This year we are excited to be adding a few weeks to our monthly schedule and a few new camps!
Forest Caterpillars – ages 4-6
Wild Play – ages 7-12
Guild Camp -ages 8-13
Teen Bushcraft Camp – ages 13-17
What a fantastic week of play and exploration. There was no day this week that did not end with, “Oh My Gosh! They are so cute!”.. And us dive into the sweet things the Forest Caterpillars said, did or things we watched them accomplish.. It is hard to tell you how much we did and saw in those four short days. (They go by so fast)
Earthsong never fails to show up in exactly the way we most need it to. Forest Caterpillars need to see things, touch things, turn things over, smell things, laugh at things, and chase one another. Forest Caterpillars need to giggle, play, and be listened to deeply. They need to splash, climb rocks, jump over the crevices between rocks and find their balance when the rock is just a little more slippery than they were planning for (or not planning for).
After our parents leave us for the day we begin our day with a wander into the forest to a small clearing where we joined in a somewhat circle and had snacks. Each morning during our circle time we share something we are grateful for and we had a story for the day. After our morning circle we would wander back out to the power line very slowly taking our time along the trail turning over logs, discovering mushrooms, spiders, beetles, caterpillars, moths, all the small things we could find. (Our goal was to try to find all the nature names. We didn’t find them all, but we did find a lot of them).
We played several games, Towhee Towhee, Eagle Eye, Hemlock Tea, and others. We met minnows, tadpoles, toads, snails, a black snake, a banded water snake – who unfortunately was eaten by something on the river after we left it, but the importu anatomy lesson it provided the next day was so cool. It turned out the snake was female and she had not yet laid her 26 eggs! We found oak galls, mushrooms, moths, trees, learned what poison ivy looks like, and that holly leaves are way too prickly. So many little things!
We listened to the birds sing. We watched as a blue heron left its nest while fussing at us for disturbing the work of keeping the eggs warm. We watched cardinals dash to and from over the river. One day there was a funny looking crow gathering supplies for its nest on one side of the river and carrying it to the other side of the river. In a moment of truly quiet pause we were able to catch a story from a box turtle by taking some deep breaths and calming ourselves so it would feel safe enough to give us a few moments of its time. The discovery was endless.
And, the play.. The play is boundless. The rocks on the river were infinitely filled with exploration and imagination. We were kings and queens of the mountain. We were architects building bridges. We were fearless looking under rocks for treasure. We made boats, floated leaves down the river, gathered shells, built moats and dams in the sand. We got all of our clothes wet. We got dirty. We splashed. We slid down rocks and occasionally busted a knee or two. Most importantly we laughed as we played. The river is a special place.
We want to thank the community of Earthsong for allowing us to use it for our camps. Thank you to all the wild things that make space for us while we wander the land. Thank you to our volunteers for showing up every day and exploring with us. Most importantly, we want to thank our parents for trusting us with your children. We know it is no small thing when you leave your Forest Caterpillars with us and we are grateful. Your children brighten our lives and we learn more from them than they probably learn from us.
Have a great summer and we will see you in the fall!
Bernard, Soleil, Sarah, and Shannon
by Bernard Cook
I remember feeling a little overwhelmed when I was first interested in wild plants. There were so many different shapes and colors, so many things listed in the field guides that I didn’t know where to start. Well, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Learning just one plant was the entry point that I needed. I think it was chickweed, Stellaria media. Everywhere I went, my eyes would gravitate towards it and I would remember the name, eat a few leaves. I soon learned a few more – henbit, dead nettle, violet, speedwell. I would see them all over the place and identify them as I went, or pick a salad. Before long, I gained a sense of what conditions these plants tend to grow in – I could be somewhere unfamiliar and my gut would tell me where to look.
I talk to people all the time who are intimidated or even scared of wild plants, thinking that everything is poison and that there is no good reason to eat “weeds” when we have blessed flora like iceberg lettuce readily available. Well, the difference between a weed and an herb is knowledge. For anyone who is afraid they may accidentally eat some deadly toxic look-a-like, here is a wondrous beauty that is unmistakable: Maypop, passionflower, Passiflora incarnata.
These perennial vines are very common in fields, gardens, sunny woodland edges, and with a flower like that, you can’t miss it. It is one of my favorite edibles. It can be cooked, but I prefer it raw in salads, with its distinct nutty flavor. Right now (throughout spring and summer), the young tips will break off in your fingers at just the right, tender spot before it becomes too hard and fibrous. The flowers are great, and the buds before they open are a nice crunchy vegetable.
Later in the year, a fruit will form that looks like a green egg hanging from the vine and goes POP! when you step on it. It’s ripe when it’s really soft and the inside contains globs of sweet flesh with an intense, tropical flavor and seeds that you can crunch right up and eat. YUM.
See if you can spot this lovely plant growing and give it a try. Notice where it is growing, the smell, the shape of the leaves, its particular shade of green that will stand out in dense growth of other plants. Put that flower right up to your face and look at the amazing details in the structure and detail of each element. Ahh…. Now this is food!
by Bernard Cook
Last weekend, me ‘n Chickadee (Sarah Hubbard) went up to the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina to hone our mentoring skills at the Reaching Nature Connection conference, held at Earthaven Ecovillage near Black Mountain. We attended a two-day class by three ladies from the Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers – Lia Grippo, Kelly Villarruel, and Erin Boehme. I think all put together they add up to about 60-ish years of experience with early childhood education and nature connection work. So to say they’ve been around the block (trail?) [wait.. is there a trail?] a few times is an understatement!
Earthaven Ecovillage, sitting on 329 acres, founded in 1995, is super impressive. They must have been busy these last 22 years because there are awesome timber frame/cob buildings and permaculture-y food/forestry projects all over the place. The mission statement from the website is “To create a village which is a living laboratory and educational seed bank for a sustainable human future.” As far as I can tell from being there just two days, I’d say they are nailing it. The vibes and physical evidence are strong. It’s an independent-income intentional community. In other words, people choose to live intentionally with each other and must earn their own income, so some members have created businesses, one of which is SOIL – School of Integrated Living.
SOIL is the entity within Earthaven that actually held the conference. They were well organized and on top of everything. We had originally arranged to stay outside the community, but a snow storm (yay!) Saturday night would have made coming Sunday morning impossible, so they managed to get us all put up in beds for the night on pretty short notice. I really appreciated that and have only good things to say. Coming up they have a number of great programs and classes – shoe making, Permaculture Design Certification, natural building workshop… I will be back for sure.
Now, back to the class. A week later I am still going through my notes and digesting everything I learned. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from these wise women, true masters of their craft. I feel like they have already helped take what we do to a whole new level. Since returning from the class, I have gotten to try out some of their ideas in the field (forest, actually) with great results. I wouldn’t call it “techniques” or “lessons” or something like that. At the end of the day, their message is so potently simple – I’ll let Lia speak for herself with this quote from the website (emphasis mine):
“As educators, we can never give a child what we don’t have. In many ways, we ourselves are the curriculum. Many years ago, during a period of intense study of birds, bird language, and bird behavior, I was with my class of young ones in the forest. Every bird I heard, I tried to imitate. I wasn’t always good at it, but I tried. Never having spoken to the children about what I was doing, I simply paid attention and responded in their presence, all the while serving the snack, or tying someone’s shoes, grinding rocks for paint, or any number of other tasks that needed tending. After many weeks of this, at the end of the morning, a 4-year-old girl was occupied with packing her lunch back into her backpack. Her focus and attention was directed on the effort when a nearby acorn woodpecker called out from the tall sycamore tree above. “Wacka wacka wacka,” it called, as if to greet a family member returning from a forage. Without lifting her head or pausing in her undertaking, the girl answered the woodpecker with her own “wacka, wacka, wacka.” I remained silent on the matter with great difficulty. Inside, I was cheering and celebrating her broadened awareness, her sense of connection, and her sense of normalcy in it all. Being in relationship with the world around her was a given. It would likely always be.”
~ Lia Grippo (Reaching Nature Connection Conference presenter, The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, Co-founder/Instructor)
I can think of another teacher who had a similar message.
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Thanks to SOIL, Earthaven Ecovillage, Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, and the Appalachian mountains for a whole lot of inspiration and the tools to put it to work.
by Sarah ‘Chickadee’ Hubbard
Maybe you’ve noticed there are more hawks lately now that the canopy of leaves is falling to the forest floor and blanketing all the seeds from this year of growth. Maybe you’ve noticed them soaring on the wind finding the warm thermals to glide along effortlessly as our days grow colder. Maybe there suddenly seems to be a lot more hawks than you’ve seen in a while and you’re wondering where they all came from. There’s a reason we see more of them this time of year than others.
Hawks are one of my favorite bird species to talk about. In Georgia we have both Buteos and Accipiters that live in our neighborhoods.
Buteos are Soaring Hawks – these are the Red Shouldered Hawks, Red Tailed Hawks, and Broad Winged Hawks. Accipiters are Forest Hawks – these are the Cooper’s Hawk and the Sharp Shinned Hawk. Both species of our local Accipters fly below and through the canopy of trees. They are stunning and nearly invisible to see. They are almost equally as hard to tell apart as they are to catch a glimpse of.
Right now, all the hawks are busy hunting the small animals – like squirrels and chipmunks – as they busily move on the ground gathering acorns and other nuts for the coming winter. They are easier to see as they are both hunting lower to the ground and the canopy is not keeping them quite as hidden as they have been all summer. And, all the young have fledged and some migrate so they may very well be more of them than usual as they establish where they will winter this year.
In the world of Bird Language the Buteo’s and the Accipiters create what is called a ‘silent alarm’ among the songbirds – meaning no one makes any sound and everyone freezes right where they are or they rush to a safe place in silence. Accipiters are fierce hunters of song birds with keen eyesight and the agility to act swiftly when on the hunt. As you tune into the birds and the information they share with one another there is a distinctive ‘vibe’ you might call it when there is a Sharp Shinned Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk is on the prowl for food. They create what is called a ‘Cone of Silence’ and the atmosphere is quite chilling. Within in the cone sound becomes silence and movement becomes stillness.
Once I was sitting under a pine when a Cooper’s Hawk landed above me. She was the perfect specimen of her species. Bold, strong, and powerful. The woods were silent – literally. The only sound was that of the crickets and even their song was chilling to the bone. There was a Chickadee hanging out near me and I could see her shivering and feel that same fear in my body. Everyone in the scene knew the Cooper’s Hawk wasn’t leaving until she was fed. What I most noticed in my body was the anxiety and nervousness I felt in me and around me. Thankfully, that day her 2 minutes above me didn’t yield any food for her that I witnessed. I feel certain she made her way to another spot and someone wasn’t fast enough to freeze and she ended up well fed. Accipiters are phenomenal hunters with keen eyesight and stealth.
Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp Shinned Hawks fly silently through the canopy. Their ability to pass between two trees or navigate the limbs of trees is unrivaled by most other bird species. And, if you hear the Crows, Blue Jays, or the Red Shouldered Hawks calling loudly they are likely trying to chase the Cooper’s Hawk out. They do not like to share their territory with these birds because they are such efficient hunters.
Read more about them and be on the look out for them – and pay extra attention to how you feel in your body when things are silent around you. Listen to your own body radar – it might be telling you something. You may be able to witness one of these majestic birds on the hunt.
Here’s an article I found on how to tell the Cooper’s Hawk and the Sharp Shinned Hawk apart should you encounter them.
How to Tell Them Apart
Sarah (Chickadee) Hubbard
Gifts for Wild and Avid Readers
Do you have any wild and avid readers to buy for this holiday season? Books open up new worlds, expose the reader to new ideas, and help you realize who it is that you want to become. This is especially true for young people. Many of the childhood memories that I treasure most involve books that I read over and over to myself in a secret hideout, or books read aloud to me by my mother. At age five I would wait by the mailbox for my next issue of Ranger Rick, and by the time I was eight I was enthralled by a biography of Harriet Tubman and the way she risked her life to lead slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. I adored Reepicheep’s bravery in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and after reading A Wrinkle in Time I not only wanted to study science, I desperately wanted Charles Wallace for a baby brother.
At Wild Intelligence we like to introduce people to new books as a way of connecting with each other through shared stories. We also use books as tools. In programs books are important references when questions arise while we are out exploring. They also help illustrate alternative ways of looking at people, situations, and the world in general. Below are some titles that we think you might be interested in sharing with your loved ones this year. Our friends at Avid Book Shop (www.avidbookshop.com) are stocking many of these titles for your convenience.
Summer Birds: The butterflies of Maria Merian
by Margarita Engle
Summer Birds is a beautiful and inspiring picture book about a young girl who studied butterflies during the Middle Ages and disproved a theory that went all the way back to ancient Greece. She kept meticulous journals full of notes, and illustrated her observations in great detail. All of her findings were documented in secret in order to avoid being accused of witchcraft. She is a great example of what is possible when you are dedicated, curious, and determined.
This is a large, impressive book full of information regarding the animals, plants, and cultures found in every country around the globe. Last Christmas I gave this book to a seven year old friend of mine that liked looking up map games on an ipad. Shortly after the first of the year I got a call from his Dad. Apparently Logan insisted on taking the book with him
to school every day for weeks. By March I received a text saying that Logan’s teacher had asked him and his classmates to stand on ‘Wyoming’ on the large painted outline of the United States that is outside on their playground. His teacher turned around and saw Logan standing by himself, directly on the state of Wyoming, while the rest of the class stood on California. By May Logan had gotten in a fight because someone had tried to take Maps away from him. I do not encourage fighting, but it is touching to me that his Dad insists that the book is his favorite possession.
by Janell Cannon
Verdi is a baby python that is not sure he wants to grow up and be like the adults he knows. He knows how to have fun and wants to always be himself. He therefore sets out to explore the world on his own and comes to some unexpected realizations including, there are a lot of wonderful things to see when you stop, sit, and watch quietly. I love the illustrations.
Jane, the Fox, & Me
by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
This is an artful, literary, graphic novel that is wonderful for pre-teens. Helene is a young girl seeking a place in the world. Bullied at school, she does not seek help from her loving, hardworking single mother struggling to raise her two younger brothers and herself. She does not want to burden her mom with her unhappiness. She copes by retreating into Jane Erye by Charlotte Bronte and identifying with Jane, the main character. Then she and her classmates are sent to camp and something awakens in her after gazing into the eyes of a fox. She begins to see the world differently, and new friends soon follow.
by Erik Jon Slangerup
This book is a fun read. It is about a little boy named Fister Farnello. Fister LOVES dirt, but does not like to take baths – at first. He learns that frolicking in the woods is a lot of fun, but that not taking baths has consequences.
Whose Tracks Are These: A clue book of familiar forest animals.
by Jim Nail
This is a fun book for young kids and adults to read together. It presents a series of clues that you can use to make a game out of guessing what they represent before turning the page to find the answer. This booklet is a nice introduction to thinking about forest critters and how they move through their respective habitats.
by Jon J Muth
Muth has several books that feature Stillwater, a friendly, gentle panda. In Zen Shorts, Addy, Michael, and Karl learn a lot from Stillwater about friendship and how to think about the world as we walk through life and its many challenges.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
This novel for young adults (and older adults) is a charming story about a young girl growing up in the South during the late 1800’s. She is a tomboy that finds friendship and validation when she gets to know her grandfather, one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society. She finds that she may hate cooking and be terrible at handwork, but she has a keen eye for observation. She must navigate the expectations of her family and society while making time to simply be herself while exploring the mysteries of the natural world.
We hope you get a chance to visit Avid Book Shop and peruse these titles. It is our hope that they will bring your families as much joy as they have brought ours.
Our programs director, Sarah Hubbard – also known as Ms Chickadee – returned for a day visit to South Jackson Elementary School on November 18, 2016. She took 5 classes for a walk on the nature trails behind the school and introduced them to some of the trees growing in their backyard.
South Jackson has a thriving Farm to School Program led by Stephen Lush the ‘Scienhancement’ teacher at South Jackson. The North East Georgia Farm to School Food Corp Member wrote a blog post about Ms Chickadee’s visit.
You can read it here:
by Sarah Hubbard (Chickadee)
On my perfect day the wind would be blowing from the southeast – right off the ocean. You would be able to smell the salt water in the air. The sun would be warm and bright leaving a light pink glow on my skin while enough of a nip still lingering in the breeze that I almost need long sleeves in the shade. A white throated sparrow would be heralding in the dogwood blooms and the pine warblers would be singing to the pine trees calling the pollen to fall and coat the world in yellow. The last of this seasons Pine Siskins would call from the sweet gums while a Nuthatch pair cling to the trees in the way only they can plucking the juiciest of insects from between the cracks in the bark.
When I inhale deeply I can smell the soil in the garden ripe with the freshly sifted compost added to the recently turned beds.
Male cardinals would chase one another around the yard determining who would get the prime places for nesting and the loveliest of the females. There is always the youngest of the cardinal males who confuses his reflection in the glass door with another male and flies into it leaving him stunned and me remembering I need to make sure the door is dirty for the next few weeks.
The yellow poppies would be opening up bringing the first glimpse of summer to the garden. The iris blossoms would be swelling up as a reminder of my beloved grandmother and my earthly link to the heavenly realms of life. I would have to watch my step as the garden edges began to fill with the dandelions bursting through in the least likely of places. I would not be able to refrain from picking a dandelion and blowing its seeds all over the yard making wishes for my families health and happiness. The purple violets would explode in subtle color waiting to be picked to be eaten with the salad greens growing in the garden and I would dig up a few to make sure they spread into all the right places.
The sky would be the most perfect shade of blue. It would be so blue the color would be indescribable as no man made color could ever be that shade of blue. I would imagine what it feels like to be the Red Shouldered Hawk soaring on the air thermals calling to the day. White clouds whose edges are lightly grayed due to the water they have been absorbing would move slowly across the sky shading the sun every now and then, but only for a brief moment in time. The sun would duck behind the cloud just long enough to call my attention to it, but short enough that I don’t worry about the rain that we will have in a few days today. When I glance up towards the sun the reflection of the light off the clouds is just too bright. I would pull my hat down just a little lower over my eyes.
The first of the honey bees would be drinking in the nectar of the white clover
just beginning to bloom. I would be so grateful they were in my yard and still on this earth. I would have to stop whatever I was doing to watch a yellow sulfur butterfly float weightlessly on the breeze to wherever its journey carries it. I would marvel at it wondering what it feels like to be that weightless and wonder at its perfect shade of sunlight in a still leafless world. It would float in the direction of the lenten rose where the sunlight passing through it would drop me to my knees to drink in the rich purple of its flower as it just begins to open and welcome spring also.
A green anole would catch my eye. I would have no choice but to chase it down to put it in the greenhouse for pest control. A tufted titmouse would splash in the birdbath cleansing itself before getting back to the busy work of feeding its mate. A wren would actively be gathering all the right materials to her build her nest and I would wish I would have remembered to make a bird nest supply kit – you never know just what they will need – hair, yarn, dryer lint, or lichens.
On my perfect day there would be dirt under my fingernails and stains on my pants from kneeling down in the garden inspecting a spider who is hanging out waiting for the perfect meal only millimeters from a drop of dew still held on the tip of a lettuce leaf. I would have to question whether we were going to have salad today or tomorrow. Worms would move in the soil with each turn of the trowel and in each breath presence would be my only thought.
Camp will be held at Little Rose Nature School in Watkinsville
July 5-8, 2016 from 10 am – 1:00 pm
Registration begins on Tuesday, April 12 at 8am.
Follow this link for more information or to register!
Guest post contributed by Mariel Blake
Nothing gets me more excited than seeing the yellow dotted landscape of daffodils in bloom. Not so much because I love daffodils. I mean, they are a pretty plant and all but they aren’t my favorites. I get excited to see them every year, however, for the news they bring.
Around here they are the harbingers of spring. When they appear you know the fresh rebirth of spring is near. Granted we haven’t had the harshest of winters. There have been many days of warmth and sunshine, even if they have been spaced far apart. We have also had days of bitter cold, snow and ice and a lot of rain. There were times, as there always are, when it seemed like winter was going to linger on forever. Then the daffodils began popping up and it became clear that if we just hold on for a bit longer, spring would be here.
Everyone has their season, the time of year that just speaks to their spirit. For me it is Spring. I live nature and being outside. There is some thing to be said about enjoying nature at various times of year. The lazy haze of summer. The sharp crispness of Fall. The cozy cocoon of Winter. For me, it has always been the refreshing breeze of spring that sparks joy in my soul.
Maybe it’s because I’m a spring baby. There is nothing better than spring because it symbolizes optimism, opportunity and renewal. It is a time for reconnection to what is most important, what is at your core. To do that requires some introspection and there are few better ways to do that, especially in the spring, than by taking a walk.
Part of our habits as a species is to share and connect over meals. Family dinner has long been held up as the prime method for creating a strong family unit which leads to stronger communities. For many people the dinner table is still that place. For most of us, however, life has changed and schedules have scattered us so that we are not all in the same place long enough to share a meal.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up family time. I was reminded on an early pre-Spring evening that one way to make that connection is to take a walk together.
It had been warm all week. The weekend had been picture perfect and each day after that seemed to be trying to outdo the last in beautiful blue skies. Then we had a night of thunderstorms. The next day the rain was gone and blue skies were back. The air, however, carried with it a clinging chill that goes with the death them rows of summer. By some happenstance all three members of m family were home and not in a hurry to get to the next thing. So instead we all decide to go when it comes time for my husband to walk the dogs.
Our neighborhood is not very big. There are only two streets. So it doesn’t take long to make a loop around the block. As we go we talk. There were no distractions, everyone left their phone at home. We walked in the cool night air and talked about various subjects, serious and silly.
We talk often about ways to honor the family unit and ways to connect with each other that don’t involve bandwidth. We also talk about ways to sneak healthy activities into our daily routine. There is no better way to do all these things than by simply taking a walk.
Maybe you like taking a stroll on an early summer morning before the heat sets in. Maybe you like to walk among the falling leaves of autumn. Maybe the starkness of a winter landscape encourages you to explore on foot. Or, like me, you love nothing more than a walk in the fresh air of Spring. No matter what time of year you like best, even with the most hectic schedule everyone can find a way to take a 10 minute walk everyday or even every now and then to touch base with whoever makes up the members of your family. Like the hardy daffodils taking a walk with your family can be an early sign of a renewal of your relationship or a delicate reminder to notice the beauty of your relationships that can bloom when the time is right.