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Playing Around

i Jun 20th No Comments by

Nothing prepares a child’s brain for learning more than an adrenalized state. It focuses the mind and improves sensory input, which deepens the imprinting process. Nature gives us this capacity to activate our senses and be receptive to our environment. It’s a survival skill. When coupled with child’s passions – those super-charged activities that seem to universally excite kids – these heightened states of awareness become the gateway for kids’ exploration and ownership of their learning process.

At Vashon Wilderness Program, we use use Play and Passion to teach a whole host of nature skills.

Lessons on finding animal track and sign, identifying edible and medicinal uses of plants, or building a water-proof debris shelter are all seamlessly absorbed when they include games that get your kids’ adrenaline flowing. The most popular ways we do this at VWP are to play games that include at least one of the following elements:

  • Hiding, Seeking, Sneaking
  • Hunts, Errands, Adventures
  • Make Believe

Here’s one of our favorite games to help cultivate quiet mind, expand observational skills, and increasing comfort in nature. Enjoy!

Eagle Eye is a great outdoor game for children. It’s essentially hide-and-seek game that teaches kids to slow down, be quiet and still (or move silently and gently through nature), all while getting comfortable down in the undergrowth and dirt.

Here’s how you play:

  1. Look for a play area that contains undergrowth – leafy shrubs that provide cover.  Watch out for hazards like ground nests, trailing blackberry, or nettles!
  2. Choose an area that will be the “eagle’s nest.” Make a clear boundary out of sticks, rocks, pine cones, backpacks — whatever is available.
  3. Choose the first “Eagle” to hide her eyes and announce how long she will count. We recommend an adult or experienced player be the first Eagle.
  4. While the Eagle counts to 25, the other children hide. Here’s the catch: they must always be able to see the Eagle with at least one eye at all times from their hiding spot.
  5. When the Eagle is done counting, announce “the Eagle has landed” and begin to scan the area for any signs of color or shape that seems out of place. The Eagle must stay within the boundary of the nest while “seeking.”
  6. Any children that are spotted must come and sit quietly in the nest. They are not allowed to tell the Eagle nor point to where the other children are hiding. You can have them pretend to be eagle chicks that utter a sound when they spot another hider, but they should not give away the hiding child.
  7. The last hider to be found can be the next Eagle. And they will want to play again, and again… !

Some extensions:

  1. If the Eagle cannot see any hiders, he may close his eyes and count again, this time to 5 or 10. During this time, the hiders should move 5 steps closer to the Eagle’s nest. The goal for them is to get as close as possible to you without being spotted.
  2. Another way to help out an Eagle who cannot see the hiders is for the Eagle to say “Animal Call!” Then the Eagle listens for the hiders to make a sound, which usually helps focus the scanning (“seeking”) in a particular area.
  3. After the game, you can take the opportunity to ask the children questions that will increase their awareness, such as: What colors blend in well in this landscape? What did you notice in your hiding spot – any particular plants, spider, or animal sign? What animals do you think live and hide around here? What might happen to a bird that makes a lot of noise and does not hide?


Fire Tenders – Story of the Day, May 25th, 2018

i Jun 3rd No Comments by

It was a beautiful day at Fire Tenders last Friday and a time of giving back!

….. the fire tenders sang together and shared the songs closest to their hearts
….. the youngest clan met with the oldest wind gathers to welcome them to our fire circle and grow excitement for next year
…..preparations were made for the End of Year Community Celebration
….. a special a piece of nature art was created to express love and deep gratitude for the youngest members of our community 
….. and a great game of Capture the Flag was played, leaving all smiling! 

Wind Gatherers – Story of the Day – May 25, 2018

i Jun 3rd No Comments by
What a sweet and musical spring day! Rhythm and music abounded as In the morning your children heard an Aztec tale about how music came to the earth, and discovered rhythm and melody in the sticks and stones around us and from within ourselves. 
The older clans spent part of their morning with the youngest Fire Tender clan, and after playing “Meet a Tree” together, got to ask what it is like to be a Fire Tender. From there, the Deer and Coyote clans sneaked and hid their way to where the rest of the Wind Gatherers were. During one game a child discovered a mouse beside him, and there the mouse stayed the entire minutes the child was hiding!
Meanwhile, the younger clans — Bear and Red Fox — gathered sticks and decorated them. One child and visiting dad even made a harp! In the meadow a time of music and merriment followed, with some Wind Gatherers following the sound of a flute hidden in the woods, and many others harvesting Salmonberries (still yellow and very sour, but that didn’t stop the kids!).

At the end of the day the forest was filled with shouts of delight from your children. We discovered that mysterious forest visitors had descended on Mr Toads Crossy Roads. Beautiful nature art, and sweet messages,including: “You are Loved” greeted us. We finished the day with a rockin’ jam!
It’s hard to believe that our program year is almost finished. We do so love our time with these kiddos!

May 17th – Shinglemill Creek/Fern Cove Field Trip Adventures

i May 25th No Comments by

Last Friday the Fire Tenders explored the amazing watershed of Shingle Mill Creek. Beginning at one of the highest points on Vashon, we delighted in the long grass of the field. Fire tenders could disappear in the tall grass by just laying down. Others explored for vole tunnels and nests. Walking out as a single file group into the tall grass we leave a trail and created a spiral that may be wondered at by others coming after us. There are so many ways to explore the landscape there we divided up into smaller groups.

Annika’s group took the lead down the trail. Their goal was the beach far below at the outlet of the creek at Fern Cove. This group of savvy adventures new that the tide was forecast to be super low and they knew there would be a great expanse of flat beach to explore. Salmon berries were a great  temptation, slowing us down at every patch, but the determined group forged on  and made it to the beach in record time. Now all was timeless unstructured exploration. Red sea worms, spiral foot paths, ospreys fishing in the Sound, herons hunting in the shallows. 

Hawk took a group down the trail with the intention of finding ways to challenge ourselves physically, looking for opportunities to practice animal movements and parkour. As we got down to the creek we got to play on some unstable logs and a couple of folks took unexpected falls into the water. Jumping across the creek was the main fun activity. Traveling in this way made us feel like a coyote mixed with a monkey. 

Ari’s group focused on looking and listening closely. They explored vole den corridors discovering latrines and pantries in an open field before heading down the trail. With particular interest paid to all native plants, the group delighted in Salmonberries in particular. The group collected the juicy berries and fresh shoots and popped them in their mouths. They also explored local trees and low lying bushes and ferns. Practicing sneaking, the team crept off trail and found new routes, taking on challenging and unexplored terrain. They played along the edges of creeks and gravel bars and sat to listen to the Language of the Birds. All were excited to explode out onto fern cove beach to find a super low tide. 

Ted’s group was filled with Epic Storytelling. Do you know how the ridge along shingle mill was made? Do you know why the Oregon Grape is sometimes red? Do you know why the plants are so green? The answers actually might shock you.  And in the realm of the physical, there were:  Tunnels through the earth! Fish under logs!  Orange goo hiding orange-brown frog!  Mystery holes in alder trees!  Crawling through sword ferns!  Clear conversations and self-mediated conflict resolution!  Beautiful sit spot on logs over the stream!  Delicious salmon berry shoots! So much, so great. Eventually all made it to the calm and spacious beach. Who knows what mysteries they found there….. ?