Weekly Nature School - Story of the Day
September 19, 2019 (Ringtails Story of the Day - ages 5-6)
Good evening Ringtail Families!
It was such a pleasure to begin our day with the beautiful, smiling faces of Ringtails excited to explore McKinney Falls, our other “home”. We got things started today with an imaginative version of freeze tag called “Fire and Ice”, which incorporates concepts of opposing natural forces and helps us spend (or gain!) some morning energy. Once everyone had arrived, we settled in for our morning circle.
Our curriculum today was centered around the theme of awareness, particularly through the use of our senses. We jumped right into this in morning circle with a challenge for everyone! We played a memory game where we all spent time carefully and mindfully looking around the circle, then closed our eyes and tried to point out which of our friends matched different prompts, such as who was wearing a hat or the color blue. We also heard a fable, “How Owls Got Their Eyes,” and learned about the importance of sitting still and thinking while you watch the world. Before wrapping up closing circle we reviewed “Hazards” and how to keep ourselves physically safe throughout the day, and our “Five Finger Promise,” which are the agreements we’ve made as a class to help everyone feel supported and respected so that we can all have fun.
After morning circle, we split into “Clans,” which are smaller groups of eight or nine students. We use this smaller-group setting so that we can delve into the curriculum more deeply and experience nature with fewer distractions. Clans talked through the concepts of “Owl Eyes”, “Deer Ears” and “Fox Feet” as a way of taking inspiration from the animals to hone the use of our senses. In a continuation of the day’s theme, one clan did an “Awareness Hike,” that engaged their owl eyes as they worked together to spot hidden objects along the trail. The other clan was more inspired to practice their skills through sneaking up on their unsuspecting classmates! They practiced moving quietly across the trails and through the trees, and learned to communicate with hand signals rather than speaking. Those who felt more challenged by stealthy activities wanted to help by creating a distraction, and sang and danced their way down the trail. Both groups reunited after lunch at a fun climbing tree where a group of imaginary tigers lurked below a troop of monkeys.
Full from lunch and hot from the midday sun, we all decided to work our way down to the creek for a cool dip in the water. Not before our sneaky ringtails took advantage of another golden opportunity to loop back and silently follow their unaware classmates! They moved smoothly down through a small ravine carved by seasonal water and back up through the low forest. What a skilled group of scouts; the other group still had no idea that they had been followed!
Down at the water we enjoyed watching small fish and minnows dart around our feet, and mining for clay on tall banks. A small economy based on the trade of clay rocks and sycamore leaves existed for a short while in the world today, too, in case you didn’t hear.
We managed to squeeze in one more game before our closing circle, giving ourselves another chance to practice our sensory and scouting skills through Eagle Eye, the hide-and-seek game we introduced last week. During closing circle, we recounted our day, and shared our favorite parts just in time for the dark clouds and strong winds to appear. Lucky us, we avoided the rainy weather and said goodbye through the invigorating gusts that swept the leaves across the trails.
Thank you all for coming! See you next week!
Black Bear, Thistle and Cross-weaver--
September 12, 2019 - (Kit-Fox Story of the Day - ages 7-9)
Greetings Kit Fox families,
Each day after class you will receive a story of the day email. Here at Earth Native we recognize that learning doesn't end at the car door and that reflection is an important part of the learning process. We also know that sometimes it can be challenging and frustrating when you try and get your kids to share details about their day. So often parents get obscure answers that aren't so satisfying like "we had fun" or "we played some games". The story of the day emails are written with the intention of giving parents some cool bits of info about the day and can offer anchor points that help kids get into the sharing mood. So instead of asking "How was your day?" you may be able to say something like "I heard you guys caught a frog today!". It's also just fun to hear some of the things your kids have been up to and to have a window into their lives in nature with us. Additionally, the story of the day is an opportunity for the instructors to share with you some of the things we are doing in class and some of our intentions. Sticking with our "invisible school" theme, we don't always share our intentions with the kids. But we are happy to share them with you!
We are so thrilled to start things back up at Earth Native! Friends arrived excited to make new friends and go on grand adventures. To start things off this morning, many students found themselves exploring the wonders of nature's mysteries at the nature museum while others made their way to the game field to join in a high energy game of Fox Tails. In this sly game, participants become Foxes with bandanas tucked away into pockets or waist bands as their tails. The goal is to steal tails from other participants for themselves. After a few rounds, the game disbanded and instructors called the Kit Foxes together to gather for morning circle at our new pavilion, Red Oak. With snacks in hand, Hayley led the group in "bringing our minds together". This is a Haudensosaunee peacekeeping tradition where we give gratitude for the natural world so that we may go about our day in unity. Today, we introduced ourselves and shared something we are looking forward to this program year. Many Kit Foxes mentioned going on long hikes, practicing knife carving skills, fire building and exploring nature crafts. Once our minds were one, Narissa shared a story called Rain. Based on the Hopi tale, this story shows how important it is for community to work together. Dani led a discussion on hazards that we might encounter out here on the land and set agreements, such as slow-motion stick play, or respecting each other's boundaries.
Following circle, we gathered our belongings, refilled our water bottles and headed out on the North Trail to Kit Fox camp. Once we arrived at camp, stomachs were growling, so we knew it was time to settle in for lunch before exploring our special area. Once bellies were full, Kit Foxes went off to do some self-exploration. Many climbed trees (at head height), searched for insects, and gently swung on a grapevine branch. After, instructors called everyone together to give direction on today's activity. Instructors challenged the Kit Foxes to a friendly competition in a scavenger hunt. We informed the Kit Foxes that if they were able to get more points than us instructors then they would get a prize! Eager to begin, we quickly split into clans and went off in different directions checking off items on the list. Within in their clans, Kit Foxes worked together in unity by building shelters large enough to fit one person, identifying trees and edible plants, singing along to Earth Native's favorite songs, participating in sit-spot for 5 minutes, and (of course) sneaking clothespins on the instructors! Points started to add up as they completed each tasks on the scavenger hunt and instructors were falling behind. After working diligently on the list, the day grew hotter and we decided it was time to head to the creek to cool off.
At the creek, instructors established boundaries and informed students that they cannot go deeper than their fingertips. Some Kit Foxes quickly rushed over to slide down the mudslide while others worked on building dams, finding paint rock, skipping rocks or playing with clay. After having a wonderful time at the creek, we headed back up the hill to "tally up the points" from the scavenger hunt. It had been determined that Kit Foxes defeated their instructors and as promised we gave them the prize of splashing us with a water hose until we were fully drenched! But, Dani was able to get the hose away from the kids and it became a splash off!
For closing circle, we shared our favorite part of the day and needless to say everyone enjoyed splashing and sneaking clothespins on their instructors!
We had a great first day of nature school and we are excited to go on more adventures with your Kit Fox this year! We look forward to seeing everyone next week at McKinney Falls!
Narissa, Hayley, and Dani
May 2, 2019 (Grandparents Day)
Greetings Kit Fox Families!
The rain held off for another day, allowing us to have an amazing Grandparent Day at our Bastrop campus! We got our morning started with a huge game of Jedi dodge ball with the ringtails and coyotes. After getting some of our energy out, we gathered under Cara Cara with the grandparents to bring our minds together. We all shared someone that we look up to and why, and we were pleased to hear such heartfelt answers from the Kit Foxes. Once we spread our gratitude out into the land we headed into the woods for a sit spot. After sharing about all of the critters they encountered, they were informed that we would be having a village day! The students erupted with excitement and began packing their things to head to their first of many stations!
The awareness game station was set up to practice using deer ears and fox feet. Games played included scout sword and bat and moth. In scouts sword, students quietly snuck up on their blindfolded peer to tag them without being hit by a pool noodle. In bat and moth, there is one person who is blindfolded as they try to tag the other players. It was great to have a station like this to release high energy and practice our awareness skills.
The fort and shelter station was excited to get their hands dirty while practicing this important survival skill! Some students chose to build small, constructing creative fairy and caterpillar houses, adding gazebos, spas and miniature furniture! Others created group shelters with tarps, practicing a-frames and lean-to’s which were tested periodically when light rain came through. Some shelters were left more primitive as students searched for logs and other natural resources like leaves and grass to complete their hut!
At the carving station students came to learn and practice the art of knife carving. Students worked on personal projects, carved wooden knives, bow drill kits, and free carving. They also improved their skill of double thumb carving and billeting. Everyone had a great time honing their carving skill!
Hayley and Alexa’s station focused on edible and medicinal plants. The students worked together to make dewberry jam and wild edible tea! After crushing the berries in a pan, adding water and a little fruit pectin, the jam simmered for about 30 minutes. The jam was enjoyed with stick bread or gluten and lactose free crackers. The delicious tea included grape and dewberry leaves, violet, wood sorrel, and plantain. Many students came back for seconds!
The paints and pigments station provided a perfect opportunity to explore our creativity. Students mixed natural powdered pigments with water to create a beautiful array of colors. Then students and grandparents made amazing artwork on different media, including paper and rocks! Others excitedly painted each other's faces in all sorts of designs and colors. By the end of the day, there was a wonderful array of characters all over our campus, including dogs, fairies and even werewolves!
Campfire cooking was a huge hit at Lauren’s station, where stick bread was on the menu! The kids had a blast mixing simple dough and squeezing their dough balls onto bamboo skewers. Some added cinnamon and raisins before baking their treats over the fire. The roasting took patience, but the tasty bread was worth the wait, especially when it was drizzled with honey or smothered in dewberry jam!
After exploring and working on skills in the humidity all day, we all agreed that the perfect place to end the day would be the creek. The students had a blast building dams, sliding down the infamous mudslide and having an epic water splashing fight until it was time to head up for closing circle. We appreciate all of the grandparents that joined us and shared some their knowledge and wisdom with the group.
We look forward to seeing you next week at McKinney Falls!
Alexa, Katie, and Hayley
January 18, 2019 - (Coyotes of the Day - ages 10-12)
Happy Friday, Coyote families!
A chill was in the air as friends arrived this morning, so to warm things off we began with Foxtails. As we transitioned into morning circle, we brought our minds together by sharing what type of animorph (part human part animal) we would be and why. I followed this with a folktale that’s centered around good leadership styles. The Coyotes were excited to hop right into guilds, so after a quick self-care break we split into our groups and remained focused in them for most of the day.
Lauren facilitated a First Aid guild for interested Coyotes. They started off discussing qualities and traits of good first aid providers by sharing personal experiences. Some of the qualities agreed upon were good-communicator, calm, quick/responsive, knowledgeable and compassionate. Next, they went over steps of care for patient assessment, starting with assessing the scene for hazards, and reminding caregivers to ask for consent before providing care. They also covered how to perform a primary and secondary patient survey and collect pertinent information while remembering to only act within your scope of care. After lunch they engaged in first aid scenarios and practiced going through the steps of care. Coyotes enjoyed making up wild stories to go along with their injuries. They wrapped up with a discussion over the treatment of active bleeding and signs/symptoms of hypovolemic shock. They enjoyed the opportunity to practice practical skills like applying pressure wraps on a partner and comparing the strength of a pulse on the patients neck vs. their wrists to check for low blood pressure.
Lindsay’s guild centered around plants and today’s project was to make a medicinal salve we can put on cuts, aches, burns, rashes or bites. To begin we discussed the importance of proper harvesting, making sure to take from abundant patches and only what we need. We also talked about places to avoid harvesting like along roadsides, where chemicals could be sprayed and in shady areas (that develop mold). Then we went on a plant hike, gathering important ingredients for our salve. Yarrow, astringent and great for cleaning wounds and stopping bleeding, was our first plant we ran into. Really known as a “cure all”, yarrow has many useful qualities and can be ingested or used topically. Next we gathered mugwort, a very fragrant herb that’s known for its ability to repel insects and induce relaxation. Henbit, an abundant herb that reduces chronic muscle and joint aches was collected next. Finally we gathered plantain, a plant great for cleaning wounds and reducing itch caused by bugs or plants. After washing/drying the plants, we made a medicinal oil by slowing simmering the herbs in oil for about an hour. After straining the plants, we added beeswax to thicken the consistency. Finally we poured, labeled and dated our salve for future use!
Narissa’s primitive hunting guild was eager to take on today's activity, Apache throwing stars. This technique is simple and used for hunting small game (rabbits, birds, and other small animals) in a survival situation. Before beginning the activity, Narissa reviewed the ethics of hunting and also walked through the process of making a throwing star. Next, the kids gathered their materials and started carving notches and sharp points on their sticks. When they finished carving, they took paracord to lash their sticks tightly together. Once everyone completed making their throwing stars, it was time to finally test them out! After a few practice rounds, everyone started to get the hang of it and was able to hit the target!
With the end of our day quickly approaching, the guilds met back up for a sit spot in the woods. Afterwards we gathered for closing circle where we shared our rose, bud and thorns. We look forward to another week of guilds next week!
October 7, 2017 (Kit-Fox Story of the Day - ages 7-8)
Hello Earth Native families!
It was another extraordinary day at school today as the kids enjoyed their first guild day! We started our morning giving thanks for the beauty and bounty of nature and brought our minds together by making our goofiest nature noises. We then harvested sticks to create our first fire of the school year. We sat around the fire as Neal told an inspiring tale of his vision fast and how his nature name was created. Then, the students dispersed to their sit spots to reflect on Neal's story and decide what their nature names will be. We then burned pieces of juniper in the fire to ceremoniously seal their nature names.
At this time the students were given the choice of what guild they would participate in for the day. Their choices were to make juice out of prickly pear with Lindsay, sneak, camouflage, and practice awareness skills with Neal, or create nature journals and paint with earth pigments with Katie.
During the juicing guild, the anatomy of the prickly pear plant was discussed, as well as the nutritional information and harvesting methods. The kids had a blast cutting open the tunas, burning off the spines, scooping out the flesh, and boiling and mashing them into a delicious bright fuscia juice. During boiling the students realized that prickly pear juice would make great fake blood for Halloween. Some of the students also mashed the tuna into their hair to dye their hair pink!
The scouting guild began with a deepening of the students' understanding of "fox walking" and "owl eyes." Then the students were led through a sense meditation where they were blindfolded. While still blindfolded they completed a string stalk in which they used their other senses to guide them through the forest. They were then briefed on camouflage basics and then applied charcoal and mud to various parts of their bodies. This led to a game of Eagle Eye in which the students camouflaged and hid from the eagle. This game teaches concealment, mind mapping, and physical tolerance. Once the students were fully in touch with their sneaking instincts they enjoyed practicing sneaking up on the ring tail camp, the Coyotes, and the rest of the Kit Fox group.
During the paint rock guild the students were able to create nature journals using sticks and paper. To make paint, they crushed rocks into powder using a mortar and pestle and then added water to the pigment. Many different colors of paint were created using this method. We also used berries and prickly pear to create deep reds and pinks. The students then used the paints to create art in their nature journals.
We look forward to many more exciting guild days here at Earth Native and can't wait to share them with you!
Katie, Neal, and Lindsay
April 6, 2017 (Ringtails Story of the Day - ages 5-6)
Greetings Ringtail Fans!
We had a blast out here on the Earth Native land and took full advantage of the beautiful spring weather! However, a few of us were feeling the chill this morning so we decided to team up with the Kit-Foxes and Coyotes in the field for some Fire in the Forest. The Coyotes gave it a different spin today, asking us to move across the playing field in specific ways, like hopping on one foot or penguin-waddling, which gave the game a hilarious twist and made it much harder to dash through the forest unscathed by fires. Once all of the Ringtails arrived, we said goodbye to these friends to gather at Osage for morning circle.
At circle, we reflected on how we often give thanks and gratitude to the earth, plants, wildlife and our loved ones, but rarely to ourselves. So this morning we decided to bring our minds together by each sharing one thing we were grateful for in ourselves. Some said they appreciated their artistic talents, agility and ability to make friends. We made sure to give ourselves a big hug and pat on the back for everything our body, heart and mind does for us! Afterwards, we switched our thoughts to hazards, closely focusing on chiggers, ticks and poison ivy. We discussed ways to prevent the bites before and after class as well as the areas they like to hide in. For story, Lindsay shared Eric Carl's The Tiny Seed, which inspired us with all the colorful illustrations. After story, we were ready to see what vivid colors were waiting for us here on the land, so we prepared ourselves for a fun game. With a ton of paint color samples in hand, the Ringtails grabbed a color at random and were tasked to find that color in nature. As they took on the challenge they ran from spot to spot finding rocks, flowers, plants and trees to match their sample. We enjoyed this game so much that most Ringtails asked for another color sample (or three or four) after finding a match! After our game we were ready to hit the trails and set off on an adventure, so we grabbed our backpacks and split into clans.
While in clans we set intentions for a morning wander, mostly focusing on a naturalist/biologist perspective. We discussed using nature journals to draw our observations and practiced using different art medias to get more comfortable and confident in using our nature journal. Some of us were in awe of the wonderland of caterpillars the Earth Native land has become, and we took time observing them and even building a caterpillar refuge to keep them safe from predators. Afterwards we set off on our wander, stopping to make field notes and drawings in areas of interest. Along the way, we were lucky enough to find a few patches of dewberry with berries ready to eat! They were sweet and tart and stained our fingers a beautiful pink color. Other wildlife that was not to be missed were the leopard frogs chirping as they fled into the pond and a TON of spittlebugs who's foamy homes seemed to be at the base of every grass blade and plant! Eventually the clans got to an area they felt inspired to stop at. We took advantage of the peaceful area and spread out for a sit-spot. The Ringtails were encourage to take their nature journals with them to make observations of their surroundings. Afterwards, we got back together and shared stories of what we saw.
After all this journaling we were beginning to feel a bit hungry. Each group wandered once more, this time settling in areas where there was fun landscape for free play. The Ringtails had plenty of time to play a variety of role-play games, climb trees and build forts. Some made nature cakes and practiced their scouting skills. After some time we gathered once more, this time to make all natural paints and paint brushes that we could use for nature journaling! We departed Ringtail camp through the dry creek, each picking up a few rocks we wanted experiment with. Once back at Osage with our rocks, we learned how to use a mortar and pestle to safely crush the rocks into a fine powder that we could water down into paint. Once powder, the rock pigments were gorgeous reds, yellows and browns that we used to paint in our journals and on ourselves! Some of the Ringtails experimented with nature bushes and used different grasses, twigs and plants to make their paint brush. We were having so much fun that before we knew it, the day was over! So we circled up once more to admire our artwork and reflect on the day. Before sharing our Rose and Thorn, we took turns acting out animal forms and guessing what we were.
We look forward to seeing everyone back out at McKinney Falls next week, which will also be Grandparent Day!
Lauren and Lindsay
February 1, 2017 (Ringtails Story of the Day - ages 5-6)
Happy Muddy Wednesday to our Ringtail families!
We had an amazing day and really enjoyed our time on the Earth Native land. As some of you may have seen at pick up, we wrapped up the afternoon by the creek and several muddy creatures emerged, taking the place of our Ringtails! However, we were feeling fresh and clean this morning when we warmed up to some fun games. Today we joined in with the Kit-Foxes and Coyotes, first playing Blob Tag and eventually switching to a game called Ant-Lion. In this game, if you get tagged by the the ant-lion you must lay on the ground until several people gather around and carry you to the ant hospital. Once the injured ant is in the hospital ring, he/she is healed and ready to get back in the game. This was really fun to play with the other groups, and we were full of giggles as we helped carry our friends to safety!
After all this running around we were hungry and ready for morning circle, but we decided to switch things up and hike to our Ringtail camp first. We grabbed a quick snack then brought our minds together through a fire challenge. The Ringtails had about 5 minutes to gather any tender, kindling and firewood they could find. Then they worked together to set up a teepee with their sticks, carefully placing their tender bundles in the center. Before striking any matches we talked about our fire agreements and reminded the Ringtails how to safely strike a match. We were all eager to see how the teepee would fire up, and today their hard work paid off! We ooohed and ahhhed over the beautiful flames and were ready to gather around and appreciate the fire they made. We continued discussing potential hazards related to the warm weather like snakes, dehydration and even sunburn. We reminded ourselves where snakes are most likely to be found out here and how we can avoid running into one. Then, Lauren shared a wonderful poem called 5am in the Pinewoods by Mary Oliver. We reflected on it afterwards, some sharing the imagery they had while Lauren was reading it. We had some extra time to explore so we made our way down to the dry creek with our field guides, excited to find any tracks or signs of wildlife! While some were busy looking at deer and raccoon tracks, others were determined to work on the forts we have at Ringtail camp. We enjoyed swinging from vines and climbing the nearby cedar trees until it was time for lunch.
At lunch we warmed up any leftover snacks over the fire like apples, marshmallows and even some veggies. After lunch we focused a bit more on fire building before making our way to the big creek. We were determined to look for clay and excited to cool off in the creek. Once down there, we were excited to find even more tracks! One of the Ringtails even found us some vulture tracks in the mud! We split into smaller groups each searching for pockets of clay. Today we were in luck, we found some clay along the creekside! Some of us used the clay to make little pots or figures, while others used it for face paint and even mud balls. We enjoyed looking for crystals and shells in the water, and other unique finds in the forest. Some of the Ringtails found a mud pit and thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck in it and having their friends pull them out! Time flew by while we were there and before we knew it, it was time to hike back! Since we were all camouflaged in mud, we decided to play Eagle Eye before gathering for circle. The eagle was amazed at how hard it was to find people, and we eventually called everyone back to see where they were hiding. The mud helped them blend in next to the trees and vines so well! Afterwards we hiked back to our spot for closing circle and shared our rose and thorn of the day.
See you at McKinney Falls next week!
Love, Lauren and Lindsay