Do You Dare To Pick Nettles?

Yesterday I listened to a sample class of Jennifer Louden’s Teach Now program. One of theTakeaway ideas is to: “Grab your students attention and enroll them in the learning right away.” There’s more to the notion than I’m going to say right here, but the basic idea is to grab their imagination and ignite their need to know. Ways to do this are to offer a dare, a mystery, an experience — help them experience the “huh?” — a gap in their knowledge, and then close it with an “a ha” experience. That‘s how I might achieve that.

So, today I’m telling a story at the Vashon Wilderness Program where I teach 4-6 year olds. We’ll be harvesting Nettle, and so learning a way to do it that avoids you getting “stung” (but doesn’t guarantee it!).

A story is a great opportunity for igniting that sense of “Gee, I don’t want to get stung — but you really can touch Nettle without getting hurt?”

In my story (which is based on my own true experience), Annie visits her Aunt Elinn (they are both characters in my children’s magical fiction novel, Because Of The Red Fox). Because she likes plants, Aunt Elinn is having her help with the harvest. Today’s harvest is of Nettles for food. Annie suddenly sets a challenge for herself. Can she not only harvest Nettle with her bare hands, but touch Nettle on the undersides, and along the stalks (where all those stinging hairs are) without getting stung (she’s heard that it’s possible)? She uses lessons from being attentive to the cat in her lap, and sneaking up on Robins to discover the secret on how to do that …..

Maybe I’ll share that story with you another time how about how she ends up not only stroking the Nettles, but lying on the ground beside them — without one sting! Right now I need to head on out to the forest and see if I can ignite that need to know with my kiddos!

Why I Love The Herb Fairies Books

The Herb Fairies are a marvelous book series by Kimberly Gallagher. I was part of their 2013 book club, which involved the tales, plus wonderful resources for kids (and kids at heart) for making herbal remedies, yummy foods with herbs, and fun activities.

Recently, Herb Fairies had a video contest for 2013 members. I’m excited to say that my video won the grand prize in the Testimonial category!

Anyway, take a look at my video (it’s only 2 1/2 min. long), and maybe you’ll be inspired to check out The Herb Fairies!

Signs Of Spring ~ Lesson Plan Is Here

Hazel Catkins ~ photo by Jane Valencia

Just posted is a Lesson Plan For Early Spring, the Northeast time of year — a time associated with perception and the stirrings of new life. For inspirations regarding how you might share this magical time with children please read here.  Enjoy!

Finally ~ The First Lesson Plan Is Here!

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my lesson plans. Here is the first:

Lesson Plan No. 1 – January 2013: Trees, Trees — A Winter Wander

As I mention in the Lesson Plan, this first one reflects the musing time of year that is winter after the holidays. It’s a collection of inspirations, rather than a plot-a-course-of-action plan.

Lesson plans are posted in the second half of the month. Please feel free to comment and to ask questions. What you say will influence future blog posts and lesson plans here!

And please feel free to share your adventures with the Lesson Plan in the comments, either here or under the Lesson Plan itself.

May you have fun experiencing the magic of the trees with your children!

Entering The Garden

We’ve just completed our second week of the Wise Child Learning Program. We’re delighted and grateful to have the organic medicinal garden of Sister Sage Herbs as one area where we work, learn, and play!

I like to start sessions (when they take place in fine weather) with what I call a “greenfire”. Basically, it’s a circle created by the kids (and/or adults when present!) and myself with stones or sticks, leaves or flowers, etc. or all of the above! from the natural world. The “greenfire” serves as our imaginative and centering fire during our time in that place.

Here is our first greenfire:

Our first "greenfire"

We’ve taken time beginning to get acquainted with the herbs in the garden. I was delighted to discover one of my favorite herbs in abundance, Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.).

Evening Primrose - one of my favorite herbs!

During our first week, we compared and contrasted plant “lookalikes”. Here are Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, grown in the garden) and Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea, a common wild chamomile on the dirt roads nearby.

Chamomile (growing) and Pineapple Weed (in her hand)

We have each chosen a new plant friend to get to know deeply this year, and whose area we will give extra-special care (weeding, etc.!)

I chose this one–or perhaps I might say, it chose me! Every time I walk even a little close to it, I find my clothes and hair coated in in its “cockleburrs”, its seed-heads with their stiff hairs and hooked ends.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)- sometimes called "Cockleburr" or "Sticklewort" with good reason!

We’ve each created three-line poems inspired by our new plant friends. Look for a “Lesson Plan” in the near future about how to do this process!

We created poems about our new plant friends

An ongoing project this year is add to our “Weather Trees” — drawings we made today of a leafless tree. Each day we’ll color in a leaf to represent the weather. Today’s leaf was inspired by the morning fog that dispersed to sunshine.

Both in the garden and in other areas of the surrounding land are ripe raspberries. We can’t help but enjoy some!

Ripe Raspberries always beckon!

That’s just a snippet of our time in the garden, and of our day!