Great Hollow Wilderness School

Highlights from the Hollow ~ Week 9

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The rain trickled in and out throughout the week, inviting indoor activities. The stalks that have been drying in the rafters throughout the year were brought down for lessons on fiber and cordage. The rhythmical twist of the reverse wrap is hypnotic, a beneficial side effect for those long winter days.

left to right: Nettle, Cattail root, Milkweed, jute, raffia. Nettle proved to be a solid fiber; one loop of nettle cordage joining a rope to a beam held upwards of 100 pounds of weight. Resistant to insects and rot, Nettle fiber can last hundreds of years. Cattail is surprisingly silky, I could easily covet a good pair of cattail long johns! Milkweed is also quite strong, and with the variegation’s of color it makes visually interesting cordage. Jute and raffia serve their purpose as training fiber.

Check out this link for an interesting read on Nettle fiber and some history. Personally, I prefer to eat the leaves as delicious high nutrient food, and dry them for winter infusions for extra energy. But now I know what to do with all the leftover stalks! 

Not to mention it lends itself to deepening friendships…..

Evolving mentorship…………

And self satisfaction………..

As you can see, both the Tuesday Skills and Thursday Pioneers got their hands on the fibers. I hear the lodge is coming along as well, pictures of that to come this week. They have been working hard on their Goldenrod thatched roof!

The Challenge group was sent out on a quest for depth this week, with two initiatives that brought their minds and emotions forward. “Crossover”, an exercise in diversity and self awareness, was skillfully facilitated by Emily, as we all discovered new aspects of each other and ourselves. 

We rolled right into another fun initiative on the whale watch…..

…….where nonverbal communication and sensory awareness are at their peak. The plank must be kept in equal balance as they travel cooperatively around it. In a moment of sheer magic silence, the great blue heron pushed it’s way through the misty air but feet away from the group; a lavish reward for their unified and peaceful efforts. While three of them lunged a pointing finger to alert the others of the visit, not a sound was made as we witnessed the heron weave it’s path above the water line. 

Lunch covered eating of course, but also some important first aid knowledge on choking and preparing a splint.

The whale watch lead perfectly into putting it’s physics to work. The lever and fulcrum mechanism was translated into moving a large log for use in their rainy day warming fire. Which they needed since the afternoon was spent in resolute stewardship! 

This bridge really needed help. Thank You!

….and over at the log cabin, the scouts gathered their things for the returning hike. 

Their day included a fun filled series of games including bust-a-move, dear and coyote, and one of my personal favorites adapted from a group dance training process called flocking. This is a really fun sequential movement game which switches leadership in verbal, then nonverbal ways. It gets the kids thinking kinesthetically and on the fly, in a way that fosters self and group awareness simultaneously. 

Kinesthetic learning was carried over into story-time this week, with a pencil creating a ‘story line’ while Joe read another witty tale from the Lao book. The lows, highs, tensions and successes of the story were captured in the abstract art of the Scout’s illustrations. Noteworthy was their capacity to retell the story simply from the memory cues of the wavy lines they drew while listening!

The afternoon was topped off with some wild tea of goldenrod leaves and pine needles and some good mellow journal time.

Friday morning’s show and tell for the Jr. Naturalists consisted of a frozen dead baby pig. Although surely educational, I missed the photo op on that one :). It was a great introduction to the lessons of the day, however, inviting conversation about ethical use of hunted animals, and primitive containers. Following was a fascinating study on Goldenrod galls, which were collected in numbers and then placed in a gall garden to set until spring, when we get to watch them hatch. Galls are a fascinating element to nature’s ingenious and cyclical patterns.

Plant class took a new angle this week, in order to sharpen observational skills and invite in some art concepts. We took to the field for an exercise in visual perception of depth and varying levels of detail and shape. Specifically we focused on landscape silhouettes, which will serve in the future as an important way to identify different trees. We made a sketch of the silhouette shapes we saw and noted the type of habitat. To engage the idea of contrast, we then overlapped onto our sketches a series of leaf rubbings. The details were beautiful and rewarding to watch emerge from under the waving pencil motions. 

The afternoon activity was a fun craft of cleaning and preparing gourds for rattles. Connection to the earlier discussion of primitive containers was made. The painting of the gourds included a layer of history, referencing old ways of storytelling through cave paintings and symbolic prints on objects. Each gourd was to become their own personal story of Great Hollow, told through color, shape, and symbol.

Late Friday I spent a few minutes with the Micro Scouts, who were quick to give me a delightful run for my money. They articulated the similarities noticed between lamb’s ears and the large leaf of a mullein plant. Above you can see the animated punctuation.

A celebrated moment spontaneously after stringing hand painted beads onto twine. 

And authentic, primal expression. 

What could be better at that age?

See you all at graduation!

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