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Snippets of Spring

Hello families! 


This season has begun quickly. Since I am out as an instructor for most of the program days, I have not been able to write here with the same length as before. But I have still captured some great moments with my little camera:


Our Explorers wondered why this tree lost all of it's bark at once.


Learning self sufficiency; starting with fuel

Learning self sufficiency; starting with fuel


Old fashioned story time with the Scouts and Pioneers

Old fashioned story time with the Scouts and Pioneers


The Challenge group practicing non-verbal communication ~ Photo by Whendi Cook Broderick

The Challenge group practicing non-verbal communication ~ Photo by Whendi Cook Broderick


Trout Lily



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Hello everyone!  My name is Adrienne and I will be working for the Great Hollow Homeschool Program this spring and summer teaching the fascinating subject of Geology!  I am about to graduate from Cornell University with a Masters Degree in Geological Sciences.  I am just thrilled about spending the summer outside and imparting some of my knowledge about rocks and the workings of the earth to the students that I will have the privilege of working with.  I am very excited about the opportunity to both teach and learn in the wonderful environment of Great Hollow and look forward to meeting all of you sometime in the next few months.

Geology is a science that uses all of the five senses.  Looking at rocks provides us with colors and shapes by which to describe what we see.  Different rocks will sound differently when we scratch a nail against them or knock gently on their surfaces.  We touch rocks to describe how smooth they are and hence learn about their transport history (rocks that are rounded have traveled longer distances).  It is possible to distinguish fine-grained sandstone from lithified clay by putting a tiny bit of the rock dust in your mouth and feeling the texture (a grainy feel would mean sandstone while a smoother feeling would be clay).  And of course let’s not forget those particularly stinky rocks that have sulfur in them and are impossible for your nose to ignore!

The incorporation of physically observable ways to participate in Geology as a science makes the application of geologic principles intuitive and fun for children (and adults) of all ages.  The study of the rocks in our backyard is interesting in and of itself, but additionally, Geology also incorporates a larger understanding of the world around us when we ask challenging questions like, “Where did this rock come from and why is it different than the other ones in my backyard?” or “Why is this mineral so much bigger than those around it even though they are in the same rock?” 

These observations and questions combine into a fascinating science that encourages us to use our senses in conjunction with basic scientific methods to create a logical story and to express that story in basic terms that everyone can understand.  To describe rocks we use color, texture, size and percentages of different minerals in the sample.  In describing a large body of rock, we use the number of different rock types visible in the area in question, the angle those rock beds make to the horizon and the shape of the terrain, such as mountains vs. valleys.  All of these aspects of Geology combine to promote linear as well as creative thought processes and help young minds develop critical thinking skills. 

Looking forward to all of our adventures!


Adrienne Long

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Whole Earth Homeschool Programs at Great Hollow Wilderness School 

Call or email to reserve your space


NATIVE HARVESTS: Identify & Study the Wild Plants & Mushrooms in Surrounding Environments

with Barrie Kavasch…….. Accomplished Author, Herbalist and Ethno-botanist, Artist, and Teacher

 based upon Barrie’s book: NATIVE HARVESTS: American Indian Wild Foods & Recipes
For children 9 to 14+, & accommodating for younger & older w/serious interests.
    Trek through the surrounding areas and learn about Great Hollow’s dynamic habitats. Learn to “read the landscapes” and track wild animals while learning more about the plants & wild mushrooms they are dependant upon for their seasonal diets. Create your own unique “naturalist’s notebook” filled with observations, field identification, personal research, & poetry & stories. Some days we will prepare a “wilderness tea” to share & talk about the virtues of wild plants & herbs in our own diets. Learn about “wilderness toothbrushes” & which ones are the most flavorful to use; learn about “wilderness first aid” & what plants can reduce a fever, calm headache, settle an upset stomach, clean a wound, & relieve nausea.

DATES B: Four consecutive Fridays in March
              March 6, 13, 20, 27
COST: $160.00   
TIME: 9 am – 12 pm
AGES: 8 -15

One day Wonders: (Single workshops)

Dream Catchers with Barrie Kavasch
Create your own traditional dream catcher from materials we identify and harvest on-site. Learn some of it’s rich history and lore, tribal significance, and learn how to weave the web of dreams!
DATE: February 26 (Thursday) 
TIME: 9-12
COST: $25.00/dream catcher, $15/each additional
AGES: 8 + parents welcome

Local Pizza! with Beth Meyer
Beth Meyer, Locavore, Nutritionist, and Great Hollow parent will show us how to make delicious cheese and  pizza from all local ingredients! Feel great about your cooking and have fun with friends. For kids and parents, too. 
DATE: March 31
TIME: 10 am – 1 pm
COST: $35 individual or $45/family, materials included
AGES: 7 +


Great Hollow Wilderness School ~ 225 Route 37 ~ New Fairfield, CT. 06812

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Here are the long awaited photos of our favorite spots, both built entirely by hand in the traditional way, by the Thursday Pioneers, ages 9-12. Granted, the shelters are snow-capped, but isn’t that a testimony?

Here is the Wikiup, complete with stone wall foundation, lashed poles, and goldenrod thatching. Inside is a stone lined fire pit for heat and cooking. A peace flag hangs in celebration of it’s completion.


Below is the log cabin. Inside there is a stone and mortar firplace with chimney, and on the side is their handbuilt balcony. Something to be very proud of!


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Our first student writing submission! Clever, succinct, and rhythmical, I think we’ve got a future Haiku -er! Enjoy……




Barberry is stickering

prickering, and when your in it

you can’t stop bickering.




Water is overflowing,

and when you step in it

it can’t stop growing


                                                                      Zeke, Jr. Naturalist

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I can hardly believe we are heading into our second to last week of the fall semester. As I look over the weeks of peaks and valleys of social and intellectual melodies, brimming with subtle syncopation and steady harmonies, a tremendous symphony occurs. Each person learning when to play their solo and when to find their bass line. It’s remarkable to say the least. 

bow-drill-partsThe tools of the trade are being put to good practice, and although I usually only capture the traces of the Tuesday Wilderness Skills group, this week we had a willing ambassador:

zephyrDonning his handmade bow and arrows, he’s a ready student and steward of the forest.

Thursday’s troupe was full of adventure (and controversy) as any cutting edge society must be. The three groups (scouts, pioneers, and wilderness challenge) played a multi-layered game involving teamwork, problem solving, tracking, physicality, social dynamics, and moral decision making. Here is a shot of us tracking the bead trail:

stalking-beadsAnd a glimpse into the land of mixed tribes:

gh-week-8-013After lunch, the Pioneers worked dutifully on gathering and preparing plant stalks for their thatched roof. It was rainy and wonderful, replete with song and cooperation. The scouts continued on their pursuit of happiness via ripe rose hips.


rose-hip-juiceHigh in vitamin C and really fun to smash up in a bowl! 

And you know who they decided to share it with?


Yup, the big kids 🙂 Which, wet and chilled, they greatly appreciated.

wc-week-8-001-1Rain is heavy!

donals-and-kidsMeet Donald, a family duck of one of our Jr. Naturalists, and friendly at that! Donald is so much better than a cartoon; he (she?) had all the kids rolling in laughter within minutes… with a honk resembling a very loud belly laugh. Donald hung out for show and tell, giving each of the kids including the Micro-Scouts a chance to feel the downy feathers. 

The Jr. Naturalists had a chance in the morning to really see if they could be like birds…. to try and identify their classmates through call alone. It was a worthy experiment, sometimes identifying each other – and sometimes not. They also did a study on the Great Leopard Moth

During plant hour (and a half) we first covered some very important stuff: the deadly plants. We compared the botanical structures of two potential look-alikes, the common yarrow (a member of the Asteraceae family) with illustrations of flowers from the Umbelliferae family. The latter holding the two deadliest plants in New England, as well as the edible and relatively safe Wild Carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace). Important to know!

We made careful certainty that we could tell them apart, and should we come across another plant with double umbels, we could stay away. When the technical part was well covered, and embellished with a story, we rewarded ourselves by making an herbal salve! We used the wintergreen we harvested last week, which I had put up in oil, as well as a yarrow infused oil. We learned all the ingredients that went into making a salve, and decorated our own labels. The remaining salves will be sold as a little fundraiser, $5 a tin 🙂

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a great day to brew up mischief in the kitchen, since they spent the afternoon harvesting the pristine bumper crops of Nettle and garlic mustard leaf to make a wild pesto! It was SO delicious I don’t think it lasted more than twenty minutes…. and I hear that a few micro scouts got to the last of it! 

Speaking of Microscouts, again they managed to evade my camera, other than the visit with Donald. They are quickly moving up to the sneakiest class! I was told however, that they had one of the best days so far… filled with “exceptional peace and focus”. They played bust a move (a favorite moving game), hiked, ran through puddles, read stories, and sang songs. They made beautiful traditional smudge sticks using native plants, and they built their own rock people with hats. They used their walking times to practice what Tom Brown calls ‘lostproofing’ which can be done using several techniques. In the case of little ones, walking together all holding the same object (like a stick or string), the body’s sensory memory makes an imprint of walking closely with the group, without having to link aloneness with something fearful.

They even found time to paint their clay bowl and beads which they made last week. Oh – and finish the pesto.

Now we head into week 9, as winter creeps slowly towards us. The nights fall earlier, and the winds are getting crisper. The stars are brilliant and the dawns misty. The land ever fertile with gifts and beauty.


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The Tuesday group must be the sneakiest. They escape pictures like little rookie ninjas. But they can’t hide their traces yet…. walking through the 5 car means seeing clues to what they might be up to. Clues of wood shavings, tools neatly piled, and sweatshirts not so neatly piled, as if they were peeled off mid-run and abandoned without a thought. If their backpacks were left behind, I know they are off for a short game nearby. If the backpacks are gone, I know they have headed into the deep woods for something; perhaps hunting for magic, testing their skills, or practicing teamwork.

At this stage in the game, often what happens is that imagined community starts being replaced by true community. What I mean by that is, conflicts have surfaced already, making known some of the seemingly problematic issues of either personalities or group dynamics. But what happens after that, when held in a type of space that fosters both individual gifts as well as group strength…. is that the group finds themselves feeling more than the sum of their parts. They begin to negotiate, speak up as well as listen, and contribute effort on behalf of both themselves and the good of the group. It’s one of the most rewarding processes I have had the privilege to witness. 

Along with the story of this group, each day there is a story read. The book pictured is the recall of the explorations of Sven Hedin, arguably ‘one of our last great explorers’, cite the several places where his biography is found. Ethan has a knack for finding exceptional reads.

Thursday was filled with sweetness and fun. The Scouts got to create their own T-shirst from both natural dyes and craft paint, and played some new, challenging team games which I’ve been hearing about all week. In fact, the Scouts outwitted the Pioneers.

Up at the legendary log cabin, after the rousing game with the Scouts, the fires were set up for the day. A short but important lesson on maintaining heat was covered (after a failed attempt to transport a small coal earlier), and the coals were piled strategically for cooking. Sweet roots and twigs were simmered down into a sticky, concentrated syrup. While the supplies were being set, we headed out for a tree observation walk, using our near and far vision to decipher varying tree bark patterns. In the winter when there are no leaves, knowing the bark of a medicinal or edible tree species can mean life or death, food or famine. The students began by seeing obvious differences, and worked there way towards finer and finer detail. Soon, they were noticing the very subtle variances between the Lenticels (trunk and root pores) of the black birch and black cherry, as well as new bark and old bark.  'root beer' syrup


Appalachian elixir

Appalachian elixir

 The syrup was poured into the seltzer water and made a new years style celebration of fizz. The kids lined up for a very fancy traditional treat, after their hard earned home made ice cream. 


hand tossed ice cream

hand tossed ice cream

The squishing wasn’t difficult….. until all the hands were freezing cold!! That’s when they got creative…. wrapping the bags up in extra jackets or the bottom of their sweatshirts, and playing catch like a cold potato. 

We had a potent debrief at the end of the day, discussing value to work ratio. It was unanimous that no one would trade a gallon of store bought root beer for even a cup of their own hand made. 

For this week, the Pioneers are tasked to investigate a process, source to product, of something they don’t know about yet. It could be a food item, an appliance, a chair…. anything that spikes their curiosity.

The Wilderness Challenge had some more team initiatives to tackle this week, with a cinnamon swirl of literature somewhat analogous to their own challenges….. discussing the homework writing by Kurt Vonnegut: Harrison Bergeron.  The keyword of the day was appropriately: potential.

up up and away

up up and away

Their homework for this week is to research the cause, effects, and treatments for hypothermia, an essential set of knowledge for any dedicated trailblazer.

Nothing like good old fashioned elbow grease and determination! They managed to hoist everyone in the group. Their thinking skills were exercised again when challenged to make a one match fire and proceed to boil water in nothing but a paper cup. 

Gee, I can’t tell….. do you think they are happy with their work?

Friday’s adventures and discoveries were many. Bird language and seeds on the wind were explored, along with close observation of the many details of a new, unknown plant for each student. The microscope was put to good use for elephant grass seeds (did you know they are barbed?) A bird count sit spot unveiled countless feathered friends, whom either stay late in the season or must be die hard New Englanders.

The animal stories at lunch were especially hilarious. One about a very beloved but mischievous raccoon, and another about an unusual insect called a sphex. We all got a good healthy belly laugh.

The Micro Scouts waved their magic wands of cuteness over all of us on Friday….. with their curiosity, creativity and spontaneity. Together they examined bugs, measured the water level again, made leaf rubbings, wove a web of interdependence (a fun yarn game), made “sap” like the trees, and read good stories from the Jungle Book. It was a full and satisfying day! 

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