By Erin Kenny ©2017
The children have been noticing that the huckleberries are more sour and harder to find this month. One 4-year-old commented that it is because they are no longer “in season” demonstrating that she had incorporated our observations from last month about each plants’ season for eating.
Brother Wind was a big presence this month and we noticed it made the trees dance and the leaves fall. We talked about how wind is one of things you cannot see directly but how its effects can be felt, observed and smelled. A four-year-old shared with his younger classmates that the trees are now going dormant, a plant version of hibernation.
Our industrious children decided to fill in the potholes on our driveway with gravel, mud, fir needles and twigs. They excitedly worked on the project and it kept their bodies warm. As we have noticed that tapping in to the children’s natural tendency to want to be helpful and their attraction to gross motor skills development activities, this project was eagerly embraced when offered by a teacher. As always, at Cedarsong, all suggested activities are merely offerings and anyone may choose to decline. There is no persuasion, either subtle or overt, to make children participate because there are no required activities at our forest kindergarten.
There was a lot of raking this month as a way to keep warm. At Cedarsong, we avoid buying the cheap and easily breakable child-sized tools. Instead, we buy adult sized soft garden rakes and cut the handles down to kid size, softening the cut end to a soft rounded end. The kids also enjoyed using the little red wagon to collect debris to make dams and fill potholes. This a great activity for spontaneously enhancing teamwork and cooperation.
Lots of mushrooms in the forest this month and our excited mushroom hunters are getting quite good at remembering whether we’ve seen a particular type of mushroom. This learning is enhanced because we allow the children to name the mushrooms and then they have much better recall to remember if they’ve seen it before. The kids were curios why so many different mushrooms grow clustered together and decided to look for patterns about where they grow.
One of our two year olds noticed a shelf mushroom growing high on a tree. A teacher asked, “What do you think that tells us about the tree?” And a three-year-old, in his second year at Cedarsong, answered correctly: “That tree must be dying – or unhealthy maybe”.
We heard our resident nuthatch quite a bit this month. We each practiced our bird sounds and tried to track the birds by listening to their sounds. We talked about how cool it is that by listening with our ears, we can then find things with our eyes.
We continued to see a lot of collections this month. One day a four-year-old and 3 two-year-olds were comparing sticks and created a pile of only little sticks. When one of the 2 year olds started to miss his Mom, we assured him she would be here soon. Then we redirected his energy by encouraging him to make s stick collection for his Mom which he excitedly embraced. We further explored the sticks by smelling them, feeling them and observing the lichen growing on some of them.
One four-year-old boy excitedly discovered some mushrooms and called his friends over. When a two-year-old was pushing on the mushroom, the four-year-old cautioned him not to as “that is a living being”. We see evidence of compassion every day for all parts of the natural world and towards each other. If a friend falls down, the other children gather around, “Are you okay, friend? Do you need anything? A hand up, a hug?” It is a beautiful thing to witness and reinforces our belief that it is never too early to teach compassion and the earlier it is learned, the more it is instilled as part of our character.
Our nature memory game “What’s Missing” continues to be the most spontaneously requested. On this day, the children added three alder leaves at various states of decomposition. When figuring out how to distinguish the three alder leaves, a three-year-old described to a two-year-old how to know which leaves are decomposing by looking for clues like color and texture.
One day we got to see our resident raccoon up close and personal as it visited us at our snack table. It hung around long enough that the children got an excellent chance to study it in real time: its behavior, it’s coloring, its markings. They noticed its striped tail and its eye mask. The children stood very still, keeping calm and just quietly studied the animal.
We are very much enjoying our forest tea this month. This season’s blend is mostly huckleberry leaves and berries, salal leaves, forest candy (Douglas fir buds) branches, and fresh alder catkins (one of my personal favorite northwest foraging foods).
I encourage you to take time this month to create your own blend of forest tea with your favorite young ones. Simply take a thermos out into your yard and place edible foraged ingredients in the hot water. Let steep for a couple of hours and enjoy the refreshing results. Ahhhhh…….a very special cuppa.