Session 4 was our longest session this program year. We had a total of 12 days out in the field, and spent more time together as a large group. We started a new practice - the buddy system. We paired children together, a new person each week, so that everyone has a chance to really support each other and get to know each other. What do buddies do? Help each other out, and look out for one another! This tends to happen naturally, but we wanted to create a routine around working together. What an important opportunity to give the children.
This session has so many stories. We began session four at Annadel park in early Spring. The springtime symphony and activity of birds led us into a deeper understanding of bird language, through an outrageous skit led by Jenny, Victoria and Brook, acting out the 5 languages of songbirds. 1- bird song (sounds used to attract mates and defend territory); 2-companion calls (sound used to communicate during travel and feeding); 3-juvenile begging (the sounds chicks and young birds make to get adults to feed them); 4-aggression (the sounds made by birds defending their territory); and 5-bird alarm (loud, alarming sounds made when expressing an alarm about a threat). The kits set out ahead of the foxes with a big hike up to False Lake Meadow, where we found the vernal pool surrounded by tule, and full of California Newt eggs. We met the foxes for lunch, and after a great game of gopher tag and exploring, we set off back down the mountain to the van.
Early spring at Ragle Park was much more dry this year than other years, we were able to hike the lower trails all year, without too much mud or flooding. Although, when the foxes met us at Ragle we had to tread through some muddy water on the rocky trail. A couple kids got piggybacked across, and Brook and Victoria carried Jenny across, and because we were all laughing so hard they had to set her down early in some water. (Some did not have rain boots for the deep puddles on the trail). We ended our Ragle Park day with an epic game of capture the flag, with a consensus that the next game would be the kids against the adults!
When both groups went to the Laguna de Santa Rosa, we started at different locations and met in the middle, surprised to find an egg hunt waiting for us. We painted all the eggs and hung them to make magical treasures to take home. The foxes had a quiet and serene sit spot that day, followed by the silliest game, You Name It, which is now a WCNC favorite.
Foxes @ Jenny's place
We took advantage of the abundance of wild weeds growing in Jennys field to learn about and identify the different types of weeds that grow around us as well as there edibility and medicinal value. We made a pesto with our bounty that consisted of: chickweed, miner's lettuce, wild radish, cleavers, plantain, and sheep sorrel. We tasted our delicious and nutritious creation over some pasta and most of us really enjoyed it! We also took some time out of our busy schedule while at Jennys two use some Tule to weave beautiful mats that can be used for many different things.
Back at Taylor Mountain, Justin subbed for Brook, as the kids finally took on the grown ups in capture the flag. It was rough terrain, but eventually the kids won the game, as the adults were distracted by a raucous from the kids in jail, as they sounded like juvenile begging, which did indeed get our attention! Great tactic, don’t you think?
The independent hike at The Grove of Old Trees was one of our highlights. We grouped the children up so that each team had someone who could read, and as they set out on the trail, we placed notecards along the path with mindful activities to do along the way. Each group then made their way to our meeting spot, on their own, with great reverence, respect and solitude. It was quite an experience to witness.
Returning to the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Ragle Ranch park every other week for the kits, in between our combined field days with the foxes, has been so rewarding throughout the year. The Kits have a grown deeper connection to their favorite spots and hikes, plants, and animals. Watching these places we love through the seasons and all the changes that take place week after week is something to be grateful for.
1st Annual Promontory Poetry Slam
We found a poem taped up to the Cypress Tree that the children love to play in, this inspired us to write some poems of our own, thus the 1st Annual Promontory Poetry Slam was born! We took turns reciting our poems to the group and we actually drew quite a crowd!
Foxes @ Campbell Cove
One way we learn about animals is through animal forms where we literally imitate the animals we want to learn about to better understand them. At Campbell Cove the children spontaneously decided that they wanted to get close to a nearby group of seagulls. They decided to 'Act like the gulls", this strategy did allow them to get closer than they might have otherwise. The children were quite pleased with themselves! As mentors, it was incredible to witness how the wild energy of the group quickly quieted down as the children came together and focused their energy around their shared curiosity to get closer to the birds.
Foxes @ Shorttail Gulch/Pinnacle Gulch
We arrived at Shorttail gulch on a negative tide were able to explore the wonders of the intertidal zone. On this day we discovered an area that the children named the "Mussel maze". There were mussels covering rocks for as far as the eye could see and we also noticed many different types of sea stars as well. Upon closer inspection the children were able to discover the sea stars favorite food! We also played Firekeeper, one of the children favorite games. This game helps sharpen participants senses by taking away there dominant sense of vision and helping them tap into other senses to stop others from "stealing the fire". The game also challenges participants to be as quiet and as sneaky as possible as they stalk into the center of the ring to try to steal the fire without being heard by the fire keepers.
Foxes @ New Family Farm
Everything has its season, and the same is true for the best time to harvest one of our favorite plants for wildcrafting with: Tule! While we are nearing the end of our year and won't have time to use this Tule with this group, we harvest it in late summer and dry it in the shade to use for projects with future nature club groups. We also made plant medicine with some calendula and chickweed that we harvested as a group. We mixed our plants with coconut oil and beeswax to create a super soother salve that is good for bumps, scrapes, burns, and bites.
Our final day of session four was so much fun, enjoying rivertime together and gathering together with families. What a splendid end to a wonderful session.
Our family campout was another highlight of our year. The 1st annual WCNC Talent show at the campout was a huge success. There was so much talent among our group, from original songs, to goofy performances, to a real live family circus! The talent show will definitely be a tradition in future years. Also at the campout the kids finally got to see Panda the Vanda in "sleep mode" with only 5 seats and 2 beds for comfy sleeping while adventuring away from home! Thank you again to all the contributions with meals, and setup, cooking and cleaning. It was so fun!
It has been a really special and enjoyable year! We do believe we will carry the countless memories and experiences shared amongst us throughout our days, helping to build resilience and connection, with nature, to place, and with each other.
Happy trails, & have a great summer!
Brook, Jenny, & Victoria