I am Sarah Marshall, a Forest and Nature School Practitioner, certified through Forest School Canada and the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, and facilitator of play! My dayhome is BGC Day Homes licensed, approved and monitored. I have been operating my
nature play based dayhome in Cochrane for 17 years because I genuinely love the business of learning alongside
children – it is so joyful and rewarding to me. Every day is full of curiosity and wonder!
I look forward to each day with my team of adventurers, working with their
families, and the experiences we have.
I am invested in providing children in my care with what matters most in early childhood; to feel the warmth of the sunshine and breathe fresh air and a safe, relaxed, stress-free environment. A welcoming place where children are lovingly cared for, honored, valued and feel like they belong. A place where heartening relationships flourish, and children experience lot's of happiness, laughter, and PLAY!
The children and I enjoy a daily rhythm in a warm and nurturing family atmosphere. The theme is learning through play! The children are given the opportunity to initiate their own play experiences, they have access to variety of enchanting toys and quality materials, and all the amazing opportunities for play and supported risk taking the beautiful outdoors has to offer!
Hands on, mucky and messy, child-initiated fun - is the pinnacle of learning through play!
I love my role of co-learner, trusting children and giving them freedom to stretch themselves, seeing them as capable learners and involving them in their learning process. The children's natural interests and inclinations guide the direction of our play. Through observation, documentation and reflection of my group's interests and developmental stages I introduce various provocations, loose parts and materials to support their learning and development.
I accept children into care ages 18 months +.
In my free time, I enjoy taking courses and workshops related to early
learning and development and outdoor education. A few examples: Dave Verhulst of Forest Tracks in Canmore; Connecting to Nature Through Storytelling, Dr. Peter Gray - The Power of Play: How it promotes children's intellectual social, moral, and emotional development,
Institute of Child Psychology Workshop: Tammy Schamuhn, R. Psych, R.
Play Therapist - Childhood Anxiety: Understanding & Helping Children, Tinkering webinar with Dr. Beverlie Dietze and others offered through Get Outside & Play, National Child Day Conference through ARCQE. I am also an avid reader of books and research articles on the topic of early childhood, and forest and nature school ethos.
children come to Wild Wonders Nature Play, they step into the natural
world leaving behind the rush, schedules and adult agendas. Here, children experience a reprieve from the barriers
that limit their capacity to fully immerse themselves in play and learn.
As an educator and facilitator of nature play, I trust children, value what they are
doing and support their learning. Children need uninterrupted periods to
develop their play, time to become deeply involved, to follow their
ideas through, and return to their explorations. Here, they enter a
world that enables them to become fully engaged without the
constraints of their space, time and freedom. A state of flow which provides an optimal
and authentic learning experience.
explore: Cochrane Ranche, Big Hill Creek, in the large, fenced backyard playground, walks and biking to the parks and
the red path and in the area including Riverfront Park. The children's
days are enriched by exploring the limitless wonders of the natural world, natural phenomena, cycles, flora and fauna. The children do activities like campfires, tool use, art, picnics, mud play,
creek wading, shelter building, snowmen, snow forts, sledding, puddle jumping, vegetable gardening, foraging,
tree climbing, vegetable peeler whittling and much more! Unless it is
dangerously cold outside (school closure, extreme windchill/frostbite
warning) we play outside every day.
The children develop a reverence for the land they regularly adventure on and explore. Their connection deepens and establishes love for Cochrane Ranche, the wonders it holds and a desire to protect and care for it.
their beloved nature sites daily and given unhurried time, space and
freedom, the children are deeply engaged in playful learning, and it is a
truly beautiful thing to observe!
I love to see the children so aesthetically aware, like pointing out the soft, silver fuzz on a new crocus or the curl of a dried-out sepal on a rosehip. I am so fortunate to see the world from their perspective and things I might overlook.
I notice ruddy cheeks, bright eyes and hear "I am strong and capable!". There is an attitude of self-confidence and competence as they master and practice
emerging physical skills; climbing trees, leaping across boulders,
balancing on a log to cross a creek, navigating uneven terrain, bike riding all the way to the Bow
River and scrambling up steep banks. Children are developing body awareness and learning they can do hard things and internalizing it!
It is always entertaining to watch the children's creativity
and their imaginative play; a bent over tree trunk "tree
trampoline" and collaborating to take turns bouncing on it, pretending
log across the dry creek bed is their horse, pounding Juniper berries
with rocks to make fragrant "cookies" or crawling under the trees where
only small people can
squeeze to discuss plans for soup made from pine cones, mud and grass,
playing deer hiding in the grass, howling wolf pack running through the
A lot of the activity that unfolds during nature play, involves collaboration, trust and teamwork. Whether it be working together to lift a heavy branch, tie knots to make a rope swing, pull a struggling friend up a bank or build a fort, children are socially interacting and learning to communicate effectively to overcome obstacles and play.
A person once chanced upon our giggly play as they were out for a walk. They observed my team playing in the
creek on a hot summer day at the Ranche and paused on the bridge to smile. The children were absolutely
exuberant, jumping off a log into the shallow water, dropping leaves in the current to watch them float downstream, counting and lining up mud pies to be baked in the sun
and splashing each other. They wisely told me, "These kids won’t
remember the shows they watched or the video games they played this
summer...this is what they'll remember". Some of the most meaningful early
learning happens in wholesome joyful experiences like these.
It's heartwarming for me to see the children I've looked after over the years,
who have since grown and moved on from my care (some of whom are adults
now!). After the hugs and chit chat, the conversation inevitably turns
to "remember when we... built that fort! went sledding! and saw a moose!
had a fire! swam in the creek!". It fills me with happiness and joy to hear
their most memorable experiences were playing outside.
am very passionate about the importance of
outdoor play in childcare and beyond. Over my 17 years' experience, I
have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the many benefits
of outdoor play and connecting with nature. It supports whole child
I strive to create a warm and calm environment that invokes
wonder, investigation and curiosity, creativity and problem solving. The set up of invitations to play and provocations are full of rich open-ended materials. It is a responsive and intentional space that is always evolving and changed frequently. Children can make choices independently about what they will use and how they will use it. It holds a variety of quality toys,
educational and open ended materials such as loose parts, manipulatives, very large library of books, puzzles
and games, Zoomy handheld digital microscope, light table, overhead projector, wind tunnel, sensory table, nature treasures, creative and dramatic play materials, musical instruments, a
plethora of construction & engineering toys like wooden arches &
tunnels, large hollow blocks, wooden blocks, Grimms stackers, Sumblox, mirror blocks, Magformers, Magnatiles, ramps, and more.