Sarah Chaffee, April 1, 2018
The following blog post is from the week of March 19th.
On Monday, Forest Preschool gathered for their last day of the winter session! After playing in the snow near the red oak tree, they came together for Opening Circle where Melissa talked about the Spring Equinox. She explained that on the equinox the amount of daylight and darkness will be almost equal and afterwards the days will start getting longer; a definite sign of spring.
Melissa and the preschoolers playing Keeper of the Keys.
The children led the way to Trillium Camp while making predictions about the creek. "I think it'll be frozen," said one preschooler. "I think it'll be moving," said another. When they reached the bridge, they peered over to see that a thin layer of ice had frozen overtop the creek and that the water was rushing underneath. At snack Sarah told a story about eight wild children who lived in a forest very similar to 4-H Acres. After enduring a long, cold winter they hoped for warmer days. While sitting around a fire thinking about how to make spring come, a piece of birch bark with symbols on it fell from the sky. The wild children knew that this must be from the Equinox Spirit and that in order for spring to come to the forest, they had to find the images from the bark.
The clues given to Forest Preschool by the Equinox Spirit on a piece of birch bark.
When the wild children of Forest Preschool had finished their snack, they embarked on a similar mission to find the clues given to them by the Equinox Spirit. In order to make spring come, they needed to find buds on trees, green grass or other growing plants, hear birdsong and find a worm. Together they traveled through the forests, stopping to admire the buds on a honeysuckle bush and a green patch of grass growing where snow had recently melted. They heard a bird singing from the branches of a sugar maple and found a small worm in a muddy place. The Equinox Spirit's clues led them to a part of the forest they hadn't been to since fall. The children adventured down the path until they found a mysterious pouch hanging from the branch of a young tree. They began to approach it when Melissa said- "This must be a gift from the Equinox Spirit for helping bring spring to the Earth. In order to get the surprise inside, we have to each answer a question." Melissa took the pouch from the tree ad opened it to see chocolate chips! She then asked the children questions- "What is the name of the wood we use to get a fire started?" "What kind of tree did we tap for sap?" "What kind of animal lives in the burrow by our bridge?" When everyone had answered a question, they enjoyed their chocolate together in the sun for one last day of winter.
Melissa and the children finding the gift left to them by the Equinox Spirit.
Homeschool gathered for their Opening Circle on sunny and bright Thursday morning. Elias revealed the animal behind a previous week's mystery track belong to a fisher! He passed around the hide of a dark brown fisher and the Homeschoolers got to feel the softness of its fur and see the details of its face. Sarah reminded the group of last week's mystery track clues. "This creature is a venomous mammal that can shrink the size of its brain during winter," she said. The homeschoolers thought after it for a moment, before some said- "It's a shrew!" Afterwards Monica gave clues for the last mystery track of the winter session. "The babies of this creature are born nearly scentless and lay flat in tall grass or brush while their mothers get food," she said. After the track of this animal was shown to the group, Monica said that its name would be revealed at the end of the day.
Two homeschoolers carrying mullein torches.
When Opening Circle has finished, the homeschoolers split themselves into two groups. Hillary-Joy and Elias' clan headed toward the Horse Arena where they began to set up for a special event happening later in the day. After putting their backpacks down in Village Camp and having some snack, Monica and Sarah's clan worked on performing a play for the Homeschoolers. Monica told the story of a young hunter who was swept up by an eagle. This bird asked the hunter for help in protecting her babies, which were frequently attacked by a monster. The clever hunter devised a plan to trick the monster that included the skin of a buffalo and hot coals and rocks from a fire. The homeschoolers acted out the story for the other clan during lunch, using scarves, bandanas and sticks for costumes.
The homeschoolers testing their atlatl skills.
As the homeschoolers finished their lunches around a warm fire, Hillary-Joy and Elias announced that everyone was about to compete in the first ever Primitive Olympics! They carried mullein torches lit from their lunch fire toward to Horse Arena to begin the games. Their first challenge was an epic match of Coyote and Deer, with the instructors starting as hungry coyotes. The game continued until there was only one deer left, who was particularly good at camouflage. Their second task was several rounds of Everybody's It Fox Tail. In this game, each player has an orange bandana representing a fox tail. Players must simultaneously protect their tail while also trying to get other people's tail. There were impressive dodges, some near-escapes and humble defeats as the games continued. Next up in the Primitive Olympics was atlatl throwing and a ring toss. Elias explained the delicate art of using an atlatl and helped the homeschoolers aim at one of their many targets, which included several wood stumps and a fake deer target used for archery. At the ring toss, the homeschoolers impressed everyone with their precision and perseverance.
A homeschooler aiming his atlatl at one of the targets.
The Primitive Olympics also tested nature-knowledge. Hillary-Joy asked the group a variety of nature questions that included some tree identification as well as some tricky riddles. "I touch your face. I'm in your words. I'm lack of space and beloved by birds," she said. The young Olympians whispered their guesses to the instructors, many of them saying the answer was "air." As the Primitive Olympics and their time together came to a close, they sat in the Log Circle for one last time. Monica asked the group if they knew what the day's mystery track was and gave them another clue as she pulled a beautiful skull out of her bag. As it was passed around the circle, its remaining teeth and eye sockets examined, the homeschoolers said it was a deer. Gratitude was shared, a song was sung and a loud howl was sent up into the sky.
Homeschoolers competing in a ring toss.
The Winter Explorers spent their last day together trekking through the Roy H. Park Preserve wilderness and the adjoining State Forest. Though they were walking through deep snow, they saw signs of spring in budding trees and plants, and noticed changes in the bird songs all around. The explorers were tested with fire challenges one more time in the snowy conditions, and took time to finish their twined baskets.
Thank you for reading! We're excited for spring and all of the gifts it brings.