Yesterday we had a great first day of the Spring session with our Friday nature school kids! We started with a morning circle and name games, then after reviewing a few safety agreements and animal calls, we fox-walked to our new fire ring in the forest. Pierre told the Cherokee fire creation story Yona the Bear while he made a fire using a hand drill (goldenrod stem on cedar board); the children watched with fascination as smoke started to curl up from below the cedar board as the goldenrod ground the cedar’s wood fibers into dust fine enough to produce a tiny coal. After story, fire, and snack, we split into guilds and set off on an explore…

The children had fun following and examining the many animal tracks and sign – grouse and dog, the scat of a cottontail or hare, and one group’s exciting discovery was the remnants of deer fur and bone! They used their rich imaginations to piece together the deer’s story, conjecturing that a pack of coyotes was involved in its demise. Meanwhile, the second guild was slip-sliding over and down the icy hummocks in the cedar forest- tracking, and exploring the ice and plants in frozen puddles and mini pools. As the ground was rather slippery, we discovered that it was often safer and more fun to scoot about on our bottoms!

A brief aside: It was interesting to explore this familiar part of the forest during the late winter-crusty snow-ice season. Each season brings its own features, challenges, and beauty, laying its own character across the forest floor: late winter brings hardened snow and ice in lumpy hummocks and swales (fun for sliding); early spring emerges with vernal pools and brown leaves kissed golden by the sun through an open canopy (fun for salamander-seeking); summer introduces deep shade and splashes of green where ferns and wildflowers grow (fun for hiding)… One of the many things we love about long-term nature mentoring in the same place is that we can observe seasonal changes and appreciate the gifts of each one…

Anyhow, back to our day! We returned to the fire ring for lunch, and afterwards the children had a bit of free time to explore the area around camp, while a few kids took an interest in starting a bow-drill kit with Pierre’s guidance. A scavenger hunt for all the different types of conifer plants we could find nearby, and a closing circle of gratitude capped off the day. We were grateful to see beautiful camaraderie and new friendships forming on this first day. Looking forward to next week!

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