Categories
Children and Nature

In Appreciation of Forests

This past weekend I took some time to browse through past blog entries.  I noticed certain seasonal rituals and appreciations repeat themselves year after year.  Every fall, right about now, I renew my love of the forest and trees.

IMG_0070_1

As an adult on an elementary school calendar, September is always a month full of new beginnings, logistics to sort out, and rhythms to establish.  This is often hard work!  By October, my students have settled in and are ready for exploration further from home base, bigger projects, and the chance to enjoy the last sunny warm afternoons before winter sets in.  The forest is a perfect place for all of this.  For me, spending time in the forest is calming and rejuvenating – it reminds me of things to be grateful for, puts recent stressors in context, and stimulates my senses.

Here are some past forest-themed blog posts for you to browse.  Enjoy!

Making a discoveryChildren and Nature: The Forest ~ Why spending time outside, especially in forests, is crucial for children… “Upon entering the woods, the temperature drops noticeably.  The sounds change – whispering leaves and the occasional bird chirp blocks any outside noises from coming in.  Our foot steps are quiet on the soft needle-carpeted forest floor.  The smell of moist leaves, moss, and bark filters into our noses…”  (read more)

Mossy RoofForts and Fairy Houses ~ Discoveries and lessons learned from forest play… “We’ve discovered things that would never be possible (or allowed) in a classroom.  Different thicknesses of sticks make different sounds when banged against the trunk of a mature tree.  Pine needles make for a soft landing after tripping over a raised root.  TONS of different mushrooms and fungi grow on the forest floor after a few days of rain, and most of them are really slimy.  Pine sap is the perfect glue, but it’s better to keep it off our clothes…” (read more)

Foliage Games and Activities ~ Fun ideas for educators looking for active hands-on ways to teach students about leaves, trees, foliage, and the changing of seasons.  (read more)

Fairy-House6Zooming In: Fairy and Snail Houses ~ Fun photos and observations after several fairy and snail house building sessions with children… “Outdoor educators take note!  Fairy, gnome, and snail house building ties right into lessons on observation, habitat, ecosystems,  community, and respect for nature.  Building miniature things will lead students to observe the intricate details of pinecones, the barbs of burdocks, the veining of leaves, and much much more…” (read more) 

Welcome to the Woodlands Clubhouse ~ How the creation of a fort in the woods engaged a challenging mixed-age group of students for months after school.  (read more)

Stumps make steps and chairs for our fort

A Woodlands Playground ~ Great photos and ideas for adding natural forest elements to play spaces for children of all ages. (read more)

Ticks and Poison Ivy Season ~ Adults are increasingly fearful of the dangers of being in nature… “There are many possible dangers associated with all the activities we do every day, including playing and working outside.  I strongly believe, however, that the benefits of time spent outside far outweigh the risks…” (read more)

(reposted from October 2014)
Categories
Children and Nature School Gardens

Green Thumbs Camp: August 2015

When it comes to summer camp, pictures speak better than words.  The photos below illustrate our wonderful week in the Charlotte Central School gardens and an amazing field trip to Philo Ridge Farm right across the street from the school.  Thank you to my teaching partner Stacy Carter and our assistant Carter, Deirdre Holmes and Abby Foulk for their work in the CCS gardens and compost shed, Charlotte Recreation for administering the camp, Vera Simon-Nobes for welcoming us to Philo Ridge Farm, and all our awesome campers!

Making quick work of a big weeding chore (it helped that we had a "longest root" contest)
Making quick work of a big weeding chore (it helped that we had a “longest root” contest)
Collecting seeds for our Seed Savers envelopes
Collecting seeds for our Seed Savers envelopes
Garden journaling and herb pot painting
Garden journaling and herb pot painting
Our Rainbow Salad Bar - all grown in the school garden!!
Our Rainbow Salad Bar – all grown in the school garden!!
Digging for potatoes - our garden's buried treasure
Digging for potatoes – our garden’s buried treasure
Garden-grown, camper-harvested roasted root veggies: striped beets, rainbow carrots, and purple & white potatoes!
Garden-grown, camper-harvested roasted root veggies: striped beets, rainbow carrots, and purple & white potatoes!
A walking field trip.  Look: our school is right across the road from Philo Ridge Farm!
A walking field trip. Look: our school is right across the road from Philo Ridge Farm!
Observing Philo Ridge Farm Sheep
Observing Philo Ridge Farm Sheep
Meeting Stewart Little (the sheep)
Meeting Stewart Little (the sheep)
Collecting Philo Ridge Farm duck eggs
Collecting Philo Ridge Farm duck eggs
When at garden camp, never forget to water the campers
When at garden camp, never forget to keep the campers well watered
Journaling in the garden
Journaling in the garden
Categories
Children and Nature School Gardens

Green Thumbs Camp, June 2015

What a week!  Our small but sweet group did a lot of garden work, found plenty of time to play, and made detailed garden journal entires, seed bombs, beautiful painted pots, and delicious snacks along the way.  Check out some images from the week:

Many hands make light work when it comes to moving a big pile of compost.
Many hands make light work when it comes to moving a big pile of compost.
A lovely visit to Philo Ridge Farm.  How lucky to have our school so close to a farm (see it across the road?).
A lovely visit to Philo Ridge Farm. How lucky to have our school so close to a farm (see the school across the road?).
After calculating how much pig food we needed and weighing it out using a scale, we're off to feed the pigs!
After calculating how much pig food we needed and weighing it out using a scale, we’re off to feed the pigs!
Examining pig slop.
Examining pig slop.
It's good to water plants, but it's especially fun to water campers.
It’s good to water plants, but it’s especially fun to water campers.
"Green!"
“Green!”
"Thumbs!"
“Thumbs!”

Want to learn more about gardening with children?  Check out these Tips for Gardening with Kids and this post about the importance of spending time outside.

Categories
Children and Nature

No Child Left Inside

The following article was published in the most recent edition of the Charlotte News:

NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE

By: Tai Dinnan Contributor

April 09, 2015

IMG_2515 copyNature Deficit Disorder. Leave No Child Inside. De-natured Childhood. Free Range Kids. What is your reaction to these phrases and slogans?

Experts agree: children (and adults) are spending less time outside. Screen time is on the rise, after-school and weekend time is increasingly structured, and many families lack access to outdoor spaces that feel safe and fun. For me, and the children’s programs I run, the phrases above provide a framework to justify a focus on outdoor play. These new terms, and their emphasis on the importance of getting children out into nature, are backed up with rigorous research. It turns out children need to play, adventure, relax, work and learn in natural spaces to develop into healthy, whole adults.

IMG_9870Though physical health is one of the most obvious benefits of playing outdoors, the more subtle benefits add up into a very long list: improved cognitive functioning and development, increased self esteem, more motivation, improved problem solving, encouragement of inventiveness and creativity, cooperation, increased attention spans, and psychological well-being.

Luckily, Charlotters have access to remarkable outdoor spaces. Most have large yards where children can play safely within shouting range of the house. A garden, wetland, stream, field and forest border our school. Mt. Philo State Park offers family-friendly hiking and picnicking opportunities. The shores of Lake Champlain offer endless treasure hunting, exploring and swimming opportunities. And don’t forget public and backyard gardens and farms to tend and visit!

IMG_2914Gardens, in fact, provide children with a surprising multitude of opportunities to work, learn and play in nature. School gardens draw classrooms outside for hands-on learning and community service. Vegetable gardens at home give families an opportunity to work together to grow and share nourishing food. Gardens are beautiful, lush miniature ecosystems. They can be just the right scale for children to discover the magic of life cycles, ecosystems, patterns, colors, teamwork, artistry, engineering challenges, flavors and smells. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The school gardens at Charlotte Central School have been expanding. Nestled between the Pease Mountain trailhead and the lower parking lot, the CCS Kitchen Garden is home to raised beds, a perennial herb garden, pumpkin and potato patches, the school’s compost shed and an outdoor classroom. It is a truly lush, colorful, buzzing and delicious place to be—especially in the summer.

IMG_2499When planning summer vacation, families should remember to include plenty of free time outside. For parents who work, make sure to select summer programs that encourage free play, outdoor expeditions, opportunities to garden and plenty of running around. Consider where you get your food: visiting a local farm or signing up for a CSA can be a great way to get outside as a family and connect with the source of your food. The best part of committing to increased time outside for your children? You can join them and enjoy the benefits to your physical and emotional health as well!

Tai Dinnan lives in Charlotte and is the director of the Extended Day Programming and the Turtle Lane Art and Nature Camp at Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne. She also works with Stacy Carter to run the Charlotte Green Thumbs Summer Camp—a daytime gardening camp for kids in late-June and early-August. For more information about the camp, email CCSGreenThumbs@gmail.com. Tai blogs at growingstories.wordpress.com

Learn more about each of the camps I’m running this summer:

CCS-Garden-Camp-Poster-long-2015

TLCamp_Poster

Categories
Personal Sustainability: How-To Uncategorized

Happy Easter! Springtime Felting

felted-chick-in-eggDespite the fresh snow on the ground, it really is starting to feel like spring around here.  Sap has been flowing steadily, the river ice has melted, and migrating birds have begun to return to Vermont.  We’ve been busy felting after school for the past several weeks.  First we felted colorful eggs.  Then we felted little chicks to go inside them!  Wet felting is a great activity for students of all ages – even the youngest children in our group can felt their own balls.  If you’re interested in felting your own spring chick and egg, click the links below.  Then check out our process and results.  Happy spring!

Felting Tutorials:
-Wet Felting Easter Eggs: One technique here and another good one in video form
-Blanket Stitch: Here’s an easy to understand video
-Wet Felting Balls With Kids: I detailed our process in my post about felting acorns.
-Wet Felting Chicks: One technique (scroll to the bottom).  I ended up just sewing two wet-felted balls together, and needle felting on the beak and eyes.

Our students wet-felted their own eggs and balls, which we then transformed into cute little chicks
Our students wet-felted their own eggs and balls, which we then transformed into cute little chicks.  Egg cartons are a great way to keep felted balls organized and keep track of whose is whose.
blanket-stitch
We wet felted around plastic eggs, slit them open, and used a blanket stitch to firm up the “cracked” edge.
We used a needle and thread to sew the two balls together to form our chick's head and body.
We used a needle and thread to sew the two balls together to form our chick’s head and body.
I needle felted on the beak and eyes, but these could be sewn on as well. I also needle felted on some additional yellow wool roving to make wings, but we didn't have time to do this with the students.
I needle felted on the beak and eyes, but these could be sewn on as well. I also needle felted on some additional yellow wool roving to make wings, but we didn’t have time to do this with the students.
Chick and Egg Assembly Line
Chick and Egg Assembly Line
A felted chick in its egg!
A felted chick in its egg!

 

Categories
Children and Nature Personal Sustainability: How-To

Felted Acorns

felted-acorns-2The branches of the mighty oak still held onto their golden leaves – some of the only color left in the forest on the cold grey November afternoon.  Our mittened hands brushed away leaves coating the forest floor.  And then there were squeals.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a successful treasure hunt.  We filled our pockets with our favorite acorn caps.  Mission accomplished. Back inside, the water had come to a boil.  We picked out pieces of wool roving, sat down, and started felting.  The warm soapy water warmed our hands.  Conversation meandered as our balls of wool felted more and more tightly into little balls. After a night of drying, felted balls were glued into acorn caps, and our special treasures were ready to go home.  What a great fall project for our group – boys and girls from 4 to 10 years old (and the adults) all enjoyed this activity.  And the acorns turned out great! Childrens-acorns What you need: – Wool (you can buy wool roving at a craft store, or you can ask anyone with a sheep for some raw to wash, card, and use)
– Boiling water
– Bowl
– Dish Soap
– Fork
– Acorn Caps
– Glue

1) Roll a small fluff of wool roving into a ball.  It should be about three times larger than the acorn you’d like to make.

2) Pour boiling water into a bowl.  Drop your ball into the hot water.  Use your fork to push it under, and then lift it up, draining away the hot water (this first step is best done by adult when working with young children).

Felting-balls3) Drip a drop of soap onto your wool, and roll it gently between your palms.  It won’t seem like a ball right away – keep on gently rolling.  Roll it until it cools down, and then drop back into your hot water.

4) Repeat the process, using the fork to take the hot ball out of the water, rolling between your palms and rubbing with fingers, and adding more soap if the suds go away.  The hot and cold temperatures and the friction of your hands will tighten the wool into a felted ball.

5) If your ball has unwanted cracks, add a thin layer of roving around the ball and repeat the felting process.

6) Wash in cold water, squeeze in a towel, and let dry.

7) Drip glue into the inside of your acorn cap and insert your felted ball.  Voila – your acorn is complete!

If you're felting with a group of children, I'd highly recommend our egg-carton organizer idea!
If you’re felting with a group of children, I’d highly recommend our egg-carton organizer idea!

felted-acorns-1

Categories
Children and Nature

Fall in the Forest

This past weekend I took some time to browse through past blog entries.  I noticed certain seasonal rituals and appreciations repeat themselves year after year.  Every fall, right about now, I renew my love of the forest and trees.

IMG_0070_1

As an adult on an elementary school calendar, September is always a month full of new beginnings, logistics to sort out, and rhythms to establish.  This is often hard work!  By October, my students have settled in and are ready for exploration further from home base, bigger projects, and the chance to enjoy the last sunny warm afternoons before winter sets in.  The forest is a perfect place for all of this.  For me, spending time in the forest is calming and rejuvenating – it reminds me of things to be grateful for, puts recent stressors in context, and stimulates my senses.

Here are some past forest-themed blog posts for you to browse.  Enjoy!

Making a discoveryChildren and Nature: The Forest ~ Why spending time outside, especially in forests, is crucial for children… “Upon entering the woods, the temperature drops noticeably.  The sounds change – whispering leaves and the occasional bird chirp blocks any outside noises from coming in.  Our foot steps are quiet on the soft needle-carpeted forest floor.  The smell of moist leaves, moss, and bark filters into our noses…”  (read more)

Mossy RoofForts and Fairy Houses ~ Discoveries and lessons learned from forest play… “We’ve discovered things that would never be possible (or allowed) in a classroom.  Different thicknesses of sticks make different sounds when banged against the trunk of a mature tree.  Pine needles make for a soft landing after tripping over a raised root.  TONS of different mushrooms and fungi grow on the forest floor after a few days of rain, and most of them are really slimy.  Pine sap is the perfect glue, but it’s better to keep it off our clothes…” (read more)

Foliage Games and Activities ~ Fun ideas for educators looking for active hands-on ways to teach students about leaves, trees, foliage, and the changing of seasons.  (read more)

Fairy-House6Zooming In: Fairy and Snail Houses ~ Fun photos and observations after several fairy and snail house building sessions with children… “Outdoor educators take note!  Fairy, gnome, and snail house building ties right into lessons on observation, habitat, ecosystems,  community, and respect for nature.  Building miniature things will lead students to observe the intricate details of pinecones, the barbs of burdocks, the veining of leaves, and much much more…” (read more) 

Welcome to the Woodlands Clubhouse ~ How the creation of a fort in the woods engaged a challenging mixed-age group of students for months after school.  (read more)

Stumps make steps and chairs for our fort

A Woodlands Playground ~ Great photos and ideas for adding natural forest elements to play spaces for children of all ages. (read more)

Ticks and Poison Ivy Season ~ Adults are increasingly fearful of the dangers of being in nature… “There are many possible dangers associated with all the activities we do every day, including playing and working outside.  I strongly believe, however, that the benefits of time spent outside far outweigh the risks…” (read more)

Categories
Children and Nature Recipes

Fun in the Sun

When I was in seventh grade, we were given the choice to  study anything we wanted.  Most classmates picked their favorite athlete, hobby, or food.  I picked Time.  Whew, that was a challenge to put into a paper and presentation!

This week at camp, we’re making sure to have fun in the sun.  When working with children, I still think it is fascinating to notice how the rotation of our earth and the sun are linked to the rhythms of seasons and time.    There are great legends from many cultures that can be read to explain the sun’s journey across the sky, the change in seasons, and the passage of time.  This week my campers created a human sun dial and shadow circus (photos and explanations below).  More important than understanding the physics and astronomy, I think these activities help us observe our surroundings and consider the other living things in our ecosystem in a new and interesting way.

human-sun-dial

sun-dialHuman Sun Dial: Stand on black top in the morning and trace your feet.  Every hour, draw a line under the shadow that your body is making.  The next day, stand in your foot prints, look at your shadow, and find out what time it is!  How does your shadow change over the course of the day?

chalk-drawingsShadow Circus: Have a friend trace your shadow.  Add silly clothes, awesome hair-dos, fun pets, and more!  Notice how your shadow is a giant in the morning and in the evening and a midget in the middle of the day.  What does this tell you about the path of the sun?

 

sunny-cucumbersEarly July Recipes: Meanwhile, the garden is loving the sun!  Our weather has been great for growing this year.  Check out these links to past posts for in-season recipe ideas:

Categories
Children and Nature

Cloud Spotting with Kids

No matter where you live, you can count on clouds overhead when playing outside.  Clouds can inspire beautiful art, spark the imagination, help predict the weather, and more!  Toady at summer camp, I told the following stories as we lay on our backs, staring up at the sky.   Afterward, we shared the shapes we saw: a house, a duck, a butterfly, and a guy with fire streaming up from his head.  What a fun combination of science and sillies!

clouds2

 The Cloud Family:

Poor Uncle STRATUS is always gloomy and lays down his dark cloak over the land.  With him comes rain and drizzle.

Aunt CUMULUS dresses up in puffy billowy cotton-ball dresses and loves to come out in fine weather to sunbathe in the blue sky.

The CIRRUS cousins look thin and wispy – they all come out to play before bad weather.  They run so fast across the sky that all you can see are the white streaks they leave behind.

clouds1

Which cloud would you want to play with?  If you were in the cloud family, who would you be?

clouds3

Categories
Children and Nature Get Involved! School Gardens

Green Thumbs Summer Camp

green-thumbs-logo

Families near Charlotte, VT: Check out the camp I’ll be running this summer in Charlotte School Gardens.  Slots still remain – sign up or help spread the word now!

5-year-olders through 5th graders: Your thumbs will turn green after a week in Charlotte’s school gardens this summer! Play and work with friends to deepen knowledge and boost excitement about vegetables, fruits, seeds, pollination, decomposition, and garden ecosystems. Become an animal lover during our walking field trip to visit sheep at nearby Fifth Fence Farm. Each afternoon, transform into a chef to prepare a daily snack using ingredients just harvested from the garden.   Don’t forget to save some energy for playing on the playground, creating garden-themed art, exploring around the base of Pease Mountain, and making discoveries in and out of the gardens!

Camp Directors Tai Dinnan and Stacy Carter have extensive experience gardening with children and can’t wait to get their hands dirty at CCS.

More information & Registration Form at www.charlottevt.org (click on “Recreation” in the menu on the left), or email ccsgreenthumbs@gmail.com

CCS-Garden-Camp-Poster-long