In the depths of winter, as the school year wound its way back through January, our Kindergarteners learned of the bear’s hibernation, the geese’s migration, and the rabbit’s adaptation. How do we, as animals, respond to winter’s harsh demands? Do humans hibernate, migrate, or adapt? Depending on your community and career, you might do all three!

During winter some beekeepers migrate south with their hives. Although as humans we can’t achieve the hibernation status of a depressed metabolism, a lower body temperature, and a falling heart rate, we do experience similar tendencies to cozy up, stay inside, and feed off stored foods; in our case we store pickled vegetables and smoked meats, instead of fat in our bodies, but the principle remains the same. Finally, we adapt. We adapt by growing layers of fur in the form of coats and scarves and mittens are . We adapt by turning up the heat and eating steaming bowls of stew and soup. By understanding themselves as part of the animal world, our students grow up with a systems-thinking approach to environmental sustainability.

The other species of animals who live alongside us, are not just obstacles standing in the way of human civilization, nor are they just cute oxytocin-boosters meant to entertain and love us. Animals serve as reflections of our human experience here on planet Earth. Grounded in their bodies and in their purpose of survival, animals can teach of us of the simplicity of the present moment. What are the basics of our lives? How wholesome do we feel in the simple routines of eating, sleeping, moving our bodies, and gathering in families?

In the pictures above, Kindergarten Assistant Teacher, Doreen, dramatically hides the Mama bear in her cave, where she’ll stay hibernating until spring flowers open in late March.

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