Saturday, August 22, 2015

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

June 2015: lessons from a snail

Last month an observant kiddo found a snail, and he came back every week looking for another one. Never having reason to crawl around our woods until being in there with a bunch of toddlers, I've never seen a single snail in all my time in the woods in the past three years until this one showed up last month. But June was a lucky month because they showed up in troves! One day we found 7, another day 5. The land snails we find are the exact same color as the rocks and sticks they like to climb on, so the kids really put their sharp seeking eyes on to find these guys! I loved watching the kids learn to wait very still and patiently with a withdrawn snail in their palm until the snail felt safe enough to push his tentacles back out into the world. We put snails on a piece of plexiglass and watched from underneath as they slowly made their way across to see how their muscles work when they crawl. Kids were fascinated to hear that snails call pull up to 200 times their weight (what!!) from a fun book we read together about a snail called Snippet the Early Riser by Bethanie Deeney Murguia. They learned to call their shell shape a "spiral" and one adept observer remarked that they looked like galaxies. Keen observers notices snails like to eat twisted stalk (at least rotting twisted stalk) and that snails like to hang out on sticks and rocks and under pieces of wood. So many lessons in a snail, I'd never have guessed!
Tons of good snail info here:

Bird song surrounds us nearly every moment now in the woods. Kids ask about and are beginning to recognize the long warbling trill of the Winter Wren and the complicated roller coaster ride-like song of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. The also know eagle and love to gaze upwards to try to catch a peak of him soaring above our corner of the forest. Raven made an appearance a few days this month, flying right into the forest to check us out. Kids are also familiar with the rat-a-tat-tat of the Red-breasted Sap Sucker, telling me when they heard one or spotted one hopping up and down a tree trunk. One student even spotted some Red-breasted Sapsucker holes bored high-up into the bark of a hemlock tree that towers over our creek.

In this unusually warm June we got to experience berries!! Blueberries ripened first and oh-so-early! By the end of the month a few Salmonberries and Watermelon berries were making an appearance. Each and every day the children have gone in search of berries, some of them spending nearly their entire day seeking the biggest, sweetest, most perfect one. Many tiny hands left the forest speckled in berry blue. On the rainy days we still made forest tea, adding berries to our usual mix of blueberry leaves, salmonberry leaves, and Western Hemlock tree needles.

We had little rain this month, so our creek was an infrequent visitor. The little ones have enjoyed exploring the dry creek bed and have discovered lots of snails, worms, and slugs under rocks and near this area. They have also really seemed to like climbing down waterfalls and steeper sections of the creek that normally are pretty
dry creek being explored
unwelcoming with water rushing down them. Kids also relished being able to dig and gather the gravel and rocks from the creek bed, engineering clever solutions for how to move gravel, build things from it, and pack it down into the dirt again.

We had a rainy day and the children were thrilled to be able to stomp in rain puddles again and welcome their friend the creek back. It was almost like not having the rain for a stretch made them sit up and notice it's intricacies. One kid pointed to droplets hanging from green moss that seemed to glow and exclaimed, "look! little lights!"

Monday, June 22, 2015

May 2015

Everything's coming up! Devil's club opened their leaves from Palm-sized to waist high on a toddler. Fiddle heads unfurled often inches a day and opened their feathery fronds transforming our forest into a lush, green, life-filled place. 

We heard new bird songs filling the woods too. First the low whoopings of Sooty Grouses and the the high whistles of the Varied  Thrush and eventually the Robin joined the chorus with its trill. There is a pair of Eagles that nest above our usual school site and they've grown accustomed to our coming, tweeting out a warning to the whole forest as we walk up the driveway to our trail. 

Bugs were evident, especially the Golden Net Winged Beetle which graced many a log and leaf with its bright orange body. 
As the rains dried up toddlers shed their layers and our creek dried up! There were a few rainy days where we could find a little water in there after the rain fell but much to the kids' dismay it would soon disappear without a steady source. The kids now look forward to rainy days hoping the creek will return!

Edibles were widely available as kids learned to forage for Devil's Club buds, fiddle heads, and berry leaves and buds. Blueberry flowers were a favorite snack. We added all of the above plus Hemlock Tree needle tips to our various Forest Tea brews. 

Kids claimed more areas of the woods discovering a tramp and lots of good stumps to climb. The discovered boats, trains, castles, and forts and engaged in much imaginative play. They also ran the trail on sunny days and traced the Suns' path across the forest floor. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

April 2015

April is an exciting month in the woods. Fiddle heads unfurl, blueberry bushes are in bloom, and
devil's club push their buds out into the world. The woods fill with song from birds that have been gone all winter. Change is afoot! Despite the increase sunlight and warming temperatures it is still cold in the woods! Forays still required 2 layers of long underwear topped by fleece, rain gear, bogs, mittens and hats. The kids couldn't resist taking their mittens off to play in the creek, but quickly learned how cold fingers get in spring runoff!

This month we noticed the creek growing and shrinking depending on the rainfall. A small tributary even sprouted up besides our stream, but by the end of the month it dried up as the rain let up. There was lots of creek play, with kids experimenting with floating and sinking and using tools to transport the water, pour the water, and direct the water.

To keep track of how quickly they sprouted up, kids used measuring sticks (sticks pushed into the earth at the current height) to see how quickly the fiddleheads grew each time we entered the woods. We noted new growth and watched buds unfurl into leaves. Blueberry flowers were a favorite snack as were devil's club buds and twisted stalk. Kids noticed lots of mushrooms, witches butter is a particular favorite of theirs to find.

We dug in mud and in decaying logs and found earthworms and centipedes. Mosquitoes found us and on some days relentlessly hounded us! Our first mosquito attack happened in March, and we were wholly unprepared! From then on I've brought insect repellent into the woods with us.

In the heart of "Elephant Castle"
Kids have balanced on logs and climbed up old decaying tree stumps, they made a trampoline out of a big hollowed out tree that bounced! They've noticed that bear bread grown only on dead trees, and that dead trees are homes for many new plants: blueberry bushes, baby tress, and lots and lots of moss. A big discovery was that dead trees decay into dirt and the kids love crumbling the decaying wood. "Elephant Castle", dubbed by the kids, is the name of their favorite stump. They love climbing up it's ramp and standing in the heart of what once was a tree.

Forest tea this month has been different combinations Hemlock tree tips, Devil's Club buds, Blueberry flowers, and Salmonberry leaves.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Welcome to Forest Song Nature School!

Forest Song Nature School offers nature immersion programs that encourage connection with the natural world while cultivating connection, a sense of place, balance, agility, imaginative and creative play, awareness, reasoning, observation skills, and a sense of wonder. 

Openings: we have several openings for this summer (May-August, Mondays and Wednesdays 9am-3pm). Email us for more information!