Our winter into spring session has been filled with a lot of warm sunshine and breezy, cloudy days. Not as much rain as usual, nonetheless beauty abounds, with green grasses, yellow mustards, and buttercups, blue skies, lots of laughter and exploration, adventure, games and friends!
CRANE CREEK is a Sonoma County regional park, new to some of us this session. We all loved the meadows, hills, creeks and the trees are amazing there! We learned about lichens, as we noticed them on the trees and rocks. Lichens clean the air by absorbing toxins & are signs of healthy ecosystems. Lichens are a fungi and an alga. We discovered the difference of the very common lace lichen, and the very medicinal, Usnea, or old man’s beard (when you gently pull apart a stand, it has a white elasticity chord inside). Usnea is a great "natures band aid," can stop bleeding (styptic) as well it is anti fungal and anti bacterial. Also known as “lungs of the forest”, it is great for the respiratory system. We began making some medicine, gathered over session 1, to be continued in session 2!
ANNADEL-TRIONE STATE PARK
Our theme of this site: Help Preserve Newt Habitat!
This session, a magical thing happened. We were exploring the vernal pool, also known as Frog Pond, at the top of the meadow trail, and a curious Newt Brigade (check out their website here) citizen naturalist sparked up a conversation with us about giving the newts a little more space--we were handling the newts and wading the water. We learned that our actions were more likely to threaten the newts and their reproductive cycle. What came of this was a month long journey of getting involved with the Annadel State Park, by making signs to educate the public about protecting the newts by preserving their habitat. We all (especially us mentors!) learned so much about the newts, their habitat, and the bureaucratic system that says when and how to protect them. We also got to play fun games among the wildflowers, collect herb specimens, and see the flourishing growth after the most recent fire there in 2020. When we returned to Annadel later in the session, we were re-introduced to Bird Language and sound journaling.
A few of the kits, joined by foxes and coyotes, summited the mountain, led by Ms. Brook. We called ourselves “the mousecapade expedition.” It’s a steep 1.2 mile hike to the top, with 1100 ft elevation gain, and their dedication to keep moving to make it there and back was outstanding. Well worth the sweeping sight of Sonoma County from on top of the world, and ringing those bells at the top was such a reward. We had lunch and game at the top, before heading back to meet the others at base camp. Base camp kiddos, accompanied by Jenny and Victoria, started on Newt signs and had a silent, yet enlivening game of coyote in the middle, a great game to play with your family, and there are multiple ways to modify it. The kids are so stealthy and sensory aware!
LAGUNA DE SANTA ROSA
A smaller group on this day led us to an intimate sound map nature journal activity. Sound mapping is like bird mapping, in which people spread out in a designated range, all facing the same direction. The noises they hear, either birds or other, are recorded on the page in contrast to where they are seated. Kid recorded by source and volume level. When the group comes together to compare their maps, the activity synchronizes their stories and experiences, showing the differences and many similarities each person had in relation to one another. Let's see, learning while having fun, yes! Our dogwood beading craft commenced on this day, which we continued for a few weeks, making many necklaces, with both yellow and red dogwood beads.
Riverfront is always a spectacular place for being silly, sitting by the water, and listening the birds. Bird sound drawing began, and the foxes performed captivating bird language skits. It was super fun and an entertaining way to learn the five bird languages--juvenile begging, aggression, song/chatter, companion/contact calls, and alarm. The best parts are when multiple languages are happening back to back and in unison, making the skit multi-faceted and quite realistic compared to what we normally hear.
Personifying birds is actually a lot of fun, perhaps more than one might assume : )
This day was all about new games. Have you ever experienced being stalked? Hiding out, knowing what possibly awaits you, being discovered? It is quite thrilling. This week a team of seekers stayed behind while a group of hiders scattered about the Ragle bush, leaving clues and signs pointing the group in the direction in which a small group of tree climbers camouflaged themselves in a live oak. We all may have been at Ragle a hundred times, but we managed to find a spot most of us had never explored, a side shoot of a trail less traveled. We posted up and enjoyed our picnic in the shade on this warm, sunny day. We zoomed in on the oaks, observing new growth and all the life beneath them. Some kids taught us a new game called beckon, which led to even more hiding, running, and teamwork. We slowed down at the end of the day in the Peace Garden, to laugh, share stories, and give thanks.
Hiking in the mists, along the cliffs, through the trails of dense ice plant covered in caterpillars. Yes, that is how our day started at Bodega Head. The wave watching was incredible, with a large swell happening that day. Our nature journal activity, string safari, was intended to focus us on a small section of earth, and to observe everything in that little space on the ground. Some of us got distracted by the enormous waves, countless caterpillars, and a small herd of Mule deer (we are pretty sure they were black tailed). We descended the slope to return back to our favorite cypress grove, only to spot a very slow moving and what appeared to be injured or old Red Tail Hawk above us. We shared the space with this fine creature for quite a while, before starting our game of Jays and Juncos, which is becoming a favorite among the group. Our finale of the day was getting to drink a hot cup of tea during our gratitude circle.
Our final field day of the session, we were led through ARMSTRONG REDWOODS with our lovely docents, , who brought a different style of teaching and exploring for the children to experience. We got to truly learn about fire ecology and see the effect of forest fire first hand after the 2020 fire. How the giant old growths can with stand fire with such thick resistant bark. We also noticed parts of the forest floor so thickly covered with sorel, as the forest had been closed for many months. We saw a banana slug, and a five finger fern! And had a sweet story about protecting the trees, inside of a giant tree!
Games seem to always be a highlight of our days together, and we learned a couple fun new games. Sharing our gratitude and a story from our day together as we end our day is another highlight and really special time!
We have been practicing taking turns speaking with the “talking stick bird,” and really listening when it is not our turn. It’s a really good, challenging practice!
A few of our foxes graduated to Coyotes, and the coyotes spent many days deepening their edible and medicinal plant knowledge. They also began a whittling project together with Ms. Jenny. Having time together with one mentor and the 3 coyotes to be quiet, to talk, and be heard as they are becoming young adults, seems to be just what they need.
A Note on Nature Journaling....
One of our core routines that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine as well as many of the kids is our nature journaling time. While out on our field days we use nature journaling as a tool to deep our learning in so many ways. Most of the nature journal activities that we do with the children invites them to use their powers of observation to take a deeper look; this in turn brings them to a deeper understanding of what they are observing. We ask them to use pictures, words, and numbers in their journal to help them describe the subject they’re observing. The act of drawing something forces you to look at it in ways you’ve never looked at it before and nature journaling is not about pretty pictures (although sometimes that happens too), it’s about paying attention. It is also a valuable resource that they can look back on to see what was happening in their local environment throughout the seasons. The children have worked really hard on their nature journals so far this year, and I want to share some of their pages with you all so you can get an idea of what it looks like in action. We also nature journal with the children in hopes that they continue this valuable practice on their own and use it as a tool to continuing deepening their connection with the natural world around them. ~ Jenny
Here are the lyrics to a song we started learning. A song to be shared at the campout : )
"Let your roots down, put your feet on the ground, You can hear what She says if you listen.
Let your roots down, put your feet on the ground, You can hear what She says if you listen.
Cuz the same sound as the river, as she moves across the stones,
Is the same sound as the blood in your body as it moves across your bones."
Many thanks to all of you wonderful families, the Earth, and Spirit!
Brook, Victoria, & Jenny