Forest Kindergarten: Caroline’s Blog

Caroline Colesworthy co-instructs Earthroots Forest Kindergarten program with Jeannie Lee & Meg Hiesinger. Caroline’s Blog gives you a glimpse of the magical days of Forest Kindergarten.

Wednesday April, 25, 2012, Upper Newport Estuary Muth Interpretive Center
What was predicted to be a storm turned out to be a very warm and sunny day. Drats on our sweaters and warm pants. We saw so many fledgling natives trying to rehabitate the bluffs. Sticky Monkey Flower, Elder, Sage Brush, Bladderpod… Some people even saw a weasel! It was red and fast! We saw the exposed mudflats and talked about the tides. We saw a cool exhibit that showed the different beaks under the mud hunting for tasty snails, worms and clams. We found a pile of dead bees under a swarm and got to compare the sizes of the different bees in a community. We could see clearly their three body parts, head, abdomen, thorax, their big eyes, and could even see where the stinger is tucked inside the female’s bodies. Our characters learned that Earth’s wonders are all around, though we often don’t see them. We have to be paying attention. And at the end we met a Rosy Boa, and saw Gopher and King snakes. Their heads are not wider than their bodies- we know they’re not poisonous.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Casper’s Hot Springs, Cleveland National Forest

What a pristine and magical place! The creek was flowing with icy water and the springs were burning hot! What a gift to get to spend the day playing and exploring this secluded, usually off-limits, treasure. W is for water and our story friends figured out a What! way to water a banana tree without the hose. Then we found a scat with a dark brown, greasy quality and a “braided” appearance. One of our younger students supplied that descriptor. Was it weasel? I wonder…


Wednesday March 21, 2012, Upper Newport Bay

We started with the standard bunch of American coots, mallards and a lesser egret, and soon were greeted with the fish hawk right overhead: osprey with a head of white and streak of black. We went on our adventure walk, no frogs, but I caught a crawdad on a string with a piece of smoked salmon. 10 legs, oh my. Some saw a fearful pinching foe, a few recognized dinner. I let the crawdad keep the salmon. We had lunch early, all of us depleted from the bright hot sun. Then we headed towards the woodland for a story and pretend fishing. We watched a red tail hawk hover just over our heads as we made our way into the coolness of the forest. Our story cheap nba jerseys characters learned about the Vernal Equinox, a time of fertility, and greeted new life in the form of a new baby coming. Celebrate! Special Blessings for those spirits who are coming to our circle, even now. And before we closed we had a circle of mamas and kids demonstrating the forces of the sun and moon on the tides. Oh, I get it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012, Treasure Island & Mermaid Beaches, Laguna Beach, CA
Our day started with a cool cloud cover and a gentle surf and closed with boisterous sunshine and big booming waves. Everyone left a little wetter than they’d intended to get, sandy, and contended (though many a little over-ready to nap). We are so grateful for our world-class tidepooling opportunities here in Laguna Beach, seeing carpets of sea urchins, about five sea stars, bigger than the biggest papa hands, tiny sculpin, sensitive anemone, skittery crabs, opaleye fish, and a small pod of dolphins making their way North. The children in our story learned about the delicate balance between sea urchin, kelp and sea otters. During quiet sit we all had a chance to observe pelagic birds (pelicans, terns, gulls) and their hunt for fish in the churning waters, diving like big rocks being thrown form the heavens and heaving up fish bigger than their beaks. Then we concluded with a planting of grass seeds for natural Equinox/ Easter baskets to celebrate the return of Spring and the fertility of the Earth. With this group of parents, one in postpartum absence and several of us nursing at any given time, that fertility is palpable and obvious. Give thanks!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012, San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Only those native to Orange County would not have had to double check the date today. It was so warm the children were unable to keep their clothes on and the precious songs birds didn’t ever stop singing. We saw double crested cormorants, white pelicans, turkey vultures, a yellow-throated warbler, white crested sparrows, mallards, Canada geese, American coots, and unidentified hummingbirds. We felt the triangular shape of the tule that provides so much habitat in these wetlands. At quiet sit we caught a grasshopper and watched the water rippling at the edge floating bits of sticks and tule. In this week’s story we went with Anders to the beach at low tide with his Grandmother who saved a few sea stars, because every one matters. And at play we tested our speed by being bunnies darting down holes past wholesale jerseys hungry coyotes and vice versa.


Wednesday, February 1, Silverado Canyon

What a luscious Riley’s feast awaited us! The hillside going up to the orchard was carpeted with miner’s lettuce, wild romaine, cleavers, Shepard’s purse, and chickweed. So fresh and tender. We learned a few characteristics of each and promise to ask before tasting. Strange how delicious foods can grow right beside poison hemlock… “Q is for quail”, a covey of whom made a collection of mysterious cup shapes in the dirt for the curious children in our story. We drew Q’s with charcoal from the fire. Three hawks soared over us through lunch. In closing we made saur kraut with added wild mustard leaves for kick. Hooray for the new Forest Kindergarten term!


  
Monday January  23, O’Neill Regional Park

Wow, what a difference a lot of water makes! The morning was grey and wet wet wet. Although no water was flowing in the creek we went there to see and were rewarded with a long string of deer tracks.  Many of us found it difficult to get through the middle of the day because we were so wet and cold and uncomfortable. Most adults’ edges were pushed and most children cried at least a little. It got very hard. But it passed. We carried on joyfully through story, sit time, and a sumptuous potluck and everything seemed brighter on a full stomach. The kids in our story learned about Plantain and we all found a little in the grass. Once the mud got really thick the kids had a great time building, molding and splashing. A game of “Rabbit Hole” had lots of running and happy slipping. The joy of being cunning coyote inspired several of us to sing our closing songs in “coyote”. We all left on a happy note. Several people stayed until 3 (an hour plus after class ended – despite being cold and wet).  This proves how you can enjoy yourself in any weather once you get into what you are doing.


Monday, January 9, 2012, O’Neill Regional Park 

The tender young winter greens were flagging in the dry heat. To my regret, the tansy mustard is stunted and already gone to seed. I ate a few withered leaves. We spent play time in the creek bed where I assured the students that this time last year the spots we were standing in were above our heads with water. In “N is for Nettles”, the story gave us Grace, who got over her fear of stinging nettles to help her mother harvest tea for her allergies. We played stick drag and pursued our prey down the sandy path where mountain bike tracks tried to trick us, but we were victorious in our hunt and found Jeannie and Christian before long.
Monday December 5, 2011, O’Neill Regional Park, Trabuco Canyon, CA
The cottonwood leaves have abandoned their posts completely. Sycamore leaves, walnut, and liquid amber leaves wholesale nfl jerseys are in full color and partial falling. The differences in the types of trees are so stark on the landscape now. It was chilly and dry today. Everyone looked so cute all bundled up. The park had posted a fire alert, restricting fires due to fast moving winds and dry conditions, lest a wild fire get started. Great piles of sycamore leaves provided crunchy hiding places and jumping pits. Construction still prevailed though a bit quieter this week. Crows cawed and woodpeckers chased one another through bare branches. The park was littered with tracks, wheels thin and thick, deer, dogs, birds, and others. A four legged creature with shoes turned out to be sisters in matching shoes!
L is for Limpet, who can be seen in tide pools when the new Wild moon is in the sky with the sun- a moon we can’t see, but we know is there by the low low tide it creates. Grace learned that the beach is a wonderful place in the winter and that the humble limpet (the keyhole variety of which looks like a tiny volcano) is her favorite creature because it can be found at even moderate tides and is not so common as the barnacles and muscles. Lastly, we made Saur Kraut, an ancient and dlicious method of preserving the harvest for the cold winter months without the use of electricity.
Monday October 24, 2011, O’Neill Regional Park
Today found us enjoying cool weather and mostly overcast skies. The woodpeckers were not flying all over the skies or peck peck pecking like mad. The silence allowed the crickets’ song to predominate during quiet time. Today was a great day for finding things.  On the trail we found toad scats filled with earwig exoskeletons, coyote scats dripping pink and seedy from prickly pear fruits and regular brown ones furry and bony- one with squirrel fur, another with rabbit. A coyote gourd (like a miniature yellow pumpkin), a deer’s leg bone that the children readily identified after last week’s deer encounter. We found a dented stink beetle and an owl pellet holding an entire rat’s scull. And the tobacco tree’s hundreds of tiny seeds were an enchantment that some could not escape. One child even got personal with the poison oak and learned the cold water and soapy truth, hopefully to no lasting Kalahari: consequences.
G is for Grub- the Long-snouted Acorn Weevel’s grubs. She lays her eggs in the summer while the acorns are green. Once hatched, the larvae (grubs) eat the winters acorn and have 5 growth spurts (instars) before the mature acorn drops and the grubs make their way out the hole where they burrow into the soft earth and pupate for up to two years. Our story’s band of adventurous children learned not to bring the holey acorns home and not fault those who do- we all make oversights or lose focus now and again. But working together gives sweet results- especially when the reward is acorn pancakes with maple syrup. Oh yeah.

Gathering Acorns for Pancakes!

Monday October 17th, O’Neill Regional Park
Most of the sycamores are golden and preparing for a rest. Many of the children seemed to be on the same page. The woodpeckers and squirrels however are busy busy. Our wander led us into the forest and out again where the nopal grow. Their fruits are deep crimson and quite inviting. Cocheneal decorated our faces and I let that be consumption enough. Also the Eucalyptus bark is pealing pealing and quite appealing to young collectors.
F is for Finch. We look forward to the return of these bright Canadian characters to our winter yards.
We found a nightcreature out place- a Jerusalem Cricket-its strong rear legs actually for digging not jumping. Also known as Potato bug and Nino de la Tierra, my words on its chomping jaws allowed it to go completely unmollested. In quiet sitting time we all heard the 9 taps of woodpecker and another hiding game left us in giggles.

Monday, October 10, O’Neill Regional Park
Today was hot but not the productive growing heat of summer, the drying waiting heat of Fall. Many acorns ar ripe on the ground.
Today the children tracked deer during play time. We’ve found several scat piles. We don’t have to see the animals to know they’re here.
E is for Elderberry. In the story, Thalia and Grace learned that Elderberry trees  have bumpy stems, small jagged leaves and flowers & berries that grow in bunches like an umbrella. They harvested dried berries for grandpa to use when he made muffins.
In hide and seek, dried sycamore leaves provided the best hiding spots. I found a woodpecker’s head. Jeannie reminded us how strong their skulls have to be to withstand all that knocking. Its break was thick with long ridges showing its tough structure and the scull looked very thick.
I also found a stink beetle who’d lost one antenna and one leg. Its so gratifying to watch the kids pushing their limits, interpersonally, physically, with comforts and trying new things. What a gift!

Monday October 3rd, O’Neill Regional Park
Today was warm and sunny with a moody crisp breeze blowing from the north west, promising rain. We hit the trail, finding prickly cucumber which is like ad loofah inside. We were our largest group yet which made for many kid prints when the kids went barefoot to practice tracking each other on the sandy path.

“In her dream she saw the bears dancing around the blazing fire and feasting on the salmon and honey the elders had offered. She danced and cheap mlb jerseys played and cheap mlb jerseys rolled around with the furry bears. As they danced Audra could hear and feel the earth’s heart beat, as strong as her own mother’s when she was in her womb.”

D is for Dance. We left our big D in the creek bed. Today we practiced our animal forms- weighty bear, quick squirrel, dangerous rattlesnake, and hopping raven.


Stalking the Drum & “C” is for Coyote
Photos by Sarah Teo

Monday September 26, 2011, O’Neill Regional Park
It was obvious today that Equinox is behind us. The birds had quieted, the crickets had taken over, and the squirrels were busy with acorns and territory disputes. The children seemed especially hungry and tired… Perhaps the change weighs heavier on humans than we adults let on. The cooler temperatures and incidents like this morning’s drizzles have afforded the fungi to spore. We found minuscule caps in white, yellow and gray. In the creek bed we found that the broken brick pieces make great rock crayons and, finely ground and mixed with spit, decent face paint. Today’s story “C is for Coyote” focused on sycamores, coyotes, and including people in our play. Here is an excerpt:

         ” They walk up to the first tree, Thalia feeling the rough flaky bark. They searched its limbs- no humming bird
feeder.
They walked to the next tree and Thalia noticed the dry sweet smell it gave off- but no humming bird feeder.
They walked to the third tree, Anders picking up a string of sycamore seed pom-poms and handing it to his
sister. They checked for a humming bird feeder but found nothing…

Monday September 19, O’Neill Regional Park
Today was as warm as was pleasant without a moment of discomfort. The creek bed was dry as a bone but we made our own creek and jumped it like agile deer. The breeze was loud with the activity of woodpeckers, robins, crows and ravens. Red-shouldered Hawk called so frequently that everyone got a chance to know her better. Owl must have been about- we found a large rat scull in a pellet near our quiet sitting spots. All those tiny teeth! It was hard to get to lunch today with all the fat brown acorns strewn about and a good hunger on. They seemed to be shouting, “Gather me! Leach me! I’m delicious!” I checked in with others and I was not the only one who heard this.Today’s story was “B is for Bees” and we saw some holes in sycamores like the kind that housed the hive in our story. We also pretended to get stung by bees and make quick poultices with plantain (Plantago Minorus). We closed with Blindfolded Drumbeat. The children proved themselves to be able trackers in the making. I could not escape their eager ears. I noticed a few children pushing the limits of their comfort zones today.I am so blessed to be participating in their growth.

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012, Reilly Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, CA
What a splendid day! The caterpillars were falling from the canopy and crawling all around. The squirrels were rustling in the bushes and the fledglings were out testing the currents. On our hike we saw a group of four White-Tailed Kites and another group of four Red-Shouldered Hawks. What a treat. The children pretended that they were the young birds, running in the breeze. Our story characters realized that we are all one. We are one with those who came before us and with those yet to be born and all those people and creatures we do not even know of. One. Then we found a trickle in the stream and some very serious mud spots. Oh what a glorious day!

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