Wild Child School 2 Week 1: Let's go to Mexico!
The initial week at this second school was a little bittersweet for me. The staff and students are a fantastic group to work with and the forested areas near the school represent a variety of habitats that we are going to have fun exploring. We matched all sorts of colours, found more salamanders, saw leaves chewed by caterpillars, and we all Hugged a Tree. Despite the great week, I was a little sad because I watched the fifth and final butterfly that I had raised from a caterpillar, take to the sky and begin its long and perilous journey to Mexico.
A super easy activity that we did this week, was the "Hug a Tree" Activity and it can be done with a large or small group and it meets specific outcomes for the early elementary grades involving the senses, but also it is an excellent exercise in communication and that meets an Essential Graduated Learning in communication that threads through all grade and subject levels. All you need are enough blindfolds for half of the group and a wooded area.
How you set it up is up to you and the objectives that you want to achieve. I set it up as meeting a special friend, a friend that isn't human, but it is just as alive as you or me.
In partners, one child is blindfolded and the other carefully leads the other to a special tree that they have chosen for them. The guide must gently lead their partner and be sure to tell the blindfolded partner that they have to step up, duck down, that they are approaching the tree, etc. Once at the tree the blindfolded partner must use their sense of touch to feel the tree. Feeling for how round, how large, how bumpy, if there are any branches, as high up as they can, and down low on the ground. Once the blindfolded partner believes that they know the tree, the guide carefully leads the blindfolded partner away and then removes the blindfold. The challenge is to find the tree that the blindfolded partner felt now using their sense of sight. The roles are then reversed, so that everyone has the chance to meet a special friend.
At the tail end of this summer, I was very fortunate to be able to attend a monarch butterfly workshop with the Monarch Teacher Network, a growing group of educators in North America who use Monarch Butterflies to teach a range of meaningful and important concepts. The workshop was absolutely fantastic: fun, hands on, and inspiring on so many levels. There is a sort of magical energy that happens when a group of people get together and share their enthusiasm for education, passion for protecting life in all of its forms, and commit to work in our individual spheres to make the world a little bit better.
So at the end of the two day workshop, I found myself (along with other workshop attendees) on the side of a busy highway in a milkweed patch looking eagerly for monarch caterpillars to raise. I found 5 of them, ranging in size from a teensy second instar to a fat fifth instar. I brought them home, fed them all fresh milkweed, took hundreds of photos and videos, and watched in absolute awe as they pupated before my own eyes into jade green chrysalis and one by one emerge as glorious monarch butterflies.
On September 16th, the first of the Wild Children sent Harold on his way to Mexico and on September 23rd, the second crew of Wild Children bid farewell to Michael, the last of my small brood. Michael almost immediately took to the sky and headed north! The children called to him and I shouted to him that he was going the wrong way. To our astonishment, Michael immediately turned around and headed south-ish to a small patch of woods. We discussed the challenges that our Monarchs will face, but also the hope in that millions(or billiions?) of Monarch Butterflies do manage to make their way to Mexico!