We have moved into a very different season and it is palpable in the forest. The temperatures this past month have dipped into the 40’s and we have noticed that whether we feel cold or not on a particular day is independent of the thermometer. Regardless of the temperature, we experience the cold differently depending on other meteorological factors such as amount of precipitation or the presence of clouds or whether there is a strong breeze. This past month was the first time this year that the children all needed to wear their mittens on more days than not and yet there were several days where some of the children went barefoot!
The leaves of the hazelnut and the willow are a brilliant yellow and we have been spending time creating beautiful forest decorations with them. Sometimes we make designs on the ground; other times, we hang the leaves; and still other times we poke the leaves onto the end of a stick and plant the sticks in the ground. We have been building protective and decorative fences around an old growth stump nurse log with sticks and sword ferns. We are talking about why we want to preserve this decaying stump when we pick apart so many others. We discuss what a nurse log is and encourage the children to notice how many other plants are growing out of it. We point out that this is a valuable stump because it is home (habitat) to so many other living beings.
There have been many breezy days and we have delighted in watching and hearing the fir needles rain onto the ground. The forest floor is covered with the ochre and amber shades from the conifer needles of the cedar, doug fir and hemlock. One day we put down felt squares on the forest floor to watch what debris fell overnight from above. The debris is so thick on the ground in some places that we are able to draw designs on the ground by dragging a stick through it.
We have been foraging madrona berries off the ground as the trees are too high to reach. Many berries fall to the ground as the thrushes crowd into the madrona tree tops feasting on these ripe red fruit, creating quite a ruckus as they do. We are still enjoying copious amounts of evergreen huckleberries and noticed that they do indeed, as the Native Americans say, taste better after the first frost. We have continued with our taste tests observing that every berry bush produces berries with a slightly different flavor. Some doug fir boughs have fallen and we have enjoyed eating the “forest candy” (doug fir buds) that are prolific right now. They taste a bit like tangerine and are filled with vitamin C. The branches make a great addition to our forest tea also.
We are continuing to talk about erosion as we see many of the roots becoming exposed. The children have been drawing on the roots with thick colored chalk to make them more eye-catching so we don’t trip over them. We have also taken the time to cover some roots with mounds of dirt, talking about why it is harmful to the tree or plant to have their roots above ground.
We have begun to make new trails on the north side of our 5 acre forest, encouraging the children to seek existing animal trails to follow. The teachers then have pruned and raked the new trails to make them more permanent. This has been an on-going and very exciting project and we have already made at least 3 new trails to new areas, with names like Gnome Home, Prehistoric Valley and Polar Bear Den. We have been discovering new sun spots as we cut our way into different areas of the forest.
We have enjoyed much merry making this past month as we have 6 Cedarsong kids’ birthdays during November. The children have spent a lot of time making music: both creating their own spontaneous songs and singing our old favorites. We have re-introduced our Winter Solstice song in preparation for our celebration of the season. We have also experimented with rhythms, taking turns teaching each other new ones and learning to all play together while we are simultaneously listening to each other.
Due to all the rain at the end of the month, our mud puddle filled to a higher level than we have ever seen: It was up to the children’s knees! This lead to plenty of puddle play including stomping, splashing, fishing and soup making. Several days were spent digging a channel from the top of main camp to the mud puddle and the children poured endless buckets down the channel to watch the water flow and observe how it changed course when it was blocked by debris.
Our forest tea flavor of the month consists of salal leaves, madrona berries, madrona leaves, huckleberry leaves, alder catkins, red cedar tips, doug fir buds and a little doug fir sap. Delicious and nutritious! We enjoyed several camp fires this month during which we engaged in one of our favorite campfire activities: roasting salal leaves!
By Erin Kenny ©2011