Archive for the ‘Field Notes’ Category
As a child, my mother would take us to pick red currant berries, then we would make a jam that tasted bitter yet sweet. For me, the smell marks the beginning of summer.
To my great delight, our currant bush started producing prolifically just a few days ago, and here we go, it’s summertime!
What’s on your list of things to do this summer?
I must say, one of my resolutions is to spend more time here. When I was writing regularly, I developed a wonderful community of thoughtful people to engage with and learn from. It took bravery to write each day, to keep up with the greater nature community and to share my ideas.
Months have passed since I came here and delved into my thoughts, ideas and inspiration. I want this again this year. Here’s to more time with all of you.
My son and I had a wonderful holiday break. We head back to school tomorrow, clothed for time in nature, ready to brace for cold weather, wind, and yes please, dear Father Winter, send us some snow.
Jeremiah had a chance to talk with Santa just before Christmas. My boy’s growing up. In case you miss his sweet face, here he is with the man from the north pole.
Three years ago when Backyard Mama come into being, this was a favored post among my few readers. I enjoy bringing it back each year. These are still fun activities and I like to notice how much more I love these activities with each new year of motherhood. This year, I’ve added two new items to the list! Do you know which they are?
Have an awesome Fall!
Here are a few ways to share this season with the children we love.
1) Make Pumpkin Muffins; here’s a healthy recipe from The Waldorf Kindergarten Snack Book:
2 c. unbleached white flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 c. corn oil
1 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. soymilk
1 c. apple juice
1 c. pumpkin or butternut squash (cooked)
- Cut pumpkin or squash and dice into medium sized pieces. Cook in a small amount of water.
- Using a food processor, puree the pumpkin or squash (make sure it’s not too wet) set aside.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Oil the muffin pans with corn oil or set paper muffin cups in the pan.
- In alarge bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well with a whisk. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and mix well with a whisk.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Using a whisk, stir them until just mixed. Do not over mix.
- Fill the muffin cups and bake for 50 minute to 1 hour, or until the edges of the muffins are golden brown.
(Shared by Diane Prusha Great Barrington Rudolf Steiner School, Mass.)
2) Roll down a big leaf covered hill!
3) Make Leaf Prints
- Collect a variety of colorful leaves.
- Cut two pieces of wax paper.
- Place leaves artistically between the two pieces of wax paper.
- Gently place the “wax paper leaf sandwich” into a folded towel.
- Iron the towel (with the leaf print inside) to melt the wax paper.
- These make wonderful window decorations!
4) Go on a scavenger hunt for:
- Maple leaves
- Oak leaves
- wildflower seeds
- Deer Tracks
- Kindling (for an autumn bonfire!)
- Any thing else you are excited to look for!
5) Take a walk early evening of the full moon watch the moon rise!
6) Make leaf maze, or spiral, and walk it, then run it…. rake the leaves again and make a new one!
7) Feed the birds.
- Make a backyard feeding station by covering pinecones with suet and birdseed, hang with strings or light weight wire from a tree.
- Use a pie pan (or bottom from a flower pot) and place on a stump or rock, fill with bird seed and watch the birds enjoy!
- Take a square(ish) piece of wood (1 foot by 1 foot piece of plywood is perfect) drill holes at each corner; using sturdy twine hang the board from a tree limb. Sprinkle bird seed on the “bird plate” each day.
- Buy a window bird feeder and attach to the outside of a window.
Find an orchard near to home, go apple picking. Come home and make apple sauce, apple butter or just slice ‘em and enjoy.
Outside Circle time (for young kids) sing this song to the tune of “Here we go around the mulberry bush” – at the end fall down like leaves from the trees!
“The leaves are green and the nuts are brown.
They hang so high, and will not come down.
Leave them alone till the frosty weather
Then they will all come down together.” (Author unknown)
9) Rake leaves together; save ‘em for the garden. Be playful- have a leaf “fight” or play hide and seek. (Remember there might be ticks in the leaves- so do a tick check when you’re done!)
10) Find a special place in nature. Take some time each week to sit and observe the sounds, what you see and hear, the temperature, or which animals visit the spot. Take a picture of your special place each time you visit. Make a nature journal and place the pictures in it with the dates visited. Keep this record as a special way to remember this season.
11) Hike to the top of the highest mountain in your area. From this birds-eye-view, look out and enjoy all the colors of the leaves.
12) How many different kids of trees can you spy from your house? (hint: different trees have different color leaves!)
Please share your ideas! Maybe we can get to 100 things to do in the Fall.
Fire has a lot of practical applications; it can be dangerous when out of control- but it’s useful to cook food, keep warm, or bring light into darkness. Yet, most kids are kept safely away from fire, flames, matches, lighters etc. This is in part just practical, but it’s really not serving children well all the time. Caution is a good tool and so is fire.
My son lights the dinner candles with some help, but this is one of his jobs and has been for a while; he knows to use matches cautiously and wisely.
He has been my assistant in attending to a burn pile. (See picture). He spent most of his day playing in the mud created by the running hose. But he did learn that keeping water near a fire is a good idea!
Roasting marshmallows over the open fire is now a favored past time. Through playing with the placement of the roasting stick he has learned how the flames become cooler further away and hotter closer to the source. He has learned the difference between the flame and the hot air around the flame.
In the winter, he regularly helped me stoke the fire with new logs. And he always reminds me to use the fire glove. So his experiences have subconsciously (and consciously) given him the awareness about the power and heat of a flame/ fire.
And he’s four. There are age appropriate times to allow children the freedom to take on these tasks and if adults give children the chance to practice under closely supervised situations, then when a child actually really needs to use fire as a tool with independence, he (or she- don’t rob our girls from this experience!) will be able to do so cautiously.
As we head into Fourth of July and a weekend of FIREWORKS, take note of your own attitude towards teaching children about fire… not just using scare tactics, but really educating them so when the time is right- use of fire can be done safely.
Good luck and make sure to check back here soon and please comment!
Last week the YMCA Schools Out program offered “Vacation Days” programing for kids on school break. Field trips included a trip to the zoo, a baseball game and to a local nature preserve.
A week later in our regular after school program, I was so excited when a couple of the boys were reflecting on the field trips of last week and exclaimed gleefully “the best was when we went for the hike and got to run around and climb trees! It was so awesome!”
This field trip went well because we allowed them to discover for themselves in a safe but free environment of the woods.
Here are some tips to make these kids of programs successful:
Set Clear Boundaries Although we allowed for freedom, it was with some guidance and supervision. When these guidelines were outlined with clear expectations, it gave us a teachers the confidence to give the student participants more freedom.
Allow Time for Exploration We set out on a 45 minute hike but had 2 hours of time to meander. This meant that we were not crunched, or watching the clock, instead we were able to enjoy out time on the hike.
Teach with Wonder Everyone was overjoyed when I pointed out a birds nest with total excitement and fascination. I experienced the joy and wonder of discovery and my enthusiasm infected those around me. All the teachers did this and it opened the door for the children to be in awe of their discoveries.
Don’t Know Everything When kids ask questions be a guide, not a know it all. Probably the single best way to get kids more interested in something is to tell them you don’t know and then assist in figuring out the problem. Through this process students are given permission to discover and share tools for how to solve problems.
Joy, excitement, and enthusiasm, are infectious and sharing this with kids and families can plant the seeds of a lifetime of hunger for inquiry and discovery.
Even after a long week of “Vacation Days” challenged by rain and lots of kids, we still managed to “pull off” the last field trip. And because we used some of these tools, the kids had the best time.
Hats off to more time outside, discovering the wonder of nature.
I grew up playing in the woods and streams, my experience was that these wild places were an extension of my own body. It’s not surprising that now I am deeply connected to the world around me and strive to plant those seeds of awe, wonder, excitement, curiosity and more in the lives of the children.
I chose this (rather long) video clip today to honor those who have been striving to reconnect children to play, nature and ultimately- themselves. Many thanks to all of you who have been a beacon for children.
Please check back for all the wonderful opportunities to get outside and explore with the Backyard Mama.
Now unplug… and head outside! The sun is shining!
~ The Backyard Mama
Today is the United Nations World Water Day! I was tickled to death when I saw this very informative video about clean water… please note, this is a piece of work by a third grader and his dad.
Nice job… Happy World Water Day! Let’s all take some time to appreciate and preserve our drinking water.
Yesterday morning my son and I took a trip to the Mystic Aquarium, in Mystic, CT. There were hoards of visitors; our favorite part of the day was watching the California Sea Lions doing their tricks.
My son spent most of his day running through the darkened inside room looking for computers and buttons, and he was extremely excited about the National Geographic Critter-cam exhibit.
Before we went to the aquarium, I met with a very interesting young woman and teacher who is working on professional development programing for teachers and classes for children to help connect them to nature. As I reflected about my beliefs and my trainings, I could not emphasis enough on how important it is for us to spend time outside. She mentioned how hard it was to get teachers excited to do projects that take up space and time in their classrooms and connect kids to nature.
On Friday during my after school job, I found out that middle schoolers are given 20 minutes of outside time a day that is optional and unsupervised. High school students are give no time outside.
So how does this all come together?
The Aquarium is a wonderful place to learn… however it does not connect children or teachers to nature. Our relationship to nature is nurtured by sticks, stones, mud, rain, snow, hail, ice and whatever else we stumble upon.
In order for teachers and childcare professionals to offer our youth meaningful experiences we need to cultivate these experiences in our own lives. So… head outside, see which fish grow in your backyard. We can use our own eyes as a “critter-cam” by scooting across the ground like an ant or climbing a tree like an owl.
There is always a place for scientific inquiry and for learning more about the details of our natural world through programs like those at the Mystic Aquarium, however these cannot be a substitute for getting dirty.
Next weekend, we’re heading to Rome Point in North Kingstown, RI to watch our Harbor Seals in their truly natural habitat. I am particularly excited about the mile long walk to see them, and whether or not it will be raining or sunny. Either way, I am sure will stumble and trip along the meandering path.
Wanna join us?
Learning about nature by studying science is one way to develop an understanding how things work in the world. As a scientist, I have learned how to isolate “problems” or questions, and then try to imitate the conditions of the natural world in order to answer my question.
Most of us who have had traditional formal education have encountered The Scientific Method in some way or another 1) ask a question, 2) do background research, 3) construct a hypothesis, 4) test the hypothesis, 5) analyze the data to generate a conclusion, and 6) share the results.
I love this method, and I find that it is a useful tool for many of life’s questions. However, I do find it very misleading when taken out of the context of nature. For instance, the rock cycle cannot be fully understood or studied without actually looking at rocks. Botany is very abstract without studying a flower. Even in anatomy classes students disect creatures (sometimes) to gain a fuller understanding of bone structure.
Fundamentally, this is why I am inspired to do what I do each day. When I walk into a classroom of beaming children to teach yoga, I (think) I am giving these kids the chance to gain a deeper understanding of their own anatomy and physiology. I encourage everyone to spend time outside in nature so when scientific questions arise, there is a context and a relationship with the bigger picture.
I remember in 11th grade optics class we spent hours discussing the physics of light. Then our brilliant teacher took us outside for a walk down to a local pond where we saw the reflection of trees in the water and refraction of light. I’d have to look up formulas and detailed vocabulary, but I still understand the concepts.
With every question, look around and see if you can find the answer in your surroundings… then dig deeper…. and remember to take big fully belly breaths and drink lots of water. The brain works better this way. Don’t believe me? Test it out on yourself one day and see how it goes.
Then come back here and tell me about your experiment!