Nature BlogStories from programs and outdoor ramblings
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.