Now that it’s the end of September, I’ve started the ECO program with the Waitsfield Kindergarten and East Montpelier 2nd/3rd grade joint class. Needless to say, the content of the lessons and the social expectations between these two age groups is quite different. But in both of those classes, and in all of the classrooms that the North Branch Nature Center staff teach the ECO program, the “Three Cares” are shared and used.
The “Three Cares” are a set of expectations for ECO students in the forest. Showing care is the overarching theme. With ECO happening in seven schools around Central Vermont with different rules and expectations for their students, it is helpful to have a unified way of explaining how we ask students, teachers, and volunteers to be in the woods. The "Cares" are simple, and profound, and I often catch myself applying them to my relationships outside of the ECO realm.
1. Take care of yourself:
During the morning circle, I always ask the group what the three cares are and an example of what it looks like. Here are some of the common replies: “Drink water,” or “Wear warm clothes and boots.” Here is a picture of three kindergarteners taking care of themselves by eating snack and putting on warm mittens on this cool autumn morning.
2. Take care of others:
When asked what taking care of others looks like, children respond, “Help a friend up if they trip,” “Zip up their backpack when they can’t reach it,” “Get a teacher if someone is hurt.” I never cease to be amazed at the empathy elementary school students demonstrate. They understand how important it is to help their friends, and sometimes need reminders. (Don’t we all need reminders to be kind sometimes?) Here, one student helps another collect materials to help her friend build her Red Eft Hotel.
3. Take care of the Earth:
Children as young as kindergarten understand to pick up trash on the side of a trail or not to pick all of the leaves off of one fern plant. Every time we go outside, children have an opportunity to show care for the earth and deepen their feelings of belonging in the natural communities around their school.
These three expectations set a tone of caring for the whole time we are outside. They are simple and basic, and powerfully profound. They are wonderful reminders for everyone about living kindly and lightly on the Earth. What does your child remember about “The Three Cares?”