In The Woods
Get a glimpse of the inspiration and connection that unfolds in the embrace of the natural world.
Every Friday, I'm reminded of so many simple things I have to be grateful for. First, in a structured way, during our morning circle together, and then throughout the day: warm wind, the way nature inspires all kinds of learning, joyful children pleased with little things, varied shades of color, last dandelions, pliable willow, fire-warmed plentiful food, clay, truly helpful students, and the privilege of working at a job that allows me to be outside, all day, meaningfully connecting with children I've known, or will know, for years over some things we all love: sticks, mud, rocks, tools,
It was a beautiful morning at the Cobble today, crisp and clear. After breaking from our morning circle, we started the day with a big game of Skink Tag (with a twist)! Then a quick snack before rolling into crafts and sling practice.
It was a beautiful sight to see everyone spread across Ashley Field slinging rocks, making cattail mats, catching Atlatl spears, and having a blast. Before we returned for lunch we saw a beautiful bald eagle soaring overhead. We watched it through Max's binoculars and saw the way it rode a column of warm air high into the sky.
This morning, we gathered together under the blue skies, blowing winds, and soaring wings of Red-Tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, and turkey vultures. We watched, with wonder, the smaller Cooper's hawk dive-bomb the Red Tails and the Red Tails stoically defend themselves with expert flight maneuvers. We paused our circle to wonder about their colors, size, range, and communication styles, and also to share the field guides and binoculars. What a rare and beautiful privilege to see.
The day was filled with many good times, much progress on our "Super Shelter," and the joyful honing of our skills at the Jedi Training Center.
After departing from our Opening Circle with the Woolly Bears, we played a fun game and were captivated by a story about Rainbow Crow bringing fire to people long ago.
Today, after our Opening Circle with the Woolly Bears, we played a big game of Blob Tag to awaken our bodies. Over snack, Max told a story about Coyote stealing fire from a pair of beasts, jealously guarding the fire for themselves. Coyote enlisted the help of many of his friends and snuck close to steal an ember. In the end, fire was locked safely inside a great tree, and Coyote taught the humans how to make fire by friction. This story appears to be widespread among many First Nations cultures and we gratefully enjoyed enacting a few things from the story throughout the day.
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.
Today was a perfect beginning to the fall semester. After opening circle, we played a Wild West name game to get everyone acquainted, and headed into the big tent. Two returning FORESTers showed great finesse in starting a fire using a hand drill kit and a tinder bundle made of shredded cedar bark and cattail fluff. Since the air was so humid, the kit was reluctant to produce a coal. They stuck with it and the third try was the charm! We highlighted the importance of working through frustration and failure to a place of learning and success.
We started off our Meetinghouse day playing a name game in the parking lot, so everyone could get to know our four visitors and they could get to know us. Next we played an extended session of Fox Tail up in the field to warm up. After moving down to our camp we had story and a snack. Kevin retold the old world story of the Green Man, in which a Squire's son gets to live in the wilderness alone for a year, which changes his whole perspective on life.
We had another warm, sun-filled spring day of discoveries today at Meetinghouse Farm. We started off with a game called Nutty Squirrels, which involves teamwork and blindfold awareness. Then, after a story from Josh about a girl adopted by bears, we split up into two groups.
Josh took his group to set up a couple of traps that they have been working on. On their adventures, they found bear hair in the fence!
So much is happening out on the landscape right now! Everything is waking up, returning and alive! This morning in Pownal, we sighted a Bald Eagle and heard some birds just returning to their northernmost range: the Eastern Towhee and the Carolina Wren.
After a fun game, song, and opening circle with the Woolly Bears, we headed to camp in a sprinkle of rain. It was very wet and muddy, but that quickly dried up as the day went on. We put up the tarp over our site, ate our snack, and heard a story about how the Native Americans found wild rice.
After our morning circle, we made our way to the campsite by the pond, where we ate snack and heard the tale of the Ancient Navigator. Voyaging in their double-hulled canoes, native Polynesians discovered and populated the specks of land scattered throughout the Pacific. They traversed hundreds of miles of ocean without seeing land, navigating only by their knowledge of the stars, winds, swells, and subtleties of the water and weather they couldn’t even name.
The Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons were both separately out in the exposed Mammoth Steppe of Europe, trailing game through the snow, when a terrible storm blew in! The hunters were cut off from the safety of their main camp! They would have to cut off their hunt as well. Without the warmth of their cave, how would they survive the icy winds and driving snow?
The winter weather was an appropriate start to our spring session. This semester, the Cobblers (that's us!) are journeying back in time to Ice Age Europe. Two groups of people make camp and culture in Prehistoric Europe: The Cro-Magnons and the Neanderthals. Our task is to learn and practice the skills needed to live large in the Stone Age, creating our own unique toolmaking, plant, and cultural technologies along the way.
We started the day off journeying across the creek and along the edge of the farm field, until we found a spot to play a game called "Wolves and Moose." Afterwards, we went over the agreements that make our time with each other so good: the 3 Respects, Inclusivity, Speaking Good Words, Awareness of Self and the Environment, Playing Hard, and Working Hard are things that we uphold, as a FOREST community.
After a morning game and snack in the sunshine, we eagerly returned to camp. The lean-to was waiting for us in all its glory as if we had never left it! We cleaned camp: raking out the coals from the fire pit, picking up around camp, organizing our firewood, and gathering more wood.
Today was a mighty fine day for a FOREST Thanksgiving! We would be cooking a great feast and celebrating the world's bounty and our well-earned harvest. Three groups would be working at three different stations for three rounds. We had the Shelter Station, the Cooking Station, and the Throwing Stick Station. The final row of thatch on our shelter needed attention, and of course we needed to hunt for the feast—and what's a feast without a fire to cook upon? Each group got a turn at each station and had a great time doing so.
The frosty morning gave way to bright sunshine that warmed us up quickly. We arrived at our camp and made a final push to finish our wattle and daub walls to our lean-to. Another giant mixing party ensued while grapevines were carefully tugged down out of the upper reaches of the forest canopy to wind back and forth through the final portions of our walls. When all was done, we felt pretty good about the fruits of our labor and settled into our home in the forest around a fire that was built by the students.
Today in our Vermont homeschool program, we began building the side walls for the shelter! We spent the rest of the morning on a wander to find saplings for the walls, that took us to some new unexplored land. One of the highlights of this journey was the sighting of a porcupine in a tree!
Our focus of the day with the FOREST group (ages 7 to 13) was caretaking of the land. We used our imaginations to envision a landscape actively tended by humans for generations in a way that not only benefits the human people, but the non-human people as well. A landscape that is so rich in diversity that it hosts abundant animal, bird, insect, plant, and tree life. Over time, we have made significant improvements to the land and we are in the process of learning to tend the wild more and more... That's what this day was about.
Our FOREST lean-to is taking shape! We've been making mats with the cattail leaves, and today, in addition to more mat work, we finished the first layer of thatch for the roof. It looks amazing! These kids are such hard workers and eager learners. Great job to everyone these past few weeks! We hope to finish the shelter in the next two weeks, and to make that possible, their homework is to bring in a bundle of cattail!
—Theresa, Evan, and Josh
Today in our Vermont homeschool program, we set out to collect as much bark as we could. Josh and I were, admittedly, skeptical about how much we would be able to find to cover the roof of our giant lean-to. But in the end we found quite a lot of big pieces of paper birch and other trees. The teamwork that was displayed on this gathering made our group look like a well-oiled machine! All hands were busy cutting the bark from dead trees and hauling it down the hillside. We were able to cover most of the lean-to with what we gathered.
Another beautiful day with our Cobble Homeschool group! Once at our campsite, we assessed our ever-growing shelter and wondered what to do with the cattails we had cut and hung up to dry. Mats!, I suggested. A loom! suggested Devin. The Cobblers became excited about adding another element of primitive house-making onto their shelter. After snack, we split into two groups: one went adventuring to the most southern point of the Cobble with me, and the others stayed to build fire, make cordage, and start on our cattail loom.
The FOREST Homeschool Group (ages 7 to 13) started our day, after Opening Circle, with a great game of Wolves and Moose, with the FORESTers teaming up to take down the instructors. They had to work together to hunt us (by stealing all three of our bandana tails) without getting tagged. It was a long drawn-out battle! Upon review of the game the students identified several strategies that worked: 1) working as a team 2) using the landscape to their advantage 3) splitting the Moose up. All excellent tried-and-true Wolf strategies!
- A game of Capture the Flag
- Finding Chicken of the Woods and Turkey Tail mushrooms
- Spotting a Red-Tail Hawk
- Finding lots of deer scat and a lay
On the first day of our Homeschool Program at Bartholomew's Cobble, we journeyed across the vast field to our old campsite beneath a grove of towering White Pines, punctuating a beautiful field painted purple and yellow by the flowers of early fall, asters and goldenrods. Quite a few Queen Anne's Lace seeds hitched a ride on our clothing as we cut through the field. The creek flowing by our campsite out of the cattail marsh was completely dry, to our surprise ... more on that later.