Forest Kindergarten newsletter - April 2013

     Spring has kicked into full bloom and our foraging opportunities have increased greatly. After the weeklong spring break this month, the kids immediately noticed two distinct changes in the plants: that there were pink flowers on the salmonberry and that the very red young tender new growth of the evergreen huckleberry leaves had shown up. We are enjoying the flavors of the leaf buds on the huckleberry, salmonberry, salal, and hazelnut. We have also found many fallen branch tips of the doug fir and enjoy munching the fruity flowers, which taste like pineapple. We have also been nibbling salmonberry petals, huckleberry flowers, elder flowers and madrona flowers. 

     We have been noticing pollen everywhere. It leaves a gritty yellow coating on all of the leaves in the forest. The pollen mixture in our forest right now is comprised mainly of the fallout from the big leaf maple flowers, doug fir flowers, elder flowers and the huckleberry flowers. We rubbed the pollen with our fingertips. We noticed it simultaneously felt slippery and coarse. When we licked it off our fingers, we all agreed it tasted sweet. The children noticed that all of the climbing and balancing logs were slippery from the pollen and that they had to stay more aware when climbing. On several days, clouds of yellow pollen were visibly drifting through the air.

     The weather has been much warmer and drier than last month as Spring settles in towards summer. The children have been shedding layers and we have had several barefoot days. When we smelled that quintessential northwest spring aroma of the cottonwood trees, we knew to look on the ground for the sticky cottonwood husks we use for making our special remedy for cuts and bruises: the balm of gilead. We collected many cottonwood husks and put them in a jar with olive oil to soak for 6 weeks, we will collectively make a salve for the kids to take home.

     We have heard the raven and pileated woodpecker consistently this month. The junco is now a regular at the snack table and the chickadees frequent the bird bath to delight us while we are snacking. There has been a wild rabbit joining us at the snack area and the children have thrilled in close up views of this adorable creature. As the ground warms up, many animals are coming out of hibernation, such as the earthworms, slugs, salamanders and snails. There were quite a few mornings when we had to rescue moths from our puddle and it prompted discussion about why they ended up there, with most of the children guessing they were thirsty.

     We have been watching the ferns emerge and become a more prominent feature in the forest garden.  We have been measuring how rapidly the bracken ferns grow by placing a stick in the ground next to a developing bracken fern so that the tip of the stick is the same height as the top of the bracken fern. We have also been watching as the sword fern "babies" rise from their nests and unfurl into a seahorse shape.

     One of the children's favorite activities is chalking up the forest. They explore textures of various tree barks, they highlight roots to discover which roots belong to which plants, and they mark their path along the trail. One child noticed she could only chalk up one side of the huckleberry leaf. The children also love to draw designs on the sitting stumps around the fire circle. And lately they have been using wet paintbrushes to "paint" their chalked-up stumps with water, noticing that things get darker when they are wet. 

     There has been ample baking and mixing going on as our mud achieves the perfect consistency for that project. Spring has resulted in a lot of celebratory energy and children have been singing loudly to the trees and making up all manner of blessing songs. There has also been an increase in the number of pretend birthday parties. On several days a tree across one of our trails became an ice cream truck and we all had ice cream, until the truck broke down.Luckily the kids got out their forest (stick) tools: drills and screw drivers and hammers. After we fixed the truck, we put our tools back in the tool box.

     We have enjoyed drawing directly on the earth with sticks. This is the perfect time of year for this activity as the top soil has dried out a bit and is a lighter color than the layer directly below which is still damp. When I asked, "Why is the soil underneath a darker color?", one child replied "Let’s try it with our hands" and then noticed  "It's colder too". When I asked "Why do you think its colder too?”, the child replied, as she explored it with her hands, "It feels like it's damp".  When I ask again why the dirt on top is a lighter color,another child replied "The sun dried the top of the dirt". This is a terrific example of the exploratory scientific reasoning that goes in the minds of preschoolers every day at Cedarsong.

     Definition of the month: When I asked, “Do you kids remember what camouflage means?”, one child replied, “It means very the same color”.

     I hope your Spring has also been filled with much exuberance and celebration!

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