As the weather has warmed, it has been an exciting month for wildlife sightings. More birds have joined the chorus in our forest. We have seen and heard chickadees, juncos, pacific flycatchers, nuthatches and pileated woodpeckers with regularity. The elusive Swainson’s thrush has arrived with its enchanting upward spiraling melodic song. We heard the woodpecker tapping before we saw it. This large native bird was described as having a red Mohawk by one of the children. We had been noticing lots of evidence and clues of woodpecker activity: decomposing logs were gouged and big chunks of soft rotten wood were flung to the ground. One of our two year olds asked “what’s inside this wood?” as she tapped it with a stick. When we ask why the woodpecker pecks, the four year olds answer “to make homes and to eat bugs”. It is fun for the kids to watch their local birds up close and personal and to build a real relationship with them as we study the birds’ habits. Near our snack table is a birdbath which the children enjoy watching the birds frolic in. On several days we chanced to watch a robin eat a salmonberry. Until that moment, many of the kids were thinking they just ate worms.
The insects have emerged from hibernation and we have seen swarms of mosquitoes lately. This prompted discussion about what they eat and how they live. We talked about how they live the first part of their life in water as larvae. Slowly they grow wings and emerge to fly as adults. We talked about how this metamorphosis is a similar process to tadpoles becoming frogs (like the ones we have seen) and caterpillars turning into moths or butterflies. We taught the children about how to use the native elderberry leaves as an insect repellant. Since the kids have also learned that the elderberry leaves will make them throw up, we took time to compare those leaves with the leaves of the native salal, which the kids know to be edible. The children immediately noticed that the elderberry leaves had points on the edges while the salal was smooth and they experienced that the leaves have a completely different smell. We found four moth wings and studied them with magnifying glasses. We observed that when we touched the wings, a powder came off onto our fingers.
We’ve seen a lot of banana slugs this month, many munching on bracken fern and now we know they like to eat that fern. We saw a surprising number of native forest snails, from the largest one I’ve ever seen to the tiniest snail ever, smaller than my pinky nail. We’ve seen dragonflies, bee flies, and our native red tailed bumblebee. The children cry out “Millipede rescue!” when they find one crawling in a play space and then they carefully transport it on a leaf to a place no one is likely to step on it. One day we saw a two foot garter snake at main camp! We have gotten a chance to watch a native Douglas fir squirrel, a shrew and a vole at our snack table. It was so neat to see how still our children can be when intent on observing wildlife.
There are so many more edibles in the forest right now. We have enjoyed new Douglas fir branch tips and fresh green cones slices. We have gathered and eaten forest salad in a salal leaf bowl: a mixture of huckleberry flowers and new leaves, Douglas fir tips and salal flowers. We also made a forest burrito by wrapping a nipplewort leaf around miner’s lettuce, chickweed, heal all and “goodness” (the new reddish evergreen huckleberry leaves). We saw the first baby evergreen berries which are still green. We observed and studied with our magnifying glasses a variety of slimes including orange slime, wolf milk slime and tapioca slime. Sticky salal flowers are now in bloom and star flowers have appeared, carpeting the forest floor.
There was a rich abundance of nature art, forest fashion and forest jewelry this month. The children made leaf spinners with the brightly colored red and orange dying off salal leaves. We saw twig bracelets and rings, sword fern tails and crowns, Douglas fir branch belts and leaf necklaces. Some children were making hair pieces and barrettes with twigs and evergreen huckleberry leaves and we saw some salal flower earrings.
The cottonwood seed fluff was floating through the air on quite a few days and we discovered they made great fairy pillows. This led to a flurry of fairy house building and a fairy village was created. As a final touch, in each house, the children elaborately added lichen and hazelnut leaves as the mattress and blanket. Some tables and benches, baskets, slides, walkways and food offerings were also created to make the fairies feel at home. We were surprised to experience that when we felt the hazelnut leaf with our fingers it was soft but when we felt it with our cheek it was bristly. We were curious to see that when we built the fairy village it was in the sun and later it was in the shade. When I asked “Why?” a four year old in her 2nd year at Cedarsong answered “the earth is moving but we don’t feel it”.
There was a lot of baking this month. The children were creating cakes and pies and cupcakes virtually every day. Then they enjoyed pretending to throw a party. The energy in the forest was effervescent as spring warmed into summer. The children were loud and bouncy and filled with joy at being able to freely express these tendencies at Cedarsong.
Other activities the children enjoyed included forest bowling, with an incredibly round rock the size of a soft ball; adding new nature finds to our Discovery Drawers; having a treasure hunt with rocks brightly colored with chalk; playing Eagle Eye and Chalk and Seek; and a couple of campfires where we roasted salal leaves.
In other exciting news, the Cedarsong Parent Clubhouse was erected last month! Thanks to a generous matching grant from Microsoft, we were able to build a small comfortable space for our parents to meet out of the rain. We feel it is important that parents have an opportunity and a place to connect over their educational choices and parenting strategies. At Cedarsong, we are committed to serving whole families and not just the children. We acknowledge that it takes the support of all us adults, as a community, to guide and mentor our children in The Cedarsong Way of kindness, gentleness, respect and awareness.
By Erin Kenny ©2016