Monday, October 31, 2011

practice moving with stealth

With dry crackling leaves underfoot, and muddy spots perfect for tracking, this week get out, practice moving quietly through the landscape, and tune your senses to the animal world.

Below are just two easy & fun ways to practice "fox-walking" and moving quietly and invisibly.

Go outside with someone - start with one person turning their back, while the other attempts to "stalk" up on them and tap them on the shoulder. The "prey" person can raise their hand if they hear the "predator" stalking up on them.

Next, have one person try closing their eyes or lowering their head to "browse", then suddenly open their eyes (or pick up their head) and see if they notice the "predator" moving toward them. Truly stealthy predators move so softly, and are so aware of their prey, that if the deer picks its head up, it won't even see the hunter moving.

Friday, October 28, 2011

News from the Field & Forest


Heading out with the Dryden after-school program this week, we knew it would be a great day for a fire challenge! With the increased need for heat, the kids started cranking out coals with the friction kits. Soon we had a beautiful fire blazing, and we started coal-burning spoons, bowls, and cups.

At the Belle Sherman Urban Forest Adventures program, the group had an epic hike down to Six-Mile creek. There they nibbled black birch twigs (they taste like wintergreen!), made some rock-paint for face painting, explored fossils in the rocks, looked at different types of wood & leaf shapes, and snacked on Cornellian cherries.

At Youth Nature Awareness Program, our Thursday homeschool program, the Hickory Clan (mostly 6- and 7-year-old's) made a fire in a cold snowy-rain. They had to burn through a string to drop a surprise suspended in the trees! Once the string burned and the bag dropped, they found all the ingredients to make ash-cakes over the coals of their fire, complete with wild autumn olives to sweeten the dough.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Something fun to do this week

With camouflage and costumes on the mind this week, create your own wild face-paint!

We love making face-paint using charcoal, rocks, old brick or pottery fragments we find in the creek, and clay. Choose a “palette” stone, then grind and rub rocks on the stone. You may be amazed by the colors you’ll find hidden in different sedimentary rocks. Paint faces, arms, other rocks, or paper.

Be creative – what animal do you want to be? Afterward, practice your animal forms - fox-walk to a hiding spot, and use your deer-ears to find who's hiding from you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

News from the Field & Forest

This week up at the Environmental Sentinels class at Ithaca College, Tim and Jed taught the students how to use igneous rocks for rock-boiling. In the photo above, they're cooking in a pumpkin!

The students are also carving their own bowdrill kits, as they learn about making friction fires.

Environmental Sentinels, now in its fourth year, was started by Tim Drake, Jed Jordan, and Jason Hamilton. It is a required course for Environmental Studies majors at Ithaca College.

Tim and Jed refer to it as "Primitive Pursuits for college students."
From 3-year-olds to college students and beyond - it's always a good time to put in some "dirt time."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Oh, for a place to sit...

What is a sit-spot?

The sit-spot is an important naturalist routine that we try to layer in to as many of our programs as possible. As instructors, we try to practice it in our own lives. It provides an opportunity to be still and present in a spot in nature, to observe how it changes over time, and a chance to interact with the natural world in a very different way.

Usually, we talk about sitting long enough to reach “baseline,” which is the time when the forest tends to return to the state that it was in before you arrived and set off all those robin and chipmunk alarms. However, when introducing a sit-spot to a youth participant, we want to set the stage for a successful and fun experience.

One way to ease into a sit-spot for younger children is to use the time as a game. Start with them pretending to be a baby fawn that needs to hide quietly while the “coyote” sneaks by. If you, the adult, are the coyote, after you hear them settle into their hiding spot, let them hide for a solid 45 seconds before you prowl past. Next round, maybe you can let them hide even longer. Ask them if they saw or heard anything while they were hiding – you’ll be amazed at the bugs and treasures they find when crouched under a honeysuckle.

Invite them to make the spot special – tie a feather to a tree branch or plant. Ask them what was different about that tree today, or what direction the wind was blowing the feather? Maybe they would like to build a miniature shelter for the gnomes or mice that live around their spot.

Send them on “errands” to their spot – ask them to bring back 3 different leaves from their spot. Or leave a gift - let them hang a bird-feeder, or leave a pile of acorns or apples to see who visits their spot.

For older students, challenge them to stay longer. Maybe they can take a compass and mark the four directions with special items: rocks, feathers, or bones they’ve found. Let them take a craft that occupies their hands, such as cordage or weaving. For more advanced students, you may consider letting them tend their own fire – set a small ring of stones as a parameter for a small fire, so they need to tend it more often and carefully.

Most importantly, be excited with them. Celebrate their discoveries and ponder over their mysteries. The biggest hurdle to overcome is going regularly – encourage perseverance. Better yet – go to your own spot!

I can’t wait to hear the stories!

p.s. Hungry for more? You and your family can join us in taking the Sit-Spot challenge this month!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

News from the Field & Forest

Have you ever wondered what we're up to out there? Last week we presented programs to over 300 individuals, ranging in ages from 3 to 18. Here's a brief glimpse of some of some recent Primitive Pursuits forest-dwelling fun...

On Wednesday, Primitive Pursuits joined with Earth Arts and several other outdoor educators to present at the Lehman Alternative Community School fall retreat in the Arnot Forest. Activities included creating and using a solar compass, lost-proofing tricks, friction fire practice, and plenty more.

We have also been teaching four preschool classes each week at Bright Horizons. Last week we made wild grape juice, and this week we are working on making cattail mats with a simple loom.

With our home-learners, the Youth Nature Awareness Program at 4-H Acres, we have started two large projects - a mini long-house, and a cob oven. In the photo above you can see the first layers - stone & wood base, fire-stone, and sand form. We'll be covering the sand with clay, which will harden to be the interior wall of the oven.

During Hunter-Gatherer Days, the two school break days over Columbus Day weekend, we had about 40 students in the woods each day - we built shelters and fires, processed wild foods, made wooden spears with feather fletching, practiced stalking, and played lots of games.

What's coming next?
Stay tuned for more news from the field & forest next week!