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Debrief - PA FOREST DAY in the LANARK HIGHLANDS, November 29th, 2019

Greet a Tree activity

We began the day with a fireside gratitude circle and ignited curiosity with authentic questions about the wintering birds. Where do the wintering birds find their food? What do they eat? Little people's eyes scoured the landscape and offered guesses of sunflowers still standing, thistles and common mullein (Verbascum thapsus...aka; hags taper or witches staff). The weeds, assist the winter habitat as host for insects to provide protein and/or seeds for finches, chickadees and downy woodpeckers. Mullein stands tall and towers up to 8 feet with soft fuzzy lamb-like ears at its base...a noble plant as we look up to this guardian of the earth.

The morning wander in the cedar grove led us down animal trails, where we spotted burrowed homes with doorways to the underground bound by a feathery white hoary-frosted mycelial network. Children spotted tunnels leading to sights unknown to anyone but the ground squirrels and other forest dwelling friends.

After much discovery and freedom to wander - we reached the destination for our silent group-sit-spot activity on look-out rock. With this mid-hike silent observation activity on look-out rock, eight children (4-7 year olds) kicked back and gazed up into the canopy waiting in silence for anticipated bird sightings and/or alarm calls.

An honor it is to experience the silence in the cedars with 8 children at my side.

Upon our return we checked in with the cardinal directions with lost-proofing questions about the landmarks found along the trail. We continued our walk down history lane on an overgrown logging road where we investigated a kiln and campsite that was left for ruin on this century old Lanark Highland homestead (1860). .

Investigating animal food stores and asking questions about what species cache what and where while exploring and identifying club moss, fern moss, creeping jenny, oregano, lichen, puff balls, squirrels' tree nests/ dens/ dreys and their harvesting hoarding habits. We collected tinder (witches broom, birch bark) as we ventured back to home base to rejuvenate with a roasted apple or two ...and low and behold a bald eagle hovered above to grace us with its presence.

A musical interlude and lunch break aside the wood stove and then back outdoors for some fort building in a south facing lean-tu formation. The children engaged together in community harvesting cattail stalks for cover and old cedar trees for support, while i stood by observing and keeping my hands busy weaving red dogwood wreathes. The children created and carried home a pine cone bird feeder to hang outside their window to encourage visits from our feathered friends this winter.

We closed the day with a blindfold sensory awareness and team trust building activity - 'Greet a Tree'. The blind folded children were guided by their un-blindfolded friend to greet a tree with all senses but sight to direct them. Once the blindfolded children were ready, their partner directed them back to the starting place, twirled around in a circle and then blindfolds would be taken off and children were then asked to go find their tree...the majority of children found their tree...some remembered the branch above their head to swing from or a stick that they tripped upon, smoothness of bark, which way was the wind coming from, some hugged the tree to test the diameter of the trunk, some felt the slope of the terrain beneath their feet or discovered a fork in their tree's trunk...the senses came alive while building a cooperative trust between the blind and their guide.

Our core routine of passing the talking piece for a closing gratitude circle brought the day to completion as all had the opportunity to share our 'personal best' stories and appreciation for sharing the day with the land together.

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