning experience. Not only will it help ECEs understand the importance of Land-based pedagogy and play, it will represent a response to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, “we call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families”. This is an opportunity to experience Traditional Ojibwe Sunrise Ceremony, Sacred Fire, Jingle Dress Dancing, Drumming, an Anishinaabe Wigwam, a Water Walk, Spring planting, and other workshops led by Indigenous facilitators. It is our hope that this potentially transformative experience will inspire all in attendance to continue this good and important work in their own contexts. We are working on establishing a digital professional learning community through the platform Storypark so that we can stay connected as we learn on the Land with children, families and other educators.  Following an Indigenous methodology that revolves around the seasons, we are offering workshops and events throughout the year. One recent participant at our winter event at the majestic Kortright Centre on February 15th, noted that it was “the most inspirational workshop I ever attended”. Another posted on Twitter, “this beautiful place which looks out over the storied valley on the Humber River - it’s a perfect place to revisit the principles that help us cycle deeper through learning, in kind relationship #landasourfirstteacher. Thank you to all in @YRNature for this day”. We are a grassroots organization with each workshop and event, funding the next offering. We hope that you will be interested in experiencing a professional learning conference that is unique and important to your own learning and to all of us moving forward in a good way. If you can join us, you can click here to register. If you are unable to join us, we hope that you will be able to make a donation to our Land as Our First Teacher educational fund. We use the funds raised to help urban Indigenous children, youth, and families reconnect to the Land. It also helps with honorariums for Elders, Knowledge Keepers and to purchase traditional medicines to be used in Ceremony during our events. Following the spring conference, we will once again be offering the Rhythm of Learning in Nature which is a nature retreat for Indigenous and non-Indigenous educators walking together on the Land to the benefit of our youngest learners. At beautiful Lake St. George we will be able to learn and play together in the Bush Early Years Centre there. I recently visited this inspiring place and it is amazing to see how it has changed from season to season. In the fall, we offer a free event for families, The Family Adventure Walk in the Forest. Our winter offering for 2021 is yet to be conceived but we know that as we move forward in a good way, the focus will present itself. For me, this is about an opportunity to create a legacy that will live on. We invite you to be a part of the YRNC legacy!            

Land as our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships Conference Report

Land as Our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships  2019 Conference Report by Hopi Martin  Last Spring, York Region Nature Collaborative (YRNC) and Toronto Region Conservation Authority shifted the focus of their annual ECE conference to make space for Indigenous leadership and approaches to early childhood education. Land as Our First Teacher: Establishing and Maintaining Relationships brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, youth, educators, and families to learn from Elders and Knowledge Keepers about the importance of our children having quality relationships with Land and Community. Because systemic barriers continue to keep people from Land, this powerful act of Truth and Reconciliation could only happen with support from Lawson Foundation, The Indigenous Network, Louise Kool and Galt, Pearson Publishing, Scholar’s Choice, Wintergreen, The Silver Moccasin, Natural Learning Early Childhood Consultancy, Natural Curiosity, and York Child Development Family Services Inc. through the Bev Bernier Professional Development Fund through the creation of a Land as Our First Teacher Fund at Toronto and Region Conservation Foundation (2019 Conference Report). A special thank you to Sara Beth Martin and my kids, Gokoomis Jacque(line) Lavalley and Grandmother Vivian Recollet for their community support, Dr. Diane Kashin and YRNC, Adrian O’Driscoll and the Kortright Staff, and the Natural Curiosity Team for their individual and collective efforts to make this event possible. Thank you to Jordana Rapuch for her copy-editing in producing this beautiful document! My hope is that this event and report continues to support our collective responsibility to ‘walk together’ with Kindness and Caring for the Land and each other.  

Acknowledging Land

Acknowledging Land By: Hopi Lovell Martin M. A. Child Study & Education, OCTYork Region Nature Collaborative Recently, as non-Indigenous people and organizations have become aware of Truth and Reconciliation, there has been a move to begin public gatherings with a “Land Acknowledgement.” For many, this is seen as a crucial first step towards establishing respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples who have always been connected to the land. While there is no nation called “Indigenous” and it continues to mean different things to different people in different parts of the world, names like Anishinaabeg, Hodenosaunee, and Wendat, Métis, and Inuit are often collectivized to refer to peoples with specific connections to specific lands since time immemorial. While learning these names can be complex, especially since there are different names connected with different lands at different points in history, the process of learning these nuances provides valuable context and often reveals a different story than we were taught in school. Read more

Learning to Play and Playing to Learn with Nature: Finding our Rhythm

For four years the York Region Nature Collaborative has been offering  The Rhythm of Learning in Nature a unique five-day intensive professional learning opportunity during the summer. Last year, we decided to call the week, a knowledge retreat because the depth of our learning that occurs when we play together outside! Read more

Building Nature Connection in the Early Years

I regret to say that when I worked with young children I did not fully embrace the opportunity to help them build nature connections. I have made that confession in a previous post. However, in the last five or six years, nature pedagogy has become both a passion and a research focus.  Read more

The Benefits of Physical Activity in Nature

Think back to a time you went for a walk in a park or in a forest. Did you breathe in the fresh air and feel tension leave your body?There’s growing evidence that trees, plants and blue skies create an environment that decreases stress, improves mental health and lowers the risks for chronic diseases. 1, 2 Being active in nature can make you happier, healthier and more relaxed!    Read more

Planning Nature Programs in Early Childhood Education

Recently I was asked to speak at a gathering of early learning providers about the availability of nature programs in York Region.  I will be reporting both good news and bad news.  Starting with the bad, I will relate that to the best of my knowledge, most outdoor education centres in our area focus on older children but I will let them know about the Kortright Centre and their forest school programs as one option. The pickings are slim but the good news is that it is easy to plan your own nature programs in early childhood education.  It involves a three part planning process.  Find nature.  Add children.  Mix.  The end result will be happy children.  Read more

Guelph-Humber ECE Students Take on Nature!

On March 7, 2016, members of York Region Nature Collaborative had the pleasure of meeting four students from the Early Childhood Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber.  Adriana Mercuri, Melissa Pohland, Alisha ParJohn and Karandeep Singh were led on a hike by YRNC's chair, Diane Kashin, along the Oak Ridges Moraine in Richmond Hill, with stops at the Swan Lake Centre for Innovation and Conservation, as well as at Lake St. Field Centre.  At Lake St. George, the group also met with Nicole Hamley, teacher and YRNC Executive Committee member (Communications).  Here is what the students shared after their experiences with us: Read more


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