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Hiking, Wattling, Log Burning, and More!


What a classically beautiful day—running through fields, climbing mountains, crafting in the forest, working hard, and learning and being with friends, all while under the last days of summer sun. 

At opening circle with the Woolly Bears, we talked about the day to come. We stretched out like different animals, embracing them physically (by stretching) and getting glimpses into their lives by talking about where they live, their habits, and what other animals they might run into next. We played a game and sang a song of gratitude to this land that supports us all. Then we said goodbye to our Woolly Bear friends, and we were off into the forest!

During snack, the kids heard a story called "The Rainbow Bridge," explaining how the autumn leaves originally received their color. It tells how Deer deserted the other animals when they needed her wisdom most, sneaking into sky world. And how Bear lacked understanding and empathy for her reasons for deserting. The story tells how, under the weight of their breaches of forest law, the rainbow bridge collapses and all of its colors spill onto the autumn leaves, making them heavy and causing them to fall to the earth every year since.

And then we got to work! There were two fluid groups of kids starting work on an insulated, double-walled, conical survival shelter and coal, burning an ash log to make a giant trough. The shelter kids worked very hard driving posts into the ground, in a circle that we checked would fit our whole group. They then sawed and wove live and dead saplings through the posts to create a wall that would hold massive amounts of leaves. This is called "wattling." Lastly, they collected those leaves that will serve as insulation. This is an example of a shelter that a group of people may build, and stay warm in, in a survival situation or just for cozy fall fun!

While this was happening, more children were lining a big ash log with clay, to keep the fire/coals contained, and shoveling long, burning hardwood coals into the area. They used hollow bamboo stalks to blow onto the coals, giving them oxygen and keeping them hot and burning. After many rounds of burning and scraping out the log, all semester, we'll be pleased to rock-boil some tea or acorn mush in our trough. Mmmm!

After work comes food and play. We ate lunch in a circle in our FOREST camp, and then set off on a hike for the rest of the afternoon. While on our hike, we …

  • Climbed a mountain into Massachusetts
  • Learned some parkour rolls and natural movement from one FORESTer
  • Searched a hemlock grove for porcupines
  • Morphed into mountain sheep
  • Listened to bird calls
  • Learned two new flowering plants, in the same family: calico aster and forest goldenrod
  • Tasted violet leaves and black birch bark
  • Completed a teamwork group challenge!

We also learned how to read the landscape and the history of the land by identifying "tracks" of an uncommon variety. Max pointed out "pillows and cradles," depressions and hills in the forest made by large downed trees. We considered questions about the age of the trees around these landmarks, which direction the wind may have blown to blow them over, and what's happening, generally, when the wind blows from these different directions. The kids, detective-like, determined that, in 1918, there was a hurricane, blowing in from the south, that severely damaged northeast forests. They were right!

—Theresa, Max, Tucker, Josh (and Will and Nathaniel every other week)