The month of June was, for the most part, overcast and cool. However we found plenty to do and to make and to explore and to learn! The animals were definitely more active as the season progressed from spring to summer. We saw several of our native garter snakes. (NOTE to Parents: it is NOT a “gardener” snake – there is no such thing. Here in the northwest we have the garter snake and elsewhere in North America there is the garden snake). We also found an orange-bellied Oregon salamander one day. These amphibians are becoming more rare on Vashon island.
There were several opportunities to study animal tracks at the edge of the mud puddle. We clearly saw adult and baby racoon tracks and often we saw large (towhee) and small (wren) bird footprints. We talked alot this month about birds and how their feet and beaks are different depending on what they eat and how they live. We also saw alot more native squirrels this month and found fresh piles of ripped apart doug fir cones – “evidence”.
This month we got the chance to make our own plantain salve and balm of gilead out of raw plant material (plantain leaves and cottonwood leaf husks, respectively) that the kids had all taken part in collecting. The plantain salve is for insect stings and bites and is soothing to irritated skin; and the balm of gilead is for bruises, cuts, scrapes, sprains, sore muscles, and cold feet.
During the last week of school, we were able to release the butterflies that we had watched change from tiny caterpillars to chrysallis to butterfly. Observing metamorphosis! The banana slugs (the only native slugs) were out in droves, even little baby ones – awww…We noticed that they liked to hang upside down from the tips of elderberry and bracken fern leaves.
We enjoyed taking our new collecting box on our walks and adding new found nature items to our discovery drawers. We challenged each other to find the same parts of different plants and different parts of the same plant. We noticed some new edibles like the yellow geum flower, the orange salmonberry and the bright green western hemlock tips. We practiced making hoops with small flexible cedar boughs.
The imaginative play took on great detail and the children were very interested in performing forest theater this month. We often acted out stories that the teachers or the children weaved. There was lots of barefoot walking/running and taking off of layers. We are finally ditching our rain gear!
By Erin Kenny ©2010