Rose Hip Delight

happy harvestersAutumn here is always so colourfully punctuated by the brilliant red orbs of the rose hips as they hang themselves out for the picking.  In the early summer, we spent an afternoon with Ange delicately lifting off the fragrant petals of the roses, being careful to leave the centers, which now have plumped up with seeds on the almost leafless brambles.  On the west coast, we get far more rain than frosts, and so collecting rose hips before they get too soaked and rotten is a better bet than waiting for a first frost.  With the seven of us, we collected almost ten cups in an hour, and then came back to our house to cook them into a syrup for use during the winter.  Cedar particularly liked the thorns, and we discussed the energies of protection that surround the rose and it’s ability to defend us from illness and disease.

The hips of the rose (rosa canina and related species… here we have the nootka rose or rosa nutkana) are loaded primarily with vitamin C, many times the amount found in citrus fruit when measured gram for gram.  Vitamin C is a noted antioxidant with disease fighting abilities.

“The astringency of rose hips can help relieve dysentery and diarrhoea. In addition, the various flavonoids, coupled with the Vitamin C, have potent antioxidant action and help protect the body from numerous internal and external stresses. The high vitamin C content of rose hips will therefore be extremely useful in preventing and fighting infections, colds, flu, and pneumonia, (syrup is the classic way to preserve hips).

Vitamin C and bio-flavonoid molecules are always combined together in nature. This is how our bodies experience Vitamin C when eating fruits. Rose hips are rich in this vital chemical complex, known to strengthen body tissues and help to build and maintain a healthy vascular system, preventing damage to fragile capillaries.”  Christopher Hope

Rose hip syrup was exactly our plan for the day.  We simmered 4 cups of hips in 8 cups of water for a few hours, until the hips were soft enough to mash and the water quantity had diminished by a few cups.  After mashing everything in the pot, we then poured the contents through cheese cloth, collecting the liquid in a bowl, and then we squeezed every precious drop out of the pulp.  It was a beautiful deep red with a tinge of orange.  We then added about a cup of honey to sweeten it to our liking, which helps to preserve the syrup while adding the medicinal benefits of the honey to the elixir.

Traditionally, before the invention of the fridge, a lot more honey would be added as a preservative, making it more of a thick syrup.  Our syrup is more like a decoction that will last three months in the fridge.  We have enjoyed it by the spoonful, mixed in with our smoothies, or added to warmed up spiced apple cider.  We did try to cut some of the hip open and scrape out the seeds and the fine hairs inside so we could dry the outside part for making tea.  The hairs can be irritating to the throat, (and to the bottom end on their way out), so it is especially important to remove the seeds and hairs before drying.  We found the task to be time consuming and tedious, so we didn’t do too much of it.  I think the syrup will be a more widely used and appreciated preparation of this years’ rose hips.  Thanks again, Ange, for leading us through this simple and warming process of preparing the beautiful rose hips!

Archipelago Activities

camp fire lunch

camp fire lunch

Earlier this month I wrote a post describing a kind of game that we are playing with our Spring Leaves Family Learning group (see Archipelago!).  As well as being a game on paper, it also opens many doors to our choice of related physical activities within the theme of outdoor living in a wilderness setting.  The past month has seen many adventures for us around the island, and as the spring progresses, many more fun skills and experiences are on the schedule.

One of the highlights was using the Hope Bay Bible Camp grounds and equipment for 4 sessions for archery!  This activity was requested from the children way back in the fall, and finally getting 4 weeks of beautiful weather to practice 2 hours of shooting each week was a great opportunity for kids and adults.  An instructor from the island was able to lead us in our first session, and help us to refine techniques at the last session.  In between, we simply rotated through the practice of stance, balance, breath, and aim, as well as practicing safety measures.  Some of the older kids in the group already have experience with a variety of archery sports, and were able to help demonstrate and answer questions when the instructor wasn’t with us.  I was amazed at the capabilities that emerged from week to week for all the children, and felt myself connecting easily to this ancient activity.  Besides being a hunting sport, it brought for me a sense of relaxed focus and empowered strength and clarity.

We spent some time considering the practices of gathering, cooking and eating in an outdoor setting.  Earlier in the spring we spent a morning at our house identifying a variety of wild spring greens that grow around our property and all over the island.  Some were familiar to the kids already, like dandelion and miners lettuce, and some were new, such as cleavers, sheep sorrel, chickweed, peppercress, and plantain.  We added lemon sorrel from the garden, kale, and lettuce, and tossed everything gathered  with a light balsamic dressing for lunch.  A few weeks later we met at another families’ house and did some campfire meals.  A fire had been started in the morning so there was lots of hot coals when we arrived, bringing with us a variety of chopped vegetables for a soup.  There was potatoes, yams, carrots, kale and chard, onions, tomatoes and a variety of freshly clipped herbs from the garden.  soups readyThere was even some dried seaweed that some of the kids had prepared from an earlier excursion to the beach.  We put everything in a large soup pot, set in on the pile of coals, and let in simmer away for the rest of the morning.  We also dug a hole in the ground near to the fire, put tin foil wrapped veggies into it and buried them with more coals from the fire.  A layer of earth went on top to make a kind of pit oven.  We also had the makings for bannock, and once the other dishes were cooking, we got into mixing up the dough and sharpening alder prunings for cooking sticks.  The older kids started a smaller camp fire for grilling veggies and meats, and for roasting the bannock on the sticks.  It was a feast of beautifully simmered soup, toasted bannock, and  grilled kababs and sausage.  The communal feel of this outdoor meal making was heartwarming and fun, and at times we contemplated how this would feel if it were everyday, and every meal.  Each person might have their consistent role or job, and the interactions of every community or tribe member would be counted and important for the whole to function on this basic daily level.  There was still room for individuality to flourish, and new creative ideas to come into being as the many hands and minds come together and find their place.

We also had some fun considering shelters and furniture.  In two afternoons at the forested property of one of the Spring Leaves families, we experimented with different types of debris shelters made from the collected materials of the forest and built without tools.  Mostly in small groups, the kids started with finding a place that already had some kind of supportive feature, then they gathered branches for beams, sticks for ribs, and leaves or bark for insulation.  Each one was entirely different, shaped by different eyes and ideas and ages.  We also spent time learning the art of making rustic furniture with lashing, led by my mother Willow who remembered her own experiences from when she was a child.  We had some simple plans and a forest full of fallen branches that we collected and sorted into piles of different thickness and length.  One group constructed a four legged table with a tall back on one side to hang things for drying, and another team made a three legged wash stand.  We learned the patterns of lashing, whipping and frapping as a means of joinery and strength.

fort buildingA few weeks later we met at another of our families homes and handed the kids hammers, nails, saws, drills, and scrap plywood and lumber.  They were going to build a fort onto a previously framed up platform about 4 feet off the ground and nestled around the trunks of 3 fir trees.  The flurry of activity hardly faltered all morning as plans were discussed and hammers pounded.  A floor was completed and two short side walls were attached before the energy waned in the afternoon, but there was much enthusiasm for further improvements and for the imaginative games that the fort will provide a new space for.

Learning the Medicine of the Forest

mahonia tincture

mahonia tincture

As late winter gave its final nod to the delicacies of spring and the plants in the forest around us began to put on their greenery,  it seemed the perfect time to learn about the medicines that the natural world offers.  Our friend and neighbor has been studying and using herbs and wild plants for medicine for a number of years, and so another home schooling family and I asked if she would be willing to meet with us every few weeks and teach us about the qualities of wild medicines during this season, working with whatever plants are ready for collecting as the spring progresses into summer.

 digging mahoniaThe first plant we learned about, one that is prolific in these pacific northwest forests, is oregon grape root, or Mahonia Nervosa.  In the late winter (or in the fall) the brilliantly yellow roots of mahonia can be dug up, cleaned, chopped, and soaked in alcohol to make a very strong tincture.  It didn’t take long for our four enthusiastic children to get their hands into the dirt and gently coax up the long sections of root.  They cleaned it, tasted it, smelled it, chopped it, and covered it with alcohol.  Each step was accompanied by many observations about how the plant affected our senses, and sometimes these sensations were different for each of us.  After labeling the tincture clearly we each had a turn swishing the jar, and sending our own thoughts of love and healing into the mixture.  chopped mahonia rootWe learned about the quality of bitter as we tasted the roots, as well as when we collected the earliest spring greens that we can eat, one of which is the common dandelion.  Bitter flavours have the effect of instantly sending a message to our brains, which then send a message to our stomaches to release certain digestive juices which stimulate easier digestion.  We don’t eat very much bitter food in our diets these days, and often our bodies do not get the opportunity to use this system of response.  The root is also blood cleansing (minerals/ detoxifying), astringent (tightens and tones), anti bacterial, anti fungal, and anti parasitic. It expels heat type conditions, urinary tract infections and has long been used for skin disorders such as eczema and psoriases. This is largely due to the action that mahonia has on the blood system.

wild saladBesides dandelion leaves and flowers, we also collected chickweed, plantain, sheep sorrel and it’s garden cousin lemon sorrel, lemon balm, miners’ lettuce, peppercress, and cleavers, all of which were growing in a small area around our house and in our garden.  Because of the small size of our group, we were able to engage in rather intimate conversations about our individual observations of smell, tangy or mild flavour, and dryness or juiciness.  Our kids are all quite familiar with the practice of eating wild greens, and their openness to explore more options and use their intuitive senses is quite real.  So is their caution, however, and on a few occasions they found look alike plants that they were able to discern as being different and so unknown in safety.  We all went off in scavenger hunt fashion, to find and collect  a handful of each plant.  After mixing in some kale and early lettuce, and adding a light balsamic dressing, we sat and munched on an incredibly fresh and nourishing salad.  Ange served up lemon balm iced tea to refresh the senses even more.

straining tinctureA few weeks later we met to strain out the chopped pieces of the mahonia tincture and bottle the medicinal liquid.  We all found that it smelled horrible, and even tasted horrible, but it was evident that strong medicine was present.  Everyone took turns in the pouring, bottling, and labeling, and we learned that to evaporate the alcohol for children, we could pour boiling water over the dosage needed and mix it with honey or licorace to sweeten it up.  Mahonia heads

Then Ange turned our attention to the Douglas Fir tree that was growing right above our heads and the picnic table we were working on.  We noted the needles lying flat on either side of the stem they grew on, rather than circling in a directions like other kinds of fir.  At the very ends there was the lighter green flush of new needles.  As each of us each chewed on a few needles,  an incredible interchange of flavour and texture ensued with different observations about sensation being expressed by us all.  douglas fir needlesWe were going to make a fir vinegar.  After clipping the new growth off the branches we could reach, the stems were plucked and the luscious needles placed into a large mason jar.  Then we poured apple cider vinegar to cover it, and labeled it.  Joanne took the fir needle vinegar home to let it sit until we meet again to strain it.  I wasn’t familiar with the idea of tree medicine, and I am so grateful to learn more.  The trees hold so much for us, and I am always astounded at our forgetfulness.  fir needlesAll of the medicines we have made follow the folk method of measurement, which means approximate amounts and intuitive reasoning.  Whether adding alcohol or vinegar as the medicinal carrier, we have used just enough to completely cover the plant material without leaving too much extra liquid. If the plant material swells a little, a bit more liquid can be added to keep it covered.   The vinegar or tincture is kept in a dark place for about a month before being strained.

“A plant is always much more than it’s constituents. The action or energetics of the plant can be felt through our unique sensory organs, which can be a very personal experience. This is the foundation of herbal medicine and how we can reconnect to a beautiful wisdom.”  Thanks so much to Ange for her insightful words, and the opportunities that she has brought to us through her own journey.

Archipelago!

plants booksOur home schooling journey this past spring has somewhat exploded into new territories, both real and imagined.  With the resources and creativity of a neighboring island teacher, principal, and outdoor education leader Steve Dunsmuir, our group has embarked on an adventure involving the discovery of an archipelago of islands that have never been explored before-  because these islands exist within the imaginations of the kids.  But as the children learn to shape these islands and dress them in plants and animals, they also learn the real life skills of living on these islands without the modern developments that we live with today.

The game is called Archipelago, and it started off with one of our parents, Karen, and her dramatic performance announcing to the kids that our facilitator Julie and her husband drifted off to sea the evening before.  They had called in to the coast guard with co-ordinates of where they were, saying that they were safe and sheltered within a group of islands that, strangely, were not on their charts.  Just as we were hoping that they would be brought safely home, (and many children were glancing around suspiciously as the word “archipelago” started to remind them of the name of a game we had been talking about learning), Julie burst into the room in a life preserver and a paddle, seaweed tangled in her hair, and with exasperation, staggered to a chair and excitedly told us of these islands that no one even knew were there, just right off our coastline!  (I mean, how far could they really have drifted?)

island outlineWe grouped the kids into 4 island groups and gave them a large piece of paper and they worked together to draw the outline shape of their island.  Then they traced that shape onto a piece of graph paper, and then the originals were placed on the wall of the room onto a big blue background, which then determined the directional placement of the island.  Each island now had a defined shape and a compass rose, and a proximity to the other islands.  compass roseThen we rolled dice to give elevations and water ways.  First roll was with a six die, and it determined how many high points there were, and then each high point was given an elevation with the roll of a 10’s dice.  So if 4 high points were rolled, and then 60 was rolled, one of the high points would be 60 meters.  The kids then worked together to decide where each of these elevations would go, in regards to the compass directions of the island.  The same was done for lakes, and for rivers.  Eventually the kids learned to draw contour lines, giving visual dimensions to their new islands.  We did a fun exercise of placing a large rock in a tub and pouring water on it, marking a line around the rock at each 6cm interval to show the changes in elevational contour.  We determined, with the scale of 1 square=1 hectare, that the islands are about 3.5 kilometers long and 2 kms wide.  That put a perspective when we compared it with the size of the island we live on.  One day we all went out for a hike, walking a route that spans the length, and then hiking up a ridge that is similar to the elevations of the imaginary islands.  They are not very big islands, but considering there will be no roads, paths or trails when we get there, they are just the right size for two or three kids to imagine exploring and gathering from every side of it.

Iisland creation haven’t mentioned yet the other imaginary aspect- characters.  The kids all created their own personality- age, name, attributes, skills, and abilities.  Some of the abilities and skills are real life learning experiences, and some are imaginary with a bit of research.  For instance, from a list of 100 skills, each child picked one for their character that they already have, one that they would like to learn, and one random one (determined with rolling dice).  The one they want to learn is one they came either learn for real, or just research about it and present the information.  Taeven picked cooking, and so we have embarked on a more exciting journey of learning to cook, something which was always a bit of a struggle before.  Cedar picked archery, and lucky for him, Julie had already organized 4 weeks of archery lessons because most of the kids had requested earlier in the year to do archery.  The kids also have a record of other attributes, such as endurance, balance, aim, and finding.  They can earn greater points during our real life adventures for these attributes.  We also try to offer this aspect of attributes on a personal level, so achievements are kept as a reflection of each child’s individual abilities.  It is also light-hearted and fun, so we are not strict with our standards in any way.  Often the kids will decide for themselves if they feel they have achieved a greater level of ability.  Taeven and Cedar have been in the habit of awarding points to each other even!

plant legendWe spent a flurry of time and activity discovering all the plants that grow on these islands.  From a list of 100 native flora divided into groups of habitat, the children rolled dice to get a plant, then roll again to find how many squares of that plant they have.  Then they decided where on their island that plant would grow, and a symbol would be created and added to a legend of all the plants on their island.  The kids could then do additional research to find out how the plant could be used, either for food, shelter, water, transportation, safety, communication, first aid and medicinal, or happiness!  The possibilities of going deeper into any area of this game is staggering.  Because we only meet twice a week, and because our kids are all so diverse, we have taken a loose approach to each of the deeper explorations, leaving those who wish to learn more the chance to do so in their own time.  plant cardsEven just researching one plant can be plenty- Cedar has ocean spray on his island, and when he found out that the long, thin, strong branches were traditionally used to make shafts for spears, arrows, bows, as well as other structural uses, he went out and began crafting himself a harpoon.

mappingWe had an afternoon of discovering the animals that live on these islands too, through more rolling of dice.  Julie had a computer hooked up to a projector and was searching for photos of each animal as they came up around the room, giving the kids visual identification and opening opportunities for other “islanders” to share what they might already know about each animal.  We learned that there are many different types of mussels, and that sea cucumbers can indeed be eaten, and we listened to the call of an oyster catcher.  The kids kept track of their animal populations by placing them in appropriate habitats and creating a legend.  We watched a slideshow of all the animals in the archipelago, and learned what lives on neighboring islands.

That is where we are at so far with the Archipelago game.  Soon we will be traveling to the islands and using our skills to set up a homestead so that we can enjoy the wild foods, the fresh water, shelter ourselves from the elements, and interact with neighbors, human and animal, with the best of both the imaginative world and the real world.  From what I have observed, this game has created a sense of group unity amoung our 16 diverse children while celebrating their unique qualities.  Their abilities to work together and share ideas while remaining individuals has created a beautiful atmosphere of positive energy in all the exciting activities we have taken on to complement the focused paper work of the Archipelago.

Christmas Gifts of Connection

a green star of Christmas

a green star of Christmas

Just as the winter season of Christmas begins to draw nearer and nearer and my conflicted heart starts to get all knotted up about the dualities of this holiday and what it has become in our world today, our homeschool facilitator sent out her ideas about education and the role we can take in bringing our next generation into a different understanding of the impacts of the mass consumeristic element that threatens to dismantle the magic that Christmas ultimately desires to stand for.  Instead of bringing peace,  light and joy to everyone, the time of Christmas triggers so much sadness, anxiety, stress, loneliness, and anger in too many people… a trend that I seek to change for myself and for my family in the hopes that establishing new ways of celebrating the season of love and birth will help alter the emphasis of what this holiday means.

being clear with ourselves and respectful with our earth

being clear with ourselves and respectful with our earth

I do not intend to point fingers to the one issue sorrounding consumerism and the dualities of rich and poor, as I understand that there are so many other factors in the social soup of discord that becomes many peoples’ main flavour around this time of year. Also I do not intend to say that all gifts bought from a store and given at this time are contributing to the negative cycle, as long as those who are buying things do so with love in their hearts and without feelings of obligations that work against what is personally affordable, and consideration is given to the integrity of the gift chosen.  I think it is important that we pay attention to what we are doing, and make it clear for ourselves and for our children, (to whom Christmas media is hugely targeting), that we can create new choices for the ways in which we celebrate and give to each other that do not come with economic, environmental, and emotional stresses.  I would like to reprint Julie’s article about some ideas for education around the issue of consumerism, as inspiration for untangling the heart strings.

Greenheart Education- Julie Johnston

http://www.greenhearted.org/greening-the-holidays-at-school.html

Below are some ideas for teaching sustainability in transformative ways by “greening” the holidays along with your students (or children at home). And I’m not just talking about colouring the holidays green — I’m talking about dipping the holidays into a vat of natural dye until they are drenched in green!

Life Cycle Analysis of Christmas (and Other) Presents

Take time to discuss or reinforce the concept of needs versus wants. Many people forget the difference at “giving” times of the year. Help children see the connections between what they receive (and quickly discard) and the living conditions of their brothers and sisters — of all species — around the world.


How can we get our children to be satisfied with fewer and less expensive gifts when their friends are getting lots of (sometimes expensive) gifts?

You can’t expect kids to go cold turkey. I have found that kids are somewhat open to the understanding that this is somebody else’s birthday that we’re celebrating. If you can make the holiday joyful enough with enough points of real pleasure, parties, hikes, special activities, spending time together… if you can do enough of those things, then the focus won’t be so single-mindedly on how big the pile under the tree is.
— Bill McKibben, Hundred Dollar Holidays

This is also a great time of year to teach about life cycle analysis! As many children in different parts of the world ask for and receive lots of new “stuff” for Christmas (or other holidays), help them become aware of the environmental, social and economic impacts of their gifts.

Talk to children about where their gifts (those they give as well as those they receive) come from and go to. Extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal (the “materials economy”) all have their costs and benefits. But this is a linear system in a finite world (“cradle to grave”), and hence unsustainable.

Introduce the cradle-to-cradle life cycle, where waste = food for the next product, and Nature is regenerated by our “industrial” processes. (Visit this short primer to learn more about the cradle-to-cradle concept.)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a series of three posters (click the link to download), showing the life cycle of

CellphoneWaste

Several other life cycle analysis resources are listed at Greening Schools.

Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute movie that teaches where things come from — and end up. Leonard is an American sustainability scholar, and the film was created from an American perspective (translations into several languages are in the works). If you haven’t yet seen this film, be prepared to have your view of the world rattled somewhat. (Suitable for secondary school students, and perhaps those a bit younger.)

StoryofStuffBanner

For older students, check out Consume This! Buying That Matters.

A learningful way to teach the concept of sustainable development during this time is to have each student bring a gift from home, perhaps the favourite one they received last Christmas or sometime during the previous year for a birthday or another holiday. (Let’s ignore, for now, Annie Leonard’s statistic about how many new purchases are thrown out within a few months!) If the gift is too big to bring to school or was a service gift, they can bring a photograph or illustration of it, or simply tell a story about it.

BestVennSmall

Have each child draw a triple Venn diagram with three large overlapping circles, on their own piece of paper or on the board. Label one circle Environment, one Social Equity, and one Economy.

Next, as students start trying to picture where their gift came from, and where it will end up, have them write the answers to questions that arise in the appropriate circles or intersections. For example,

  • What natural resources were used to produce this gift?
  • Are they renewable or recyclable?
  • How far did this gift travel? Was it locally made?
  • What is its “carbon footprint”?
  • Who made this gift? Who transported it? Who sold it?
  • Were they paid a fair living wage?
  • How much did this gift cost?
  • Was that a fair price for the buyer (or Santa)? What is its cost-per-use?
  • What will happen to this gift when it’s no longer needed/wanted?
  • Is there a price to pay for getting rid of it? If so, who will pay that price?
  • How much did this gift truly cost?

(Encourage students to watch Ed Burtynsky’s Manufactured Landscapes if they don’t know the answers to these last questions.)

Answers that require research could turn this into a longer-term project.

A similar activity is written up in the Grade 5-8 Education for Sustainability Concepts section of National Sustainability Education Standards – Version 2, from the US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, under 3.2 Collective Action: “Designing a Sustainable System – Using a Venn diagram, students log environmental, social, and economic impacts of a service or system that they use (e.g., transportation of food product). Then students brainstorm a more effective “cradle to cradle” life cycle for the system or product that is effective in terms of reusing or recycling technical nutrients and returning biological nutrients to nature.”

Discuss Gifting Alternatives

Take the time to discuss questions, feelings, needs and concerns that arise. For example, this might be the first time some students have discovered their “social conscience” — and it can be disconcerting, especially if these glimmers of the Golden Rule at the global level contrast with their families’ values and holiday traditions.

Discuss ideas the children have for making their celebrations and gift-giving kinder to the planet, and to others around the world and in the future.

  • Service coupons
  • Charitable donations in the recipient’s name
  • Homemade gifts
  • Fair trade gifts
  • Handmade reuseable wrapping “paper” or gift bags
  • Plants or homecooked foods

Share your students’ ideas in a school e-newsletter.

I wish you, your students and your family a simple holiday season filled with love, peace, fun and kindness — for all.

 

 

Goldstream Gem

Goldstream Provincial Park on Vancouver Island is nestled at the end of the narrow inlet of Finlayson Arm, encompassing a beautiful estuary that connects the mouth of the river from it’s journey through thick moss, dripping ferns, giant black cottonwoods, and old growth cedar trees.  The river hosts the spawning grounds for thousands of chum, coho, and chinook salmon each year, which also attracts bald eagles and supports a complex and diverse web of wild life that extends deep into the forest itself.  Three to four years previously, these same salmon were born here before traveling to the sea to grow and mature. Their return to spawn and die in their ancestral spawning beds is fascinating and the Freeman King Visitor Centre features special programs to help visitors appreciate this miraculous event.  The 388 hectare park also includes hiking trails that explore the valley floor to the ridges of Mt. Finlayson, with waterfalls along the way, an abandoned gold mine from the gold rush of the mid 19th century, and incredible views.

I have been visiting Goldstream and it’s rushing, cool waters ever since I was a child.  It was a common place for our family to stop, as it is only 17 km from Victoria and lies directly alongside the highway that takes traffic further north up Vancouver Island. Picnicking amoung the vibrant orange of the fall maple leaves mixed with the bright green of the carpeting moss lumbering over the solidity of the ancient cedar trees, or in the cool shade on a summers day, is a familiar memory.  Goldstream has become an annual visit now for our Spring Leaves home schooling group.  Each year we have visited at different times to take in the various appearances of the flora and fauna that cycle in seasonal changes, accentuated by the returning of the salmon.  The programs and park interpreters that have guided our own diverse group of children and adults have been enthusiastic, fun, informative, engaging, and respectful.  We have learned about the salmon’s cycle of life and how they have influenced the culture of the First People’s of this coastline, and watched their red bodies make the journey against the flow of the river, knowing that they will die and then become nourishment for a cascade of life.  This year we signed up for an afternoon of learning about the owls that live their lives within the park and in the southern BC areas.  We learned of the amazing adaptions that owls have developed to make their way through the night, like the silencing effect of their ruffled feather edges and lopsided ears so as to hear sounds from above and below. We also learned how to properly hoot like our local owls, and we meandered along the river looking for potential tree cavities that owls might nest in.  We also noticed all sorts of other things as we looked and observed, like woodpeckers and mushrooms and the beginnings of spring at the tips of the bare brambles.  We had a blue sky that sparkled with sun and rain together, glittering the moss in the branches of the old trees and sending us a rainbow or two.

What we also noticed was flagged markers sticking out of the river bed at intervals.  These turned out to be places for biologists to test for the residue of an oil spill that put 42,000 litres of gasoline into the river last April, 2011.  The spill happened when a Columbia Fuels truck smashed into a rock face beside the highway and rolled, damaging the tanks it was pulling and sending it’s cargo into the nearby park.  Gasoline is more toxic to wildlife than other types of oil- the only positive is that being lighter, it evaporates quickly and breaks up. Crude oil is more persistent and difficult to cleanse from the environment.  However, gasoline travels and kills quickly in water, and most of the newly emerging fry from last winter’s spawn were suffocated instantly.  Just hours before the crash, Goldstream hatchery volunteers and Tsawout First Nations members had released 8,000 coho salmon into the river. Earlier last week the hatchery had released an additional 20,000 salmon.  Thankfully, the numbers of salmon returning six months later to their ancestral homes was encouraging.  The negative effects of this contamination may be more significant in four years from now, when the 2011 hatchlings would have been returning. Of course, contamination beyond the immediate visuals available to us humans is difficult to determine, and expands into those smaller, and often highly dependent upon, micro-organisms.  I am grateful to all those who have been working to help clean, restore, and maintain this beautiful and integral habitat of Vancouver Island rain forest.  I encourage everyone to take the time to drink in the sanctuary of Goldstream, nestled amidst the growing developments of houses and highways.

The Nature House receives NO government funding!!! We Need Your Help!

     RLC Park Services, your Park Facility Operator, believes in the importance of environmental education.

 The Nature House needs park naturalists available to offer nature Programming and operate the Nature House.

Fundraising efforts and partnerships have helped us to this point. BUT…

  • No government support means we need the public to help us in the future.
  • Help us to continue offering low cost programming for school children, and free summer programs for everyone.
  • We thank each and every visitor who considers making a donation or purchases an item from our bookstore. Each one of you is helping to make a future for the Goldstream Nature House.

Home schooling…. continued

So here we are, settling into our fifth year of homeschooling with our two children, now ages six and nine.  It is a revealing process to take a look back at the different levels and styles that we have tested, tried on, tossed out, waded through, or dived into.  It is clear that at different times and phases, different routines have worked better than others, but just like a shirt that becomes too limiting, these routines get tossed aside in favor of new colours and patterns.  The challenge for me lies in remaining unattached to the way I think learning suits my children, and allow for the readjusting of their own learning methods.  The fluctuations of these methods expands our ability to be adaptable and able to ingest information through our many senses and neurological pathways, many of which are still being developed in young brains.  Of course, there are foundational learning aptitudes that reside and dominate in every person, from active and reflective, sensing and intuitive, visual and verbal, and sequential and global  (from Felder and Soloman’s Learning Styles and Strategies ).  Knowing these natural learning styles in yourself and in your children is very helpful when considering the type of structure and routine that you may offer to your homeschooled children.  However, being open to the broadening scope and explorations of newly emerging learning styles throughout the growth of your children is imperative to their own understanding of themselves.  For instance, Taeven was a workbook enthusiast in the last few years, being happily fulfilled by completing a set number of pages many times a week.  In the last 6 months however, she has decided that she retains nothing from workbooks, and while I am sure that what she retains is not necessarily the information but the practice of absorbing directions and working out the answers through a certain style of thinking and deducing, she wants to move on to experiencial and sense activating styles.  So while workbooks make my life easy, I will be putting more energy into offering her activities that are hands-on and appeal to her physical realm of absorption.  Creating a learning environment that incorporates a wide range of learning styles helps the development of all these parts of our brains as we grow, and effectively opens the doors to the endless possibilities of understanding our world around us on many levels, including an increase of our own connection to the world.  This can be difficult in a class setting with one teacher versus many students, and can be overwhelming as one mother at home with domestic chores, house building projects, meals to make, food to grow, and kids to attend to.  The bonus for parents is that most of the time, these natural aptitudes are intuitive to us- we know our children and often don’t need to intellectualize their abilities.  We understand how they work (most of the time) and take care to figure out what works best for everyone, whether it is jump rope counting, fort building, workbooks, dance, knitting, creative flurries of paper and scissors, or roman aquaduct studies through a correspondance program.  Being able to acknowledge what we know intuitively can help us navigate through times of fluctuations and change – recognizing our children’s need to learn things in a new way, or recognizing that they are becoming dependent on learning in only one way, can help us switch gears and look for new opportunities.  Being aware of the various ways in which learning is absorbed can also provide ideas about new activities.  For example, we seem to focus a lot on music- by placing the subject of music, into the outlines of Felder and Soloman’s Learning Styles and Strategies , it broadens my awareness of the many ways in which music is presented and absorbed for both Taeven and Cedar, and to notice the different ways in which each of them most easily pick up certain concepts at different ages.  Taeven and Cedar absorb a lot about music just by listening, but we also take violin lessons which are taught by ear and by written notation, in private lesson environments as well as in groups,  exploring melodies, harmonies and rhythms, improvisations and scales.  We explore music from around the world, write our own songs, struggle with the idea of practicing, and learn that making mistakes is all a part of learning too.  Each of them connects with music more readily through certain ways, but by offering the full spectrum when we can, we seek to engage the many amazing ways in which we understand and integrate our intricate and beautiful world.

 

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