Ecoplus conducted day camp programs on March 6 and 6, 2021, at Shimizu village in Niigata, Japan. In the two days, 20 elementary school kids joined. During the program, they identified several animal tracks, dug snow caves, enjoyed flying snow sledging and were keeping laughing all the time.
On March 6, although it was sleeting, children were excited to come into the forest. They learned the different shapes of buds of plants and observed the foot prints of hares. Many of those experienced to use local snow shoes called “Kanji” during the walk.
After the lunch, it was the time to play on the snow. Some of those started to dig the snow using shovels. Their trials turned to a project to make snow caves. One of those was quite big enough to accommodate some children sitting inside. They also made a snow wall using snow blocks pulling outside from the cave, then their secret base was established. The walls between each one were also melted during the playing. The bright laughing voices were echoed in the tiny aged village.
On March 7, the weather condition was a bit better. With the clearer visibility, some of images of living creatures were identified. A naturalist, Mr. FUKASAWA, identified a “KAMOSHIKA,” or a Japanese serow, but it hided in somewhere. Then, a deer was spotted on the mountain ridge next to the village. Children enjoyed observing the deer with big antlers clearly with a powerful mononocular.
Children left the positive comments, like “it was nice to have new friends,” “It was fun to take lunch in our snow cave,” or “Sledging was very exciting.”
All of the participants are from this “snow country” and many of those said they were enjoying skiing. However they also said that they did not do sledding not so much, nor making snow caves next to their houses. It may be connected to the situation that many of new houses in the area are surrounded by concrete paved ground with running water for melting the snow. The children in the snow country look like losing the opportunity to play with snow in their daily lives.
“Kanjiki,” or Japanese snow shoes, were also unfamiliar for those. The tradition in the area is also fading away. The reactions from the participants showed the value to learn the nature and life in the place and to have the face-to-face dialogues with others through experiences.