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When ten weeks arrives at it’s finish, we see the realization of many things that we have worked for. 

hanna-fires1Pictures can’t really describe it. The joy and accomplishment felt by all was palpable during each of the graduation afternoons. It was a memorable celebration of being present,

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giving and receiving acknowledgement,

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of heart to hearts……

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with more learning and discovery…..

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and all the right imprints for the future……

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Graduation Gratitude to the incredible students of Fall 2008. You have taught us as much, if not more, than we have taught you. The memories and stories and skills will live on…. building stronger in your own hands and weaving seamlessly into the next generation. Don’t forget…. one day you’ll be the ancestor. 

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tylers-cordageThe 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. stalks-in-rafters

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cordage-varietyleft 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…..

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Evolving mentorship…………

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And self satisfaction………..

kaiAs 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. 

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

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. 

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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! 

wc-week-9-005This bridge really needed help. Thank You!

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

scoutsTheir 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.

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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. 

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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.

matthewLate 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.

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

tuckerAnd authentic, primal expression. 

What could be better at that age?

See you all at graduation!

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It’s cold in the mornings. The light beams down, brighter but only bright enough to melt the frost. When the Tuesday students roll in, they are layered strategically in wool and polar fleece, smiling behind the cloud of warm breath. The first thing they do is start a coal; a practice in the most vital of primitive necessities, and a challenging one at that. 

Once the cold of the winter sets in, a tribe must be stocked with enough food to sustain them for almost six months. Green food is scarce and hard to store. Hunting takes on it’s most important time, when large animals and many small game can be cured at once for a stock of protein, fat, and mineral rich foods. 

Of the many gifts rendered from a hunt, bones are one way to ensure next autumn’s hunt. Besides dishware, costume and tools, spears and hunting gear can be carved while spending the days snowed in. 

As the temperature dropped throughout Tuesday, fingers deftly rolled small bones along a file, carving sharp tips and barbed ends, with extended shafts long enough to plunge into a shallow river. The bone was wrapped to its handle with sinew. After crafting a good spear, the only thing left would be to outsmart the weather and the animals. 

Thursday my camera and I were glued to the office, working on important sequences of numbers and tallies for the upcoming year. Lucky for me, I get all the juice at the end of the day when we have our staff meeting. It was reported to be a truly ‘epic’ game in the morning, where the Pioneers and the Scouts, together, went up against alien jungle instructors (in yellow rain ponchos), guarding the precious ‘food’. The fire was lit and they had until the last coal to win back their food. 

As the third week of this game, (tied score of 1-1) the intricacy, wit, and strategy employed was off the charts. It could have represented an entire year of social, tribal and governmental dynamics in an effort to maintain both needs as well as peace. Negotiations were attempted. Peace offers were tried, distractions and tall tales were exercised. Raw bravery was ignited in some of the more timid students, and incredible sacrificial plays were made by some of the seemingly boastful members. Meeting needs won out in the end, as the Pioneers and Scouts realized that there were precious goods to be traded, utilizing each individuals strength toward achieving their goal. Now, since this saga may be crafted into the full story, I wouldn’t want to give away all the details…. so you’ll just have to hang onto your hat, but I can attest to the many more layers of adventure and heroism than I elude to.

The Scouts had a great day. After the riveting game above, they did some new things like the hula hoop magic trick, dragon tag, and started on some cool storytelling exercises. they practiced leaping over their favorite ditch, made a collective talking bowl out of clay, and read the Miraculous Adventure of Turtle and Swan: a hilarious zen-like fable with a satirical twist! 

Meanwhile, the wilderness challenge had another day of team initiatives and physical challenge. Each member was bound to a partner’s leg for the day. Dare I guess it wasn’t a walk in the park? I’m not sure which is harder to learn; the physical science behind a duet fulcrum, Or the mental science of a personality fulcrum? I suppose it’s all individual. Maybe that’s the problem. Ohhh the thought of surrendering autonomy for something potentially greater than the Self…… that’s a tough one! But this group is a class act, coming out strong and resiliant, both physically and mentally fit. Not to mention they have an amazing set of mentors to guide them.

I guess you could call this lunchtime bonding? 

Friday morning the Jr. Naturalists began with an enriching show and tell, followed by an in depth study on bird nests. The design, material used, and location are all indicators of whose nest it could be. Some are stuffed with hair, with leaves, or with a variety of stuff. Some are packed solid with mud, and some are woven like a professional basket.

After crunching numbers long on Thursday, I was a ready participant in the day. I’ve been meaning to capture the bird sit, and I finally had the chance. See the scarecrow? It’s been sitting there a few weeks now, training the birds to come and feed from that spot. What’s not so easy to tell, is that the scarecrow is actually Campbell. Sitting very still, watching each winged visitor swoop in for seed from her hat or glove.

Slowly but surely, each Jr. Naturalists has had the chance to be the scarecrow. They are even advancing to the point where multiples can sit without donning the costume, and the birds still come.

During Herbal Hour, one of the highlights was getting to hike up to a special place where one of my favorite herbs grows wild. With a rich history of healing, wintergreen is a treasure to show and to gather. We collected a small amount to prepare into an oil for a project.

Lunchtime was fun as always. We listened to a story about a woman who hand feeds wild birds; a perfect fit for the day. 

After that, we chased fish up stream. Going farther up the trail than we have yet, we were lost in the magic of the forest and the spell of the glinting waters. The loamy fall aroma is intoxicating. The aliveness in the air a libation for the spirit. We followed the fish shadows as they slinked along the cavernous banks in hiding. One lucky fish got to be the center of attention for the afternoon, identified later by the kids as a brook trout.

On our top speed hike back (racing against the clock – we lost) we crossed a beautifully designed bird’s nest, bringing the day full circle.

Now, my post wouldn’t be complete without reaching the cute quota. Since I was playing hooky with the J-Nats, I’ll give you one I didn’t post last week, and tell you that they had another adventurous day, with stories, games, running, clay creativity, and nature awareness exercises.

OK – two! I promise I will get more of the Scouts and Microscouts this week.

Happy November!

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