Flowers and insects and the relationship between them have been the seasonal field lesson this past month. With such a late, cool and damp spring, we have entered that season later than usual this year. The forest air is dominated by the exquisite aroma of native wildflowers, primarily huckleberry and madrona. We have collected a variety of these flowers and infused them in vinegar which turned a lovely shade of pink. We have also been making a native forest flower tea blend all during this month of May with the same wildflowers including salmonberry petals, madrona, huckleberry, elder, geum and red flowering currant flowers. We have studied the difference between the flowers and talked about what pollinates each type.
The insects have emerged from hibernation and we are seeing many different species. We learned quickly that the same tiny brown beetle pollinates both the evergreen huckleberry flowers and the elder flowers. We discovered how to remove the insects without injuring them by gently squeezing the flower. We have also uncovered several species of beetles in various colors such as red and iridescent violet, while digging or exploring decomposing wood. This month we also saw the first dragonfly of the season and we witnessed it catching another insect in midair! We’ve also seen millipedes, centipedes and native snails.
Different mushrooms and slimes are showing up. Notably, the deadly amanita pantherina (panther mushroom) has made its appearance and we are again reminding the kids that we never eat any mushrooms from the forest; however, touching them is not dangerous so we carefully explore them. The slime we are seeing is a gelatinous-looking white coating on decomposing logs.
The children’s energy has shifted and they definitely have more spring in their step. In fact, they have been literally bouncing and wanting to run up and down and up and down heart trail, the main trail through our five acres. There has also been a surge of singing and dancing and spontaneous music-making. This was the first month since last October that we took off our rain pants since the ground was dry enough. There were a few days that several of the kids, including one of the teachers, took off their shoes and went barefoot. The pile of clothing grew by the hour as layers were shed and sunspots in the forest were plentiful.
As the kids are getting more active, we have had the opportunity to talk more about remembering others’ personal space. The kids are bouncing into each other in their exuberance and there tends to be more spontaneous shows of affection such as tight hugs. We always remind the kids to “ask before you touch” anyone else, even for a hug, and we give the kids language like “I’m feeling crowded” to express the need for more personal space. This month we also introduced the concept of compliments – saying something kind about someone else – and we’ve practiced it.
The ground has finally warmed up enough and dried out enough that we have gotten a chance to do some forest yoga. The kids decided to name a certain area of main camp “The Studio” and we set out a blanket, got out the Samarya Center yoga cards and created a story in poses based on the cards we each drew from the deck.
By Erin Kenny ©2011