Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten Newsletter – November-December 2014
By Erin Kenny ©2014
November and December weather was mostly overcast and cool however we are still experiencing warmer than historical temperatures. The forest floor is covered with debris from the windy season. The children are enthralled by the number of items they find in the debris on the forest floor. One of the most interesting discoveries we made was the huge numbers of red alder seeds on the ground and the children all marveled about how such a tiny seed could turn into a tree.
On several days, the kids spent time collecting different colors and textures of things from the ground. There is so much debris on the forest floor right now, it makes a great drawing board and the children use sticks to create designs. One of the activities the forest kindergarten children love to engage in is raking the forest. Sometimes the kids will rake a spot bare and then are excited to observe the next day what fell down overnight.
The children as usual engaged in a lot of imagination play. This play has mostly involved setting up a "medicine shop" with offerings such as forest candy (douglas fir buds), alder catkins and huckleberry leaves. There was also a lot of play with the theme of fire station and rescuers. One 5 year old boy was making up songs about spiders and trees, saying “There is so much to learn about trees; that’s why we come to Cedarsong”. Other imagination activities involved making magnifying glasses from rolled up salal leaves and inventing a game of forest hopscotch. We also created many cedar twig hoops to hang in the tree branches as decorations.
The dampness of the forest has yielded a variety of mushrooms and we have gone on regular mushroom hunts to see how many we could find. We had chances to observe and study all the different mushrooms: We compared the mushrooms that have gills and those that don’t; and those that have stems and those that don’t. The most common types of mushrooms we are seeing now are the orange jelly and the red-belted polypore shelf mushrooms.
The children are continuing their work on the dam at Main Camp’s mud puddle, experimenting with the right combination of mud, rocks, sticks and dry dirt to make a stable dam. There was a lot of testing of the dam, pouring water against it to see if the dam would hold. While pouring water down the river one day, a 4 year old boy discovered that the water turned black as it flowed down the river, commenting that it was "picking up mud all the way down". The kids also discovered that “when you step in the puddle it makes black”. When we asked why that might be, one four year old answered “because we have mud on our boots”.
We played quite a few rounds of our game “What's missing?” this month. This game engages even the youngest of the forest kindergarten kids. It is a great strategy for improving children’s skills in observing, sorting, identifying, counting and memorizing, as well as for increasing patience while waiting for turns.
On several of the rainy days these past two months, we have observed steam coming out of our mouths as well as steam coming out off of the trees. This gave us an opportunity to talk about the difference between steam and smoke and also to elucidate the fact that trees respire.
On rainy days, we often enjoy licking rain drops from leaves and creating a shower by shaking the branches. The kids have started calling the rain on the leaves “leaf rain”, and make a distinction between that and actual rain. One wet days, the children often comment and remind each other to take extra care when climbing as they notice the branches are slippery. The day after a particularly rainy day, the children noticed that where there were puddles the day before, the water was gone yet had left an outline composed of debris (primarily needles).
We noticed that some of our native wildlife has been around these past couple months, including the wild rabbits that have made their home at Cedarsong. On several days, the rabbits were so close that all of the children got really great views of them. We also found both raccoon and deer foot prints, so we know they’ve been about even though we did not actually see them. The towhee we see most of the year at our snack table has returned.
As the ground has gotten harder due to freezing, the children have discovered that it is difficult to dig in. Other signs the children noticed that indicated the temperature is colder: the spongy decomposing wood we love to squeeze water out of now only produces a thick yellow goo and the douglas fir sap has become hard.
The forest is very quiet this time of year as all creatures are in their low energy phase. Many days the children spontaneously lay on the forest floor, gazing at the canopy and enjoying the stillness. It is indeed mesmerizing to stare up at the dancing tree limbs. Many of the children continue to gravitate towards Clara, our “Therapy Tree” when they feel out of control and need a place to calm. One four year old boy stated “When I see Clara, I say Popop”, indicating his feeling that the tree was as comforting as a beloved family member. Many of today’s children don’t get an opportunity to release their stress and anxiety into the earth. This is one of the many added values that a forest kindergarten program offers.
Our forest tea blend this time of year consists mostly of douglas fir branches, huckleberry leaves and berries, and red cedar twigs. We have had quite a few tea parties this season with many robust declarations of “Cheers”. The mood in the forest has been very celebratory as we approach the winter solstice and holiday season.
I encourage you to pick one of these great outside activities to share with a favorite child in your life and follow their lead in how the play unfolds.