Calendula, Calendula …!

Awhile back, after I told a story and we explored movement as if we were Calendula following the sun, the Wise Child kids and the older kids (age 6) from the Heartstone children’s program collected Calendula flowers into a pair of jars. We poured olive oil over the flowers, added a few more, and then closed up the jars. At the same time, we gathered some Calendula seed and started our own plants, something of an experiment as it is fall. Still, as we found, Calendula sprouts readily and is eager to grow, no matter what time of year if given a little warmth, water, and sun.

Calendula Oil and Planting Seeds
Calendula Seed Planting

I then went on to put the jars of calendula in oil in the windows of my passive solar bermed home. Despite the fact that it was fall in the Pacific Northwest (thus, lots of cloudy days), we got enough sun to make some fabulous infused oil. Yes, I stirred the jars most days, and wiped out the moisture from inside the lids to prevent spoilage.

Last week we made a healing salve with our Calendula oil. The kids had a great time squeezing all the oil from the cheesecloth we used to strain the oil. Then we melted the beeswax (the kids took turns stirring it) and added the oil plus some drops of lavender essential oil. All this we poured into 2 oz containers. The kids then had fun putting on labels I’d made for the underside of the container (detailing the salve ingredients) and making labels of their own.

[I intend to create a full lesson plan on Calendula at some point, including details for making the oil and salve, as well as the story I told. Please comment if I don’t get to this quickly enough!]

The kids were engrossed in this project from start to finish! And I’ve heard from parents how their child has been using their salve for various bumps and cuts. Yay–not for the bumps and bangs, but that the kids are reaching for the salve. I think making one’s own herbal medicine is very empowering for kids!

Here are a couple of photos from other Wise Child adventures:

Evening Primrose in an improvised pot

One day,the kids and I gathered a few “volunteers” (Evening Primrose and Calendula that had clearly self-sown) from the herb garden to take home. We improvised pots from Mullein leaves, with soil from the garden.

Plants in Mullein leaf pots

Finally, here is a photo of our music session in the forest, when we drummed with corn- and other stalks (found on the farm), improvising rhythms, and providing rhythm for such songs as “Land Of The Silver Birch” and “The Canoe Song” (which make for a fun medley)

Nature Drumming

So much fun!

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!

Learning From Each Other

I just returned from a family reunion in which I passed time with the kids and youth, ages 4-18. I was entranced by the four-year-old’s earnest connection with numbers, telling me all he knew about 18 and a hundred on the one hand, and exploring insects with great fascination on the other. His six-year-old brother told me about planets and told me that 9 + 9 was 14. “You know what ten plus ten, is right?” I asked him (knowing that he did). “Yes–20,” he answered, and at that point he revised his answer to 18, his little brother’s favorite number.

Two girls, ages 9 and 11, joined in on the conversation, and talk turned to infinity and googles and googleplexes. Then the teens joined in. For me, it was yet another perfect moment — the youngest child’s love of numbers launched a whole discussion among all the kids about what they loved best about numbers. They shared ideas and stretched them. I just chimed in with questions and an occasional guiding thought or challenge (“Wow, you just counted backward by two! Can you count by threes also?”). I shared my own love of numbers and patterns, but also just listened, amazed as usual about how much kids know and share when they are passionate about things. They truly became each others’ teachers, without anyone even aiming to do so.

On a walk we noted a huge Douglas fir clinging to a steep hillside, roots exposed nearly as massive as the trunk itself–the tree doing all it could to keep a stronghold on the bank and support its towering weight. Questions spilled about that tree and its neighbors, and the nature of that steep bank (was it carved out for the road or was it natural?).

Again, all of us — young and old alike — learned from our shared ideas, our shared experience, and connected with each other in the process and with (in this case) the tree and the land itself.

The Wise Child Learning Program is about sharing these kinds of experiences. I aim to nourish each child’s imaginative inquiry, his or her unique perspectives and gifts, and to share from the roots of our passions. My aim is for us to experience a learning adventure — sharing ideas with one another, learning from each other, and connecting with each other in fun and compassionate ways, as well as with the earth that is our home. We will share stories and create stories, listen to each other, and listen to the plants, animals, the land. We’ll play with words, and adventure with academics but from the perspective of nature, music, imagination, projects.

Will your child or children be joining us this year?

Wise Child Learning Program Open House

Announcing our Open House!

Experience with your child a Wise Child Learning Program adventure and our curriculum for free ~ two opportunities!

Monday, June 4 ~ 10am – Noon

Saturday, June 9 ~ 10am – Noon

Both Open Houses will take place at a family farm near the Vashon town center.

The Wise Child Learning Program is a small group offering for children ages 7-12 in association with the Heartstone Center Children’s School. Beginning Fall 2012 our program runs through the school year, Wednesdays 9:30am-1:30pm.

Find out more about our Weekly Program here.

For More Info And To Sign Up For Open House Adventure: Contact Jane