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  • Cassie Friesen

Treats from Mother Nature

As much as I enjoy a variety of weather, the warm, sunny days are a treat in the Colorado winter and we were fortunate to have both classes soak up the sun this week. On Monday, our oldest participant arrived with everything in hand for us to help him tan a rabbit hide (quite a new experience for both him and Erin!). As the rest of the children trickled in, they divided up into pairs and darted off to very different activities. One pair of them were deeply engaged in a world of their imagination where they were a puppy and a baby dragon, only occasionally popping over to have an animal conversation with us and then off they went again. The other pair were adding on to the semi-permanent structure and closing off a section of it. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was architecturally sound, it was quite an impressive feat for two people to balance so many branches on top of one another! At one point all of their play crossed paths when the builders turned into Moos that say, “Coooow” (I couldn’t make this stuff up if you paid me to) and the baby dragon went soaring to catch them for breakfast. Can you begin to imagine the rich communication that was happening in all of these experiences?? Meanwhile the oldest participant came up with a plan on how to tan the hide. We discussed which measures we would need to take to keep the process hygienic and then touched base with all the other participants to see if everyone was comfortable or had any questions.

We had a couple participants who were interested in using the sheath knives for whittling so we introduced our knives and the Tool Talk for how to use them appropriately. When the children realized we had written names on each of the knives, there was a glorious fit of giggles as they called dibs on Jasper and Moira and Lenny. At one point Erin had been using Bob on the rabbit so she set it aside in the designated tool area and let everyone know, “Bob’s out of commission because he has rabbit on him and needs to be washed.” Now… Bob is a pink knife. Later on in the day, one of the children walked by and noticed a child whittling with a pink knife. He froze and said, “Oh no! Is that Bob??” The other child laughed and said, “No! It’s Jasper!” and the concern washed away from the first child as he breathed a huge sigh of relief. A different participant admired all of the knives and said he really loved how they were all different fonts too (Erin’s idea!). Other children spent a lot of time creating various weapons and toys from twine, yucca, sticks, pine cones etc.

From the outside looking in, it might seem that the tools in forest school are for the bush craft itself. Their ultimate purpose is actually to promote connection and socio-emotional well-being. Sheath knives are quite amazing little tools that seem to draw out all sorts of intellectual and physical growth. And we got to see a very special social growth moment when one child, who has been fairly slow to warm up, spent an enormous amount of time whittling the bark away and then gifted it to another child. Another child used some charcoal to sketch out the outline of a spoon and began to whittle it. I am so excited to see how that process looks for him. Something as seemingly simple as spoon carving requires planning and adjusting, a lot of arm work, and an incredible amount of patience. Next week is our last week before winter break!

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