Every year, the children make plans to get to "Dragon Tooth Rock." This great boulder is a landmark along our path the "Blue House" site. It sits in a deep pool in Sligo Creek, a pile of debris collected on one bank and changeable rocky beach on the other. Storms come through and change the surface and edges of the creek. Last Spring, a great snapping turtle lurked in the depths around the great boulder.
This adventure, this challenge, is so enticing that we have to stop on the way past and the way back to talk about it, to look at how the creek has changed since the last time we have visited. There are grand plans including rappelling from the bike bridge above down to the surface, building bridges, or surely we could build a boat to float to it. This pause, with its discussion and problem-solving, is so useful and an important part of childhood.
One year, the children actually climbed to Dragon Tooth. An especially fierce Spring flood brought a great tree from upstream and lodged it perfectly against another smaller tree. These formed a bridge from the debris field to the rock.
These are the stories passed down that become part of the school's lore and through all of them, we pass the seasons at the creek. The children's plans factor in what nature gives them and surely in Winter, we will ice skate to Dragon Tooth!
It has been years since the creek has frozen over and as luck would have it, our regularly scheduled Forest Day fell on an especially cold day. Today was surely the day we would skate to Dragon Tooth Rock!
On Forest Days, the morning and afternoon classes spend their time in the woods. During my site visit earlier (I visit our route and the site each week as part of my risk analysis), I notice a dad on the ice with his two children. They were drilling through the ice to check its thickness, taking tentative steps, testing, measuring. I stayed to watch because he was doing my work for me. Thank you!
Now on the day, I led the morning class out onto the ice, testing it myself first talking with the children about the colors of the ice and the sound. And oh that sound, the cracking and crunch is so attractive and it's natural for humans, young and old, to challenge themselves to walk to the next sound and that delicious feel of crunch. We looked for the edges, places where tree trunks or branches would create weaker ice or where the flow of water was visible beneath thinner ice.
I will admit that I limited the morning class' exploration. Even though the morning class would be out there for a handful of hours, I spend the whole day outside on Forest Days first with them and then with the afternoon class. I didn't want to take any additional risks that would result in a day of wet and freezing gear.
The afternoon class, though, HAD to get to Dragon Tooth Rock! Ice is fleeting and the experience so precious. Here is our prekindergarten class called the Tracks, all of them already 5 or turning 5 and they would soon enough be off to "big kid school." The school lore has already established that all things are possible in Tracks class. Today the possible happened.
"Amazing," was the word of the day as they slipped across the ice from the rocky beach to tap Dragon Tooth. Tap, tap and with that tap feeling and also not feeling the significance of that tap. The whole story will be brought home after the melt when they see that deep, fast-flowing eddy around that boulder and think, "I was there. I did that."