We had unseasonably mild weather this month with December 6 being warm enough that four of the children felt comfortable enough to go barefoot! This month also brought more wind which covered the forest floor with lots of debris. We have spent time noticing the distinct change in season as we move from late fall to early winter. The mushrooms which were so prolific last month have virtually disappeared, decomposing at various rates on the forest floor. We have noticed more red-ringed shelf mushrooms and lots of orange jelly still around.
We had a couple of thick fog days, where it was touching down in the forest. We joked that someone kept turning the lights on and off because it kept getting noticeably darker and lighter in the forest. One of the children had the idea of measuring whether the darker or lighter period was longer so we timed it by singing one of our songs and seeing how many times we got through the song. We discovered that the darker phase was twice as long as the lighter one.
Our mud puddle has been quite popular this month. We have made many soups and cakes as well as built dams and bridges over and between the (now two) mud puddles. The edges of the puddles have distinct zones: at the farthest edge is a layer of fir needle debris; the next zone is closer to the water and is firm sand; the zone that edges the water is what we call “silky smooth” mud and this is where we observe animal tracks. It is interesting to notice the different types of mud depending on how much water is mixed in with it. Of course we have had lots of fun finding dragon tears hiding in the mud.
On several days this month we took our collecting boxes out into the forest and gatherd samples of everything that had fallen to the forest floor. Back at Main Camp, we sorted them into different categories, by species (everything from a madrona in one group) and then by part of the plant (leaves with leaves and seeds with seeds). We used the firepit logs and drew circles on them with damp sidewalk chalk as a fun way to highlight the collection.
We talked alot about the winter solstice and how we have been noticing the shorter days. We sang our solstice celebration song quite a bit and decorated a small hemlock tree with yarn, glitter, sparkly ribbon, leaf spinners and dream catchers. We made bird feeders to hang on it by spreading peanut butter on doug fir cones. Every day we checked to see if the birds ate the seeds and were pleased to see that they did. We all made doug fir wreaths with freshly fallen boughs and the kids got to take them home. We also had a chance to talk about the unique lunar eclipse that was happening this month. We acted it out with each of the kids being either the sun, earth or moon.
We had several fires this month and roasted salal leaves and popped popcorn. There was a lot of storytelling with each of the children contributing. We have enjoyed also playing “Pass the Story” where each person says one sentence then passes the story to the next person in the circle. We played alot of hide and seek games including “Eagle Eye” and one in which I challenge the group to find me when I have hidden really well. We talked about “camouflage”, “intuition”, “nocturnal”, “solstice”, “eclipse” and “hibernation” this month.
By Erin Kenny ©2010