Nature BlogStories from programs and outdoor ramblings
Week 8 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Oct 29th, 2020
Our last day began with kickball, it was a spirited game and also a landslide victory. Everyone played hard, for some it was kind of a new game and we learned as we went, by the end of the game most everyone was a little worn down and ready for a water and snack break.
Week 8 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
At opening circle we shared stories from our sit-spots over the last week and talked about what we most look forward to this winter. That conversation may have called in the snow that would fall shortly, but who can say? Our first stop of the day was the spring and the generous shelter of white pines and maples nearby, where we enjoyed the beautiful snowfall while climbing, building nests from pine needles and playing at the spring. After lunch we set off for Otter Slide Hill, which the kids had no problem navigating to from memory, and where we would meet the other three groups for a ‘village’ afternoon.
At the base of Otter Slide Hill, we set up four stations, each led by an instructor, and the students were able to cycle through them at their own pace. Matt led an endless and spirited game of spide-rball, Carrie led crafting and drawing, Kriya led fire-making challenges, and Scott led soapstone carving. By the sounds of it, the students thoroughly enjoyed all the stations, and savored the chance to see all the groups in one place at a safe distance.
We all walked back to the lawn in a stretched-out train of students and instructors, and shared stories from each of the stations along the way. It has been a fantastic session, and it was certainly bittersweet bidding farewell to our fellow Salamanders, but we will surely cross paths again before long.
It was a fun last day. We started off our morning with a check in on how everyone was doing, and playing our best card game from Radley. The smalls of our group also did some amazing team work to climb a big maple tree on the main lawn. After the first major rain/snow storm we started our walk heading towards the botanical gardens. We were excited to check in where we started our first fall session, the secret garden! It was a tough walk as the rain and snow tried to get us to turn back, but we stayed strong and some of us tried catching the snow flakes on our tongues. It was impressive to see the amount of work that has taken place at the gardens since we began fall session, and we enjoyed seeing how the gardens have progressed all fall, from full vibrant blooms to only a couple flowers left still holding color. We ventured up to the woods after a mice walk into the labyrinth, this space has been so busy all fall we never had a chance to explore it. We took a lunch break in the big eagles nest before walking through to see all the new fairy houses that have been placed. Our afternoon adventure took place at the popular otter slide hill. We met all the other groups where we broke up into groups to participate in a free choice of activities: carving, drawing, fire building, soap stone carving, and spider ball. All the girls did a little of everything, it stayed together our group for the most part. After our walk back to the commons we were able to enjoy a big cookie while we talked about our favorite parts of the fall- the consensus was the day at the spring.
Week 7 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
Today was our seventh and second-to-last Tuesday together, and it was a great one. The leaves were brilliant beneath a friendly blanket of cumulus clouds, the air was crisp, and the damp forest beckoned. We began our day with a few lively rounds of a game where we took turns blindfolding ourselves and trying to tag everyone else with a pool noodle. The blindfolded person got to practice relying more on their sense of hearing, while the rest got to practice their quietest fox walks. At opening circle we each shared something we’re feeling grateful for and a story from the last week of adventures outside of nature school. After jumping into a pile of leaves outside the building while we took turns using the facilities, we set off into the forest where a pileated woodpecker welcomed us by drumming on a white ash atop Cistern Hill. Our first stop was a tall, straight maple tree tipped against a hillside, where we practiced balancing along the trunk. A bit further into the forest we spent a good few minutes exploring and climbing an expansive willow hidden behind a hedge of vines and apple branches. Back on the trail, we climbed up to Otter Slide Hill, where another group had set up camp for the day, so we hiked up around the gravel slope through the trees to the top where it opened into a high field dotted with apple trees and sumac groves. At the summit, we dropped our weary packs and settled in for lunch. After lunch we played a few rounds of a hide-and-seek game called ‘deer and coyote’, which we renamed ‘chickadees and hawks’. As we hid quietly in the grass among the sumacs, chickadees alarmed from the maples as a red-tailed hawk circled overhead. On our walk back to the lawn we made a detour to another expansive willow for a bit more climbing. A pileated woodpecker called from the lofty top of a nearby white pine. The take-home challenge this week is to return to your sit-spot for another visit. See if you can sit still and quiet for ten or more minutes, and pay close attention to the things you see changing this time of year. Maybe geese will fly honking overhead, maybe golden leaves will wheel down from the trees, maybe a salmon will splash on its way up a nearby creek. Bring a snapshot of the changes you witnessed in the form of a story, a drawing, a collage, a sculpture — however you want to capture the high point of this fleeting season.
We started our day with slack lining, rope swinging, jump roping, and good old goofing around. We had Zachery join us as an assistant for the day and Rowan from Kriyas group was a guest as well. We circled up for snack and swapped stories from the week and also talked about our intentions for the day.
Snail Pigeons started our day with a few different games. We tested our balance skills on the slack line that Matt put up. We tried our skill at remembering different birds with Bird concentration, and re played Radleys War card game.
We went into the commons on our regular path, looking at our woods, but now covered in leaves on the trail. We took the roundabout route to enjoy an early lunch on top of Mullen Hill where we tried to decide how we were going to sneak up on Matts group. We did our best by climbing up the backside of otterslide hill, passing wild leeks that have gone to seed. Once on top we bumped into many groups and found the others at the bottom of the hill. After settling in, eating some more and warming up in the sun we joined Matts group for a game of Eagle Eye. This is a fun game, much like hide and seek but no seeking on foot, only standing in the “nest”. After a few rounds, and we all figured out who the master hiders were, we learned a new game, Nest Robbers. THis is a fun game where we could team up with a partner to find “food” caches for your designated nest, and to protect that food from the foxes and save yourself from the sharpshined hawk flying around. Everyone had fun running around and up and down the hills there at Otter Slide Hill. The winning team at the end looked to be our very own Penelope and Arletta. We took a break before heading back looking at rocks and trying some carving.
The walk back was a nice relaxing time to continue conversations with each other and build our connections as a small group. Next week is our last one for the season! Take home challenge was a suggestion to try and see the meteor shower tomorrow morning. Hopefully there will be a clear sky and everyone will be able to see it before the sun comes up.
Week 7 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Oct 22nd, 2020
WooHoo, what a day!
Week 6 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Oct 15th, 2020
We started off with a great game of Get Gabby with pool noodles! Everyone was full speed running around and having so much fun, well maybe Gabby had a little less fun then the kiddos. For morning circle we read a story of how a young girl imagined what it would be like to be a snail crawling around. Before we went too far on our hike for the morning the kids could not resist the leaves, they needed to create a large pile so they could take a couple jumps into it.
Our hike took us up to Otter Slide hill, but on the way we had a great time practicing coming down a smaller sand hill, and took a break out of the brief rain shower. After we arrived at Otter Slide Hill, named because in the winter many children will be seen sliding down like otters on their bellies, everyone took a turn going all the way up and running down. While they rested at the bottom we were on a search for our favorite rocks. There are so many different types and colors of rocks there it was hard to choose the favorites. Lunch was a welcomed distraction from the hill as we all worked up a big appetite. After lunch some individuals took a couple more runs on the big hill while a new nature band erupted in the lunch spot. Soon all the kiddos were helping out, singing and drumming. We had quite the beautiful noise coming from the woods. The rain that came only added to the wonderful noise, creating a different sound to the mix. No one seemed phased by this rain and kept on singing.
After the rain passed we packed up and took the scenic route back to the commons. We climbed up and down many more hills, and were able to see some interesting trees and even some bone pieces. We ended our day back at the big lawn with the story of the Indian Paintbrush.
Week 6 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday, October 13th, 2020
The Salamanders spent another fine October day together today. Sure, a day haunted by the prospect of rain that at one point had us discussing whether to build a shelter, run for the building or panic, but in the end a dry, colorful and fun day in the Commons together. We began the day with a spirited game of ‘anemones and plankton’ (which is a spinoff of ‘amphibians and insects’ — itself a spinoff of ‘sharks and minnows’), before finding a nice sunny patch for opening circle. We took turns sharing our stories from the last week of stargazing, and heard about the Big Dipper, Pleiades, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and the thin crescent moon.
Our first stop of the day was the Botanic Garden, where we explored the hushed alcoves of the ‘stable garden’. In the pollinator garden nearby many flowers were still blooming, and insects of all sorts were busy stocking up on food. Our walk next took us into the woods to the ‘giant bird nest’, where we played a few informal games, and onward across a single-log bridge to the aspen grove beyond. At the aspen grove we chose a comfortable, dry spot to eat lunch. After lunch, word came in from the directors that rain was moving our way, and since we weren’t all dressed for wet weather, we opted to walk back to the building after some deliberation. On the walk back we watched dark rainclouds pass around the Commons, but remained mercifully dry. Back at the lawn we played a few rounds of ‘eagle eye’, that Salamander standby, and adapted it to different species. We played one round of ‘chickadee eye’, one of ‘hawk eye’ and one very short round of ‘salamander eye’ before adjourning to play among the wildflowers going to seed along the banks of the stream. The take-home challenge this week is to collect colorful leaves again, like we did the first week, and to come up with fanciful, poetic or silly names for their colors. Pay attention to how the colors and textures of the leaves have changed since September, and bring a few favorites and their names to share with the group next week. Can you catch a leaf as it drifts down from the blazing canopy?
We had a pretty relaxed morning, kicked around a soccer ball, played a few rounds of dodge ball, and chatted as we got caught up and warmed up. In our morning circle, there was a grand announcement that Kaia, after having completed her take home carving project to the best of her ability and having turned that in for a full staff review has now officially earned and received level 3 certification for knife skills! This is our highest level of certification, Kaia now has our full confidence and is able to carve independently at class and even monitor level 2 carvers. Nice work Kaia!! We went on out to the woods and stopped at a well stocked carving and crafting area. Most of our group were excited to work on some carving projects, a few of the kids were doing log balancing and lumber jack rolls nearby. We scouted around for the perfect piece of green basswood and had to improvise a ladder to harvest the perfect branch. As we scouted we also identified ironwood, beech, and sugar maple trees. We had our lunch there but decided it had gotten too cold for anymore handicraft, so we wandered on down to a nearby stream. The sun came out for a bit and we enjoyed wading in the stream, scouting around, and using the rope swing. We saw a quick flash of action in the creek, guessing it was a brook trout. We had to get back for an early pickup, so we assembled and hiked back. The rest of our afternoon was spend playing a variety of games in the lawn space, this included ‘trick or treat’, ‘mirror’, ‘pass the stick’, ‘everybodys it’, ‘noodle ninja’, ‘murder’, and more. TAKE HOME CHALLENGE: Catch a wild leaf! Thats right, catch a leaf as it falls from a tree before it hits the ground, bonus is to catch as many differently colored leaves as possible and report back next week! The previous record for leaves caught in one week by a student is 21.
The Snail Pigeons started the morning reconnecting with each other. It is amazing how much has happened after a week apart. We had some fun laughs while Radley taught us a new card game, similar to War but with a twist. We took a nice hike out to the spring where we were able to catch the sunshine, rolling down the hill, climbing trees, and play in the spring. The girls worked hard to help the flow of the spring by removing the pine needles. A tiring job as the wind was persistent so the needles kept falling from the pine up above. We took a break and a short walk down into the swamp to collect some materials to at temp cattail weaving and natural cordage. While on the walk we were able to snack on autumn olives and find wands for everyone that wanted one. With the chance of rain we headed back early to the commons where some of our group joined Matt’s in a few games of “tag” with noodles. Days like today are hard to beat, but we can not wait for next week.
Week 5 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
Today was our fifth Tuesday together, and after a week of rain, we savored the clear skies and warm breeze with a good long walk, lots of games and some unexpected October flower collecting at the end of the day.
We began the day with a reprise of ‘Sharks and minnows’ from last week, except this time it was ‘Amphibians and insects’. Who knew worms could run so fast? At opening circle we each shared stories from our sit-spot, and we heard about chickadees alarming from the trees, woodpeckers at work, barred owls corresponding in the forest at dusk and gulls calling overhead. I encourage the kids to keep up the practice — there is untold richness in sitting. The first leg of our walk took us down Autumn Olive Lane, where there were still a few speckled red berries clinging to the branches, to where Kid’s Creek flows under the trail. There we looked for spawning salmon, puzzled at the sound of walnuts falling from the surrounding trees and watched crimson leaves circle the whirlpools beneath the bridge. Next we made the hike over the the aspen grove, where we spent some time on another sunny day this session, and settled in for lunch. The rattling leaves overhead provided just enough shade as we ate and told stories. The last leg of our long walk took us back to the lawn where we played a good many rounds of ‘Eagle Eye’, a favorite game among the Salamanders. At first glance, the grassy expanse dotted with trees didn’t seem to offer many places to hide, but after a round or two we found that it’s a great place to play the game. After ‘Eagle Eye’, we visited the stream and the kids collected bouquets for their parents. The take-home challenge this week is to go outside after dark or before sunrise and see if you can spot any planets. How about constellations? What phase is the moon in? Draw a picture of what you saw and bring it next Tuesday to share.
Yesterday began with a wonderful treat, Kaia brought in home made pumpkin donuts and we had some local organic cider form Omena. We swapped some stories from the week and talked about our day which was focused on archery. We teamed up and brought out a slew of archery equipment and set up a shooting range. After some brief review and instruction, we let loose on the range and sent many volleys of arrows. The first round, 35 arrows were shot and almost none of them hit the target but as things went on the vast majority of shots were on target. Throughout this we had a points tournament going, the winner got to be “teacher for the day” which has become a theme in which a new person each week gets a special leadership role after lunch. We had lunch and as I set up for archery tag the girls were chilling in the sun and the boys were pretending to be cats. We played a few rounds of archery tag which is a game similar to dodge ball but replaces the balls with foam tipped arrows and has some small targets you need to hit in order to win the game. This is a fast paced and adrenalated game which also demands a high level of focus to fire a bow arrow and dodge too. After a water break, we decided to press pause on archery and play some good old fashioned ‘murder mystery’ which is a classic school yard game. Our final archery session of the day was a capture the flag type game which was a big hit!
The Snail Pigeons enjoyed a perfect fall day on the commons. We took a long route to the Aspens where we took a break for lunch. While there everyone enjoyed running through the woods, climbing the tree, and just building connections. We traveled up to otter slide hill for afternoon adventures. Everyone enjoyed heading to the top of the hill and running down, carving sandstone, and just full on imaginary play. We got to see some great salamanders as well under the LARGE logs. When we made our way back to the big lawn we played a fun game of Animal Charades. It was great to be out in the wonderful weather!
Week 5 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Oct 8th, 2020
Skunks: Today was great, fun and games ruled the day. In the morning we played ‘crackaboom’ which is a all vs all tight knit version of dodgeball, this included classic, b-ball version, and elimination. It was a riot.
Week 4 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Oct 1st, 2020
Our day began with a game of ultimate frisbee, the competition was intense and the victory of team Hammersley was by a wide margin despite the best efforts of team hive. After this, we took a much needed breather and snack break.
Week 4 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday,Sept 29th, 2020
Today marked the halfway point of this fall session, and The Salamanders spent it in fine form, enjoying the surprise sun in a favorite spot. There was spring water, clay, daylily cordage, toads and the unexpected discovery of traces from our first day together. We began the day with a spirited game of ‘Sharks and Minnows’, which is a kind of tag with pool noodles, and which gave us an opportunity to speculate on the great variety of fishes in the sea. Who knew there’s such a thing as a lemon shark? At opening circle we all shared the flowers we had collected over the last week, and we wondered at how the colors of the pressed goldenrod, aster, jewelweed, etc might appear as we flip through our journals in deepest winter. On our way out into the forest, we encountered a big group of chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers spread out among the trees. We froze and listened to the birds for a few minutes, struck by how many more we noticed when we were still. Our first stop of the day was a special spot where we spent the afternoon of our first day together this session. There, on the surface of a beech log, right where we had dug out rusty red decomposing wood, a pearly flush of oyster mushrooms had emerged. Nearby, we rediscovered the surprisingly well-preserved ruins of our mandalas and miniature villages. From there we walked to the spring and the nearby pines, where we would set up camp for the day. Beneath the pines we built tiny toad houses from sticks and pine needles, and in the spring we found a nice deposit of fine, gray clay, which provided plenty of material from which to fashion tableware for the toads. A nearby patch of daylilies provided good material for braiding and twisting into cordage. After lunch, Scott read aloud ‘Inch by Inch’, which is about an inchworm’s clever response to a nightingale’s riddle. The take-home challenge this week is to find a ‘sit-spot’ in the yard or on a walk with family, and to sit still there, watching and listening to whatever is going on, for at least five minutes. Bonus salamander points (I just made those up) if you sit even longer. We’ll be able to share what we heard and saw at our sit-spots during opening circle next Tuesday.
We had another great day, we began with a continuation of our skull sorting project, this time focusing on small skulls. The kids were most interested in the strange skulls like the longnose gar and the little brown bats, also really excited about the carnivores! We were also hanging out and catching up.
The Snail Pigeons took a stroll today. We headed up to the spring to see what it looks like, as no one in the group had been there for a while. We noticed the cool water, and tiny insects swimming. After a brief wave to another group we moved on to the Botanical Gardens secret garden for lunch. This has become our “go to” space. We love the colors, the stone guard dogs and the nice protection from the wind. We warmed up in the sun and enjoyed a quiet lunch. After lunch we wanted to head to the woods to work on some soap stone projects. This is a tough project as it takes a lot of time, and you have to be careful not to be too rough as the stone will break. Everyone caught on quick and dug right in. Free play and soap stone carving kept us busy until it was time to hike back for pick up
Week 3 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Sept 24th, 2020
We kicked off our day with a couple of versions of soccer games. At our morning check-in/snack time we reviewed the day and goals going forward, many students are excited to have another day of fishing, perhaps next week if the weather is right.
Week 3 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday,Sept 22nd, 2020
The Salamanders spent a fine autumnal equinox together in the sun. There were cattails, flowers, excellent hiding spots behind aspen trunks and so many apples. At opening circle we all shared our paintings, drawings and stories from a week of sky-watching. We heard stories about sunsets, sunrises, midday brilliance and even the sight of Mars amid the astonishing starfield of the night sky. We also discussed the significance of the equinox, and what astronomical factors might bring it about. The first leg of our long walk today took us through a field of cattails, where our feet stayed dry thanks to a well-placed boardwalk. Along the way we saw tons of snails climbing the stalks, jewelweed in bloom and birds migrating overhead. The boardwalk led us to the Botanical Gardens and the mysteriously serene ‘Stable Garden’ which we could only glimpse through a locked gate. After climbing a hill we arrived at our home base for the day: a huge, sprawling box elder at the center of an old apple orchard. In the tree’s kindly shade we began collecting materials from which to make hanging mobiles, like sumac blossoms, colorful leaves, stones, apples and thin, straight sticks. We spent the rest of the morning constructing our mobiles and collecting apples. After lunch, as per Salamander custom, we settled into the cool shade for story time. Scott read aloud ‘If You Want to See a Whale’, which fancifully describes the steps one might (or might not) follow to see a whale. After the story, we continued work on our mobiles and the important autumnal rite of collecting vast quantities of apples. On our way back through the forest we crossed (with all 16 feet dry!) a narrow, single-log bridge over a muddy stream, which led us to a sun-dappled grove of aspens. There we played three rounds of Eagle Eye, which involves hiding quietly while keeping the ‘eagle’ in sight. The students loved it, and we’ll return to the aspens for more of that another day. The take-home challenge this week is to collect a few flowers that are still blooming and either press them in a book or draw a picture of them, learn their names, and bring them to share at opening circle next Tuesday where we’ll savor the last colors of summer together.
Skulls! We started our day with step 1 in a project of identifying and organizing some of the animal skulls in HNS’s nature museum. We worked on mid sized animals ranging from squirrels and chipmunks to beavers and coyotes, next week I think we’ll work the small skulls. Also, of course there was a lot of chatting and catching up to do as well as some catch being played. Once we had a snack and then a restroom break, we packed up and hit the trail. We took a new route which lead to us (Kaia actually) finding a really neat chopping stone which we hope can become a stone hatchet. We decided to take a long hike and enjoy the gorgeous fall displays, all the way fire mountain to our old camp spot from many years ago. There we found a great stash of excellent bow drill carving wood and everyone was eager to do some knife work. Projects included bow drill, spider ball rackets, and of course continued work on spoon projects.
What a beautiful day. The Snail Pigeons started by exploring the plants down by the creek. We decided to collect different plants at different ecosystems in the commons today. We gathered at put them into a flower press for our project for the day. We strolled up the the woods behind the commons and practiced balancing on logs while we gathered some ferns and leaves. After the mosquitos pushed us out we headed to the big open field, this walk took us through some low lands and woods where we could gather more flowers and leaves. It was so nice to take a break in the field for lunch, there are not many hot fall days, so we took time to enjoy it out there. To cool off we took a walk to the rope swing creek. Everyone had fun splashing and exploring around the creek banks. To dry off we headed back to the big lawn to work on our bookmarks. We used paper, our plants that we gathered throughout the day and markers. We can not wait to keep exploring and working on more projects!
Week 2 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Sept 17th, 2020
Our day started with playing “atsina stick” which builds focus and hand-eye coordination. Then the group wanted to play some “500” which was pretty fun as well. We circled up and everyone had an opportunity to share stories from the last week and to catch up. We then talked about the goals and logistics of the day.
- Fish ID: Research which types of fish might be found in Kids Creek this time of year? Best guess at what kinds of fish we saw?
- Knot practice: Practice the fishermans know
Week 2 of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday,Sept 15th, 2020
Our first stop of the day was to collect grapes, autumn olives and the last few elderberries to make into ink later on. Some of the fruit made it into the containers and some into our bellies. We had great opportunities to learn the difference between Virginia creeper (not edible) and wild grape (edible but so sour), and saw a bunch of birds and insects along the way. At the bridge over Kid’s Creek along Autumn Olive Lane we put down our backpacks and set up camp for the day. We found plentiful fallen box elder branches from which to fashion simple ‘pens’ and set to work mashing the fruit into ink. While the students worked on this, Scott carved beads from thin pithy twigs, which looked really cool dyed with the grapes.
During lunch on the bridge, we spotted a huge salmon swimming upstream, which steered the rest of the afternoon toward making fishing poles out of branches and yarn, hooks from twigs, sinkers from pebbles, and improvised bait from leaves and goldenrod blooms. The salmon weren’t biting, but as any angler will tell you, the pleasure is in the pursuit. Midway through the afternoon, we gathered in a sunny spot and Scott read aloud ‘The Night World’, which is about a child and their cat who wakes up early and gets to watch a beautiful sunrise.
After the story, fishing continued and some of the students made necklaces from yarn, leaves, box elder beads, and painted paper cut-outs. The results were really cool. Our walk back to the lawn took us through patches of goldenrod and aster abuzz with honeybees, weeping willows streaming in the warm wind and more autumn olives.
The take-home challenge this week is to watch the sky, and when you see it turning a pretty color (maybe at sunrise, maybe at sunset, maybe at high noon!), to draw or paint a picture of it if you have art supplies handy. If not, bring a colorful description ready to share next week. Until then!
We began our day with slacklining and tossing a frisbee until everyone had arrived and gotten warmed up. We circled together for a snack break and everyone had a chance to share a personal story and or something about pets at home. We talked about our goals for the day & everyone had a chance to add-in. After a restroom break, we headed out.
The snail pigeons started the day by making our own personal collage. It was fun to look at old magazines and find photos that fit each of our personalities. After we completed our masterpieces we headed out for our hike. Our mission for the day was to make some fresh applesauce out at the orchard. On our way out to that old orchard by the barns, we stopped for a snack of autumn olives and take a look in the secret garden at the barns. We have loved this spot for the wonderful flowers and the nice peaceful space. After gathering apples and eating lunch we decided to head back towards the woods to get out of the wind and heat up the apples. We found a perfect rest stop at eagles nest in the fairy forest. As the applesauce was cooking some kiddos created a new fairy house while the others had fun just taking it easy. We were able to enjoy our fresh applesauce before we headed back to the commons for pick up. Each week we have added some fun art projects and next week we are looking to add some more drawing as well as explore a new place in the woods, hopefully by some water.
Above: Virginia Creeper
Above: Autumn Olive (Edible).
First day of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Thursdays, Sept 10th, 2020
Our first day of class was a ton of fun! We tossed the frisbee while we waited for everyone to arrive and then kicked off our day. We took some time to talk about the session and COVID protocols, then each person introduced themselves. With that, we were off and heading to the woods. We bushwacked up a to a windswept hill that has lots of good sticks and logs from blown down trees. There we set up a rabbit stick tournament, got into teams of 2, and played several rounds. Rabbit stick may become an ongoing skill we practice, perhaps we will carve some really nice ones. From there we went in search of an ideal “spider ball” tree, we ended up having a long hike up fire hill where we took our lunch break. After lunch, we set up an activity called “spider ball” which was a huge hit. We played for a solid hour. From there, we hiked out towards the spring by way of otter slide hill. Of course, we took the opportunity to run and jump down. At the spring we went over knife carving safety rules and certification, everyone had the opportunity to do some carving. Also at this time, we were experimenting with Chipmunk traps and there was some fort building. Then it was time to head back. We arrived with a little extra time and used it to play some ultimate frisbee which concluded our day.
First day of Fall Session!
Story of the day from Tuesday,Sept 8th, 2020
Our group had a great first day together! On our way out into the forest we turned over a few wet logs at Clara’s recommendation and found a number of red-backed salamanders living amid the moist duff. So many, in fact, that we decided to name our group after them. We will from here on be known as ‘The Salamanders’.
Our first stop of the day was the stream just downhill from the spring, where Nori searched for colorful pebbles, Sylvia discovered that day lily leaves make excellent string, Maya built a miniature raft and we all had an improvised scavenger hunt. After lunch, we moved up to drier ground in a natural ‘amphitheater’ filled with young ash and beech trees, where we listened to Scott read aloud a book called ‘If You Want to See a Caribou’. It’s about learning to sit still as a tree, and the opportunities such a practice might afford. We’ll give it a try ourselves soon and report back with the early results.
The take-home challenge this week is to find a few early autumn leaves and think up a fanciful name for each color. We’ll share them at opening circle next Tuesday. See you then!
We made our way across the park and eventually to the spring area where we settled in. Once there, we harvested a basswood sapling from an overgrown thicket for carving material. We discussed the ethics of harvesting, ID characteristics of basswood, edibility of its leaves, its medicinal flowers, its bark as a fiber source, and its softwood ideal for carving. We then went over the carving safety rules and certification process before doing a good amount of knife practice time. Everyone reached a good stop point then we took a break for some good old tree climbing time.
Before lunch, we played several rounds of “fire keeper” to hone our fox walking and sneaking skills. After lunch. We moved on and selected a secret spot at the base of Otter Slide hill to build our camp. We worked on a few shelters, the main structure is really quite impressive. Other things happening there included stone and rabbit stick throwing contests, climbing and sliding on otter slide, sneaking and spying on Kriya’s group. With all this going on, time slipped away and we had to skedaddle.
On our way back, we gathered a few blackberries and swapped stories. We got back just in time to brainstorm group name ideas and democratically decide to be called “The Eagles”. We also squeezed in 1 round of a game called trickster transformer which is a naturalist info infused story game.
We began with all smiles this morning. Being a small group we wandered out pretty soon, to get out of the cold breeze. We decided that we wanted to look around the botanical gardens today as it was a moderate walk and it provided a lot of shelter space in case of rain.
We ended our day with a stop by a LARGE Autumn Olive bush for a pick me up snack, attempting to learn cartwheels or back headstands from Radley and planning for next week’s adventure.
Nature Art from the Salamander Group!.
Above: Virginia Creeper
Above: Autumn Olive (Edible).
Winter Foxes and Coyotes Story of the Day: Crusty Snow and a Fire Burrito
By Jack Hannert on Feb 6, 2019
We started our day struggling through the snow to play Crack a Boom, and that icy layer over the snow proved to hinder our travels throughout the day. We headed out, stopping for Otter Slide breaks at many a promising snow pile. We entered the woods with the intention of making a Fire Burrito, gathering plants for tea, and gathering fire materials. A Fire Burrito is a method of wrapping leaves, small sticks, and punky wood in bark to transport a coal or ember between areas. We found that our materials were a bit damp to be very effective, but we plan to revisit this technique when the conditions are more favorable.
We then went on a gathering adventure, getting together some cedar, hemlock, and rose hips for tea, and also finding some grape vines to try to make snow shoes! After gathering our plants and trying out our Fire Burrito (the materials for which proved to be a bit too damp to be very effective, but we plan on revisiting this technique when the conditions are more favorable), we were all pretty tired and hungry. We settled on a lunch at the base of Otter Slide. This meant no real fire or tea, but with a little sun and a lot of sliding we stayed pretty warm!
After lunch and project and free sliding time, we moved on to a different area. We stopped for more sliding as we worked our way toward the wetlands, also pausing to check out the tracks of a possum who seemed to be having as much trouble with the crusty snow the night before as we were today! When we got to the trail leading between the two wetlands, everyone got distracted jumping off into the deep snow there. There were running starts, icey slips, cannonballs, and a distance contest. After the fun, we gathered cattails to be dried and used as torches next week.
Gabby attempts to breathe life into the fire burrito.
Kaya crafting some snow shoes.
Logan cruisin’ the slopes.
Rowan tossing a killer snowball.
The Dickeys in a synchronized slope roll.
The Magic of Forest Kindergarten
By Emily Burke on Oct 29, 2018
Well, it’s official. Today was the last day of Forest Kindergarten for the fall session. We won’t have these kids back in class until the spring session starts back up in April, and I’m surprised by how much I already miss these tiny nature explorers. My time in the woods with them was full of wonder, excitement, and unabashed curiosity. They remind me how to look at the world with fresh eyes and teach me how to let my imagination run wild again. Naturally closer to the ground, they notice things that I completely miss, like a weird mushroom or a beautiful baby leaf. There were too many memories made this fall to count, but here are some of my favorites:
1) One cloudy day in late September, the kids created an epic obstacle course on a series of fallen logs over the creek that winds through the hemlock grove. It had rained heavily the night before, so the banks were super muddy, and the small sandbar had turned into a jelly-like quasi-solid. The kids spent a full 45 minutes testing their balance on the slippery logs and leaping across the creek onto the jiggly sandbar. When Odin The Lava Monster suddenly turned the creek water into hot, bubbling lava, they scrambled to construct a dam from clay and sticks. After working together to defeat The Lava Monster, there were high-fives all around.
2) On a rainy day just as the maples were starting to change color, I crowded around a rotting, fallen ash log with a group of four- and five-year-olds bundled up in colorful rain gear. The log was covered with slugs, and just as I was about to roll the log to look for some red-backed salamanders, Iris gently plucked a tiny slug that I had overlooked from the log, dubbed it “Baby slug,” and began rocking it in her arms while softly singing. Soon, most of the group was joining in on the sweet lullaby to this slimy critter.
3) On an unseasonably cold day, Amalia, Emily D, and I decided to hike our group to the legendary Otter Slide Hill in hopes that we could convince the kids to climb all the way to the top of this giant sand dune to keep warm. We didn’t anticipated that all 8 kids would spend the entire lunchtime crawling up and running/sliding/rolling down repeatedly. It was hard to pry them from the hill when it was time to head back, but, perhaps spurred on by the thirst they had worked up from all their playing, they collectively pretended that the aspen grove we hiked back through was a vast, hot desert. Dogs we passed became camels, willows were palm trees, and the Greenspire creek was a life-saving oasis.
4) On the last day, we headed to the cedars to play with track molds in the mud. Vowing to get good and muddy while making bear, coyote, skunk, and raccoon tracks after we had eaten, we chatted about various mammals while we lunched in the shelter provided by the cedars’ delicate, fringed foliage. Just as we were discussing red squirrels, a loud trill rang out from across the grove. I motioned for everyone to quiet down, and the kids’ eyes widened as they connected that the trill was made by the same animal we had just been talking about. Excited shouts and pointing followed as we tracked the red squirrel – no doubt perturbed by our presence in its territory – as it bounded along a fallen log across the creek, crossed the forest floor’s carpet of golden cedar fronds, and scampered up a nearby trunk to scold us from the safety of a branch.
The frosts started in earnest last week and the long nights of winter are looming near, but I’m making a concerted effort to hold onto all that the little ones have taught me this fall: splash in puddles, collect pretty leaves, catch raindrops on your tongue, investigate all bugs, and, whenever things get dull, always pretend there’s a lava monster.