Learning Story – Setting New Boundaries in the Snow

The Week of November 8, 2022

What Happened? 

We have had so much fresh fluffy snow over the last few weeks, and the Bushkids had so much fun playing in it and with it. What a treat! We enjoyed shaking the trees so an avalanche of snow would dump on our heads, burying ourselves in the snow, sliding, hiking, rolling down hills, and hiding in the snow. Some Bushkids pulled around their friends who took turns riding in the sleds. We found icicles hidden in “crystal caves”. We gathered snow in the sleds, ate the snow and made “snow cones” by squirting juice boxes and tangerines into the snow. 

We melted snow over the fire in our “mud kitchen” pots and pans, and even melted snow in a big pot to boil our eggs that we ate as a delicious snack. Auntie (elder Berna Martin) guided us in the Wıı̀lıı̀deh language, including numbers, names of animals, and phrases to describe how we are feeling – our Wıı̀lıı̀deh vocabulary is really expanding. She also worked with several Bushkids to cook bannock and “chickens” (grouse) over the wood stove for everyone to try. 

Why is all of this meaningful? 

As educators, we find ourselves setting boundaries that will help to keep everyone warm and safe, but then changing these boundaries when we see that an activity contains really useful learning and that we have found new ways to mitigate the risks. 

Last week, when some of us were getting cold on our long hike into Donovan’s camp, we told the Bushkids not to shake the trees or dump snow on each other, and not to lie down in the snow as it will make you colder. We always try to avoid getting our mittens or snowsuits wet since that will make us cold very quickly. And we have a longstanding rule that sleds are to be used for hauling wood and equipment, but not for riding in, and we never slide down hills in a sled due to risk of injury. However, this week we set new boundaries. It was ok to create snow avalanches from the trees, but we tried to ensure our hoods were up so it didn’t go down our necks. We rolled around and buried ourselves in the snow, as long as we stayed moving. 

Melting snow over the fire always seems to result in water splashing over mittens, but we allowed this activity for a period of time and then changed into dry mittens. We allowed kids to pull each other and ride in the sleds as long as they stayed close to camp and didn’t go down any steep hills. Eating snow is not generally advisable but we tried to find clean patches without any tracks or footprints.

This helped to remind all of us how important it is to assess the risks and how to mitigate them! Risk tolerance changes everyday – it is dynamic and moves with the weather, with our energy, with our circumstances and with the Land. The important thing is to involve the Bushkids in doing these risk assessments so they are aware of the “why” and can make better decisions on their own, including how to make an activity safer, and to weigh benefits and risks. 

What does this mean for next time? 

We may continue to set new boundaries as the seasons change, as the weather gets colder, as our group dynamics change, and as the Bushkids develop their capacity to take care of themselves, each other and the Land. We will all work together to practice assessing risks and setting appropriate boundaries for ourselves and others. We are always encouraging the Bushkids to ask for consent and to communicate boundaries to each other. One thing we can be more explicit about at Bushkids is thow important it is to ask the Land for consent.