Author Archives: Jenna Rudolph

Story of the Day: Forest Tea, Friendy Ducks and… Traps!

At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from March 2018, featuring the Weekly Forest Program for kids aged 7-12.

Our day started with a wild game of foxtails in the forest before we moved on to our opening circle.  We were ready for a snack and we listened as Scott shared a story about his experience of coming to learn about indigenous cultures through his experiences of participating in Sweat Lodges.

Our groups then split off to have our own adventures:

Tom and Scott meant to lead their groups off in different directions but our groups just kept crossing paths and having too much fun to go our separate ways. Sticking together we played some favourite games (including Caribou Caribou Wolverine) before finding an awesome spot for an intense game of warrior stalk.  What a challenge! We meant to finish our last round by the scouts and the warrior kept a tie going and going until they finally snuck 4 points in the last round.

While Tom and the groups were playing another game of watchtower, Scott snuck off to work on making a bear hang / trap. This turned out to be a creative experimental exercise to figure out how to do it just right!  Everyone crowded over by the time that he had raised a log (in place of a food bag)  up the bear hang. Everyone got to talk about what might work best to complete the trap. What was settled on was a stick trigger system which, when set off, caused a rope to tie itself around the person’s ankle- thereby (theoretically) preventing the taking of precious food items. The trap worked moderately well- definitely something to keep experimenting with!  

Peter’s group had a day of epic and far-ranging adventure.
For some reason though we started our day hanging out with a couple of cute and friendly mallards. Sitting by Rice Lake, they came near us and started bobbing. We encouraged them closer by tossing hemlock cones in their path, and they decided to come up and say “Hello” to us. Cute.

We next walked straight north for almost an hour! Far up the Seymour access road. We saw snowy landscapes appear in front of us and disappear behind. We arrived in a beautiful area near a creek. We walked around and checked it out, then gathered.

Peter pulled out dried Western Red Cedar bark and started pulling tinder off the inside surface with a fork. Soon we were all doing it. We worked until we had a sizeable bundle, then sang the fire song “Fire of Creation” and lit the bundle. Awesome to know a great way to make fire from natural materials.

We had time to peek into the creek and look for crawfish and to play an epic game of Manhunt before starting our march home. We stopped on the way, as always, for a Sit Spot, and on our return even challenged ourselves to pin clothespins on the staff without their noticing!

Julia’s Group:

We met up with the Young Sprouts group to share a game called Titanoboa which our group had previously invented. Part of the game involves searching for 3 “poison frogs” – which are just handkerchiefs. While searching for the poison frogs we found… a real giant frog! Everyone paused the game and gathered around to marvel at the frog and its long pink legs! After the game, we all enjoyed lunch together as a big group. Then we bid the Young Sprouts farewell and headed off to make forest tea. We found some tasty plants to make tea with and enjoyed the nice hot drink as we watched the ducks on the water. Before heading back to the main group we slipped in a quick yet exhilarating game of Watchtower in which the kids did a fantastic job hiding from view.

Have a great spring break and we will see you all in the first week of April!

Tom, Julia, Peter and Scott.

Story Of The Day: Dragons, Honour & Spiny Wood Fern!

At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from January 2018, featuring the Weekly Forest Program for kids aged 7-12.

Hello Soaring Eagle Families!

We had a great day in the forest, full of adventures and even some snow!!

We started our morning with a great round of Foxtails. This game has been in our repertoire for years and many of the kids have played Foxtails several times, and yet, we love it every time. This time around was particularly special though. Everyone played with 100% effort, honour, and respect. Despite giving it our all, nobody took it too far. We all towed the line of being fully immersed while maintaining an awareness of other people’s bodies and being honourable opponents! It was awesome. Thanks for a great game everyone!

After the game, Stephanie told us an old story from Ireland, the land of her great-grandfather. In this story, we hear the adventures of Fiachra and the Island of the Lonesome Seals. Fiachra can hear the voices of the wee folk and he learns of the mysterious disappearance of the inhabitants of the island. It’s up to Fiachra to set things right and to restore the harmony between the people, the seals, and the wee folk.

After the story, we set off with our small groups for the day’s activities.

Stephanie’s group:

We wandered down the trail, enjoying each other’s company and checking out some of the wonders of the forest. We came across some coral mushrooms, that get their name from how similar they look to coral. We learned that coral mushrooms can be used to dye clothing, so we set a goal for ourselves – we will try and gather coral mushrooms on another day to use for dying some cloth. We then discovered some Witches Butter and joked that witches like to put it on their toast… Of course, their toast is actually Turkey Tail mushrooms. After a long wander, we stopped for lunch. 

With our bellies full, we set off to find a portal. We decided that we wanted to travel to mythological land, where we would all find a dragon. We found a portal and journeyed through. The land was beautiful and full of mysteries. We realized that if we were going to encounter dragons, we would have to summon them. So, we built a map on the forest floor and made sure that we included all the significant landmarks that surrounded us. With our map made, we each found a spot, our own special spot, to summon our dragon. We sat for 10 mins in silence, calling our dragons from our heart. When the 10 mins were up, we gave our best dragon call, and they all appeared. 

Stephanie’s dragon hid a treasure for us somewhere in the forest, so we used the map that we had made to locate the specific area of the treasure. We found the treasure and then decide that we wanted to hide it. We all took turns hiding the treasure, and then using the map to identify where in the forest the treasure was hidden. It was great fun. 

We eventually said goodbye to our spot and wandered back down the trail. Luckily, our dragons came with us. 🙂

Tom’s group:

Tom’s group started our day with a challenge. While the group raced to find plants that Tom didn’t know, Tom tried his best to see what plant life he could find that would be a mystery to the boys in the group. Funny enough a couple of the plants were mysteries to all of us and we made plans get out our field guides to do some sleuthing later in the day.  

Arriving at a familiar spot we noticed that a few of us were feeling the cold and decided to break into a game of warrior stalk to warm ourselves up. The young scouts showed their skill this day and prevailed despite Tom’s best efforts.

After a lunch break we explored the nearby area, looking for other interesting plants.  We realised that some plants we are confident identifying in the spring and summer, become more difficult to identify in the winter without their foliage.  We found an interesting plant and after a few clues we figured out it was a Red Elderberry, we’re used to the distinctive berries and the shape and smell of the leaves, but few of us had taken notice of the distinctive bark. 

With the sleet starting to come down we got active to stay warm by playing a game of wolf and deer.  We started with a lone wolf stalking the deer who were sometimes hiding and sometimes running away.  Today we added a new twist, Tom would show a sample of from a nearby tree, maybe a few needles, a cone or bark and any of the deer would go to whichever tree they thought it was. Any of the deer at the correct tree were in a safe zone, but the wolf could pick off any of the deer who had incorrectly identified the safe zone tree.

We heard the other groups nearby and walked back to our meeting point with hopes the sleet would turn into a proper snowfall. 

Peter’s group:

Peter’s group started by talking about Jon Young, who founded the Eight Shields teaching model we use, and famously caught a snapping turtle in the story we tell at the start of the year. Peter shared ideas from a talk by Jon about the nature of connection – to each other, or to the natural world. Jon made the case that at its core it is the same feeling we feel when petting a dog we love: warm, cozy and easy. We decided to see what happened if we approached the day as though every plant, animal and fungus of the forest was a cute little dog we wanted to know.

We started with Sword Ferns! The classic, we all know them. After a few minutes of connection, we pulled out Pojar and MacKinnon, the classic plant field guide of the Pacific Northwest. We checked the drawings, physical description and ecology to make sure our assumption was right.

Next, we moved on to a harder friend. We started with a few minutes of puppy-dog friendship forming, before moving into botany-geeking. Broadly triangular, light green and beat-up by the season, we could tell from the pictures it was either a Bracken Fern or a Spiny Wood Fern. A deeper examination lead us to understand that the tight leaflets near the base matched better with Spiny Wood, and digging into the details we saw that the scales at the stalk base and the lack of a thick, vertical stalk made it certainly a Spiny Wood. Sweet! One more forest friend. Walking through the forest with our new eyes we saw them everywhere.

We spent a little time trading, then had a relaxed lunch. We hung out after lunch a did a little carving, before wrapping the bases of our carved tools with raffia handles.

As we wandered amazed by the softly falling snow, we played a few games of camouflage, before having a super beautiful Sit Spot – connecting further with the plants around us, and each building a story about our experience and for once not sharing it – keeping it completely for ourselves.

———

Thank you all for a great day in the woods! We look forward to seeing you very soon!

With gratitude,

Stephanie, Peter, and Tom

Story of the Day: Stalking Wolf, Rain, & Forest Tea

At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from the very first session of a  Monthly Program for 6-12 year-olds.

Dear families,

What a fun-filled autumn day in the forest! Thank you for being a part of it. This is a brief “story of the day” to reflect on some of the day’s highlights and adventures. We will send one to you after each program so you can get a taste of the moments and memories from the day and can discuss some of the activities with the participating member(s) of your family.

The morning started with many welcomes, introductions, and reconnections as we met at the forest gate. After we had all arrived and all had the chance to reconnect with instructors and friends, we gathered as a group and headed into the forest where we found a spot for a big group game of Hawk and Mouse Tribe! The mice and hawks all worked together as teams for a full and fun game. 

We then came together in our first large circle to welcome everyone and to each share some gratitude and our names with one another, before breaking to enjoy our snacks. During snack, Jenna told a story about a boy named Stalking Wolf, a Lippin Apache who received his name because he snuck up on a wolf and touched him. When Stalking Wolf was older, he traveled all around North and South America learning and living with Indigenous peoples. He learned an immense amount about how to live closely with the earth. He had a dream about finding his last and final student. He traveled to New Jersey where he found Tom Brown Jr. He taught him for the next ten years and, before he died, told Tom that he would know his next student because he would be carrying the world on the end of a string. Driving through town one day, Tom came across a young boy who had a snapping turtle on the end of his fishing line! Tom knew this was his first student, Jon Young. Tom spend the next 10 years mentoring Jon, including teaching him how to make Snapping Turtle soup! When Tom was older, he started a school called the Tracker School and Stephanie, another Soaring Eagle staff, went there to study with him. When Jon was older, he started the Wilderness Awareness School and Jenna went there to study with Jon. When Jenna grew up, she started Soaring Eagle Nature School and now everyone who comes to Soaring Eagle is a part of the lineage of Stalking Wolf and Tom and Jon.

After being reenergized and refueled with Jenna’s story and our snacks, we then broke into our smaller groups to go exploring some more!

Jenna’s group (filling in for Klara): we headed off into the forest and found a spot where we all sat down and picked our nature names. Everyone was excited and happy to receive theirs. Then we headed off and found a spot where we turned into mice. We had to collect Alder leaves and store them, but could only collect when the owls were sleeping. When the chickadees sang, it was daytime, but when we heard the owl calling, we had to hide by a tree. We did some exploring and then ate our lunch, which tasted better in the forest. When it started raining harder, we looked out for spots in the forest where we could take cover and tested how dry each spot was. Some were totally dry, some had just a few drops of rain coming down. We talked about what animals and insects do when it rains. We wandered to another spot in the woods and everyone found a stick. Everyone was excited about watching Jenna carve them. She safely showed everyone how to take her knife out of the sheath, and how to carve away from her body. The group did NOT actually go through knife safety and haven’t been permitted to use their knives yet, but have had a really good introduction. Thanks for a great day!

Kristen’s group (filling in for Tom): we went on a wander through the forest, where we explored and found some interesting things.  We found fascinating objects in trees that looked like a birds nest, and we found a tree that was covered all over with little holes.  We examined the tree, and asked many questions such as: what could have made these holes? Why are the holes evenly dispersed on the tree? We also learned about different plants in the forest on our wander.  We learned how to identify sword ferns, and we even found some licorice fern that we got to taste, and were surprised that it did in fact taste like licorice!  We learned about some sneaking and hiding games, such as camouflage and warrior stalk, and we played these games as we wandered along the trails in the forest.  When it started to rain a bit more, we rested under the cover of a tarp.  While we were under the tarp, we all received our nature names in a special naming ceremony.  At the end of the day, we met up with the other small groups and played an epic game of raven spy, where we used the sneaking and hiding skills we had been practicing all day.

Kaylie’s group: we started our time together with a wander. Following our intuitive body radar, we chose a direction down the path, keeping our eyes open for beings we recognized. In particular, we kept our eyes open for plants that we saw — which of these plants are edible? could any of these plants contribute to a “forest tea?” We practiced our plant recognition and tuned in to our surroundings, testing our skills by playing “camouflage” and “you’re safe if” along our path. After wandering a ways, we came to an open area where we stopped and decided to tap further into our forest awareness. Some people can identify birds and other animals just by the sounds they make — can we do this too? can we identify who is where in our group just based on what sounds we make? We each took a turn working on this skill, as well as learning each others’ names, by being blindfolded and trying to listen to our group members make various forest animal sounds to guess who was who. After breaking for lunch, we started another game, “Watchtower,” where we continued to build on our silent moving and awareness themes. Kristen’s group joined us as we were starting to play and we included them in our game as well — creating one epic watchtower challenge. While we were playing, we saw some other signs of nearby life too and paused our play to watch a small mammal busily run nearby (maybe a mouse of some kind?). After spending some time working together as a large team to hide and move across the forest, we left Kristen’s group and went to find some final ingredients for our forest tea. Along the way, we discovered some more nature paint and other pieces for camouflage, inspiring us to try to blend into the forest with our camouflage costumes before sneaking back to meet the other groups for a final group game of “Raven Spy” with all of the groups. After this large group game, we took a short break to hear a story about the power of names, taste our tea, and receive our own nature names for the year. It was then time to head back to the park gate and reunite with our families. Thank you for a wonderful time today — I’m looking forward to a fun year ahead!

***

For next month, we invite all of you to learn two cool facts about your nature name that you would like to share with your group. 

Thank you for spending time with us in the forest this week and here’s to a wonderful year ahead! We hope you all have a wonderful month and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

All the best,

Jenna, Kristen, and Kaylie

Story Of The Day: Gratitude, Ninjas & Elderberries

At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from a Young Sprouts program instructed by Jenna and Cara this month:

Hello SENS Families!
 
Yesterday we were met with grey clouds and pending rain, and into the forest we went!
 
We started out playing Wolves and Ravens. The Ravens tried to steal food from the Wolves, who had just gotten a fresh kill. When the Ravens were caught by the Wolves, the Animal Rescuers came and saved them. We learned that the Ravens have to be persistent and try and grab food from the Wolves as often as they can.
 
We shared our gratitudes for the day and then during snack, Cara told a wonderful story about a Weaver bird named Baya. They are the only bird that know how to tie a half hitch! Its the first knot they do to start the building of their nest. The story was about Baya, who grew up in a community of weaver birds, and rather than go to the daily lessons on knot tying and nest building, he napped, or explored instead. When it was time for him to start building his nest and think about a mate, he slacked off and didn’t worry. He told everyone he could build his nest in an hour! When he finally decided to try, he couldn’t pick the right kind of grass. Then he got his wing tied up in his knot, and then his foot! Finally, he realized he would need help, and that he should have listened to his elders. He was lucky, and was visited by an elder bird, who helped him learn how to tie the half hitch, and start his nest.
 
After,  it was time for some Ninja training. We warmed our bodies and practiced our stealth by following each other as a group, over the hill and back down, and then back over and around.

Beautiful Elderberry beads freshly made

Once we were warm, we started making some beads out of dead Red Elderberry that we had harvested along the trail. First, you push the inner pith out from the centre, and then use a rock to scrape off the bark. Then, using sandpaper you clean the outside and smooth it out and also the inside. we all made several beads and then got some string to use for making a necklace or bracelet. Cara showed us all how to tie a half hitch, just like the Weaver Bird. We all made them for gifts for people we love.
 
We ate out lunch to warm up our bodies and then headed off. At another spot, we played Warrior Stalk, where we had only a few seconds to run towards Cara before we hide to hide again. Getting closer and closer, we could eventually tag her and then make it back to our starting spot, with only 7-10 second intervals. It was hard, but we are all getting better and better at hiding and sneaking!
 
Then it was time to head back, so we re-traced our footsteps, with our beads in our pockets and found all of you.
 
Thanks for a wonderful day!
 
Jenna and Cara

Story of The Day: Raven Spy, Safety & Fir Cones

At Soaring Eagle Nature School, parents receive a Story Of The Day email to learn about what the kids got up to in the program. Here’s a Story Of The Day from a Monthly Program instructed by Peter and Scott this fall:

So stoked to get together with this group in this awesome park! We wait all month for the chance to come out here.

After welcoming, games, a peek at our nature museum and some knife safety, we romped off into Watershed Park looking for the perfect place to play Raven Spy. Raven Spy involves hiding and sneaking up on a drowsy ‘Raven’. Upon finding what we thought was an excellent spot, Scott began introducing the game when all of a sudden a wasp stung him on the side of the face! He bravely organized us away from the spot and to a safer location, and we played 3 exciting rounds.

Following the game, we gathered for our morning circle – speaking our names and sharing gratitude for the day, the trees, our families, and our breakfasts. We finished our morning routine with a snack, while Peter told a wonderful story about Jon Young, a mentor and source of inspiration for our work at Soaring Eagle.

After lunch and snack, we decided to stick together as two groups and two instructors to explore for the rest of the day. We walked to a ravine five minutes away.  Peter took this opportunity to speak about safety with the children. The children had an opportunity to share their common sense and also to learn about what we end as instructors hold in our understanding of what it takes to enjoy a day of playing in the forest altogether.

We followed an exciting path down the ravine, through the low deciduous forest, and up on a beautiful bushwhack to a perfect lunchtime grove. After lunch, we dished out nature challenges leading to nature names! Each member of our clan now has a special name to carry for the year – a source of inspiration as we walk, and an opportunity for research.

We finished the day with our Start-of-the-Year Ceremony. We collected sticks and made a circle to represent the space of our year together. We then each chose a Douglas Fir cone to represent ourselves in that circle. We went off for a five-minute Sit Spot, and each found one beautiful object to give as a gift to the forest. Placed in our circle, these represented the thanks we hold to the living forest for holding us.

Sit Spots will be important in our time together. Sit Spots give time and space for reflection and introspection, allow us to nurture our presence, and are the best (and only!) time to see many forest birds and mammals.

From here we walked back to the entrance to the park and met up with the parents. Can’t wait for next month!

Peter & Scott