Story of the Day - Weekly Nature Program

April 6, 2017 (Ringtails Story of the Day - ages 5-6)

Greetings Ringtail Fans!

We had a blast out here on the Earth Native land and took full advantage of the beautiful spring weather! However, a few of us were feeling the chill this morning so we decided to team up with the Kit-Foxes and Coyotes in the field for some Fire in the Forest.The Coyotes gave it a different spin today, asking us to move across the playing field in specific ways, like hopping on one foot or penguin-waddling, which gave the game a hilarious twist and made it much harder to dash through the forest unscathed by fires. Once all of the Ringtails arrived, we said goodbye to these friends to gather at Osage for morning circle. 

At circle, we reflected on how we often give thanks and gratitude to the earth, plants, wildlife and our loved ones, but rarely to ourselves. So this morning we decided to bring our minds together by each sharing one thing we were grateful for in ourselves. Some said they appreciated their artistic talents, agility and ability to make friends. We made sure to give ourselves a big hug and pat on the back for everything our body, heart and mind does for us! Afterwards, we switched our thoughts to hazards, closely focusing on chiggers, ticks and poison ivy. We discussed ways to prevent the bites before and after class as well as the areas they like to hide in. For story, Lindsay shared Eric Carl's The Tiny Seed, which inspired us with all the colorful illustrations. After story, we were ready to see what vivid colors were waiting for us here on the land, so we prepared ourselves for a fun game. With a ton of paint color samples in hand, the Ringtails grabbed a color at random and were tasked to find that color in nature. As they took on the challenge they ran from spot to spot finding rocks, flowers, plants and trees to match their sample. We enjoyed this game so much that most Ringtails asked for another color sample (or three or four) after finding a match! After our game we were ready to hit the trails and set off on an adventure, so we grabbed our backpacks and split into clans.

While in clans we set intentions for a morning wander, mostly focusing on a naturalist/biologist perspective. We discussed using nature journals to draw our observations and practiced using different art medias to get more comfortable and confident in using our nature journal. Some of us were in awe of the wonderland of caterpillars the Earth Native land has become, and we took time observing them and even building a caterpillar refuge to keep them safe from predators. Afterwards we set off on our wander, stopping to make field notes and drawings in areas of interest. Along the way, we were lucky enough to find a few patches of dewberry with berries ready to eat! They were sweet and tart and stained our fingers a beautiful pink color. Other wildlife that was not to be missed were the leopard frogs chirping as they fled into the pond and a TON of spittlebugs who's foamy homes seemed to be at the base of every grass blade and plant! Eventually the clans got to an area they felt inspired to stop at. We took advantage of the peaceful area and spread out for a sit-spot. The Ringtails were encourage to take their nature journals with them to make observations of their surroundings. Afterwards, we got back together and shared stories of what we saw.

After all this journaling we were beginning to feel a bit hungry. Each group wandered once more, this time settling in areas where there was fun landscape for free play. The Ringtails had plenty of time to play a variety of role-play games, climb trees and build forts. Some made nature cakes and practiced their scouting skills. After some time we gathered once more, this time to make all natural paints and paint brushes that we could use for nature journaling! We departed Ringtail camp through the dry creek, each picking up a few rocks we wanted experiment with. Once back at Osage with our rocks, we learned how to use a mortar and pestle to safely crush the rocks into a fine powder that we could water down into paint. Once powder, the rock pigments were gorgeous reds, yellows and browns that we used to paint in our journals and on ourselves! Some of the Ringtails experimented with nature bushes and used different grasses, twigs and plants to make their paint brush. We were having so much fun that before we knew it, the day was over! So we circled up once more to admire our artwork and reflect on the day. Before sharing our Rose and Thorn, we took turns acting out animal forms and guessing what we were. 

We look forward to seeing everyone back out at McKinney Falls next week, which will also be Grandparent Day! 

Lauren and Lindsay

February 1, 2017 (Ringtails Story of the Day - ages 5-6)

Happy muddy Wednesday to our Ringtail families!

We had an amazing day and really enjoyed our time on the Earth Native land. As some of you may have seen at pick up, we wrapped up the afternoon by the creek and several muddy creatures emerged, taking the place of our Ringtails! However, we were feeling fresh and clean this morning when we warmed up to some fun games. Today we joined in with the Kit-Foxes and Coyotes, first playing Blob Tag and eventually switching to a game called Ant-Lion. In this game, if you get tagged by the the ant-lion you must lay on the ground until several people gather around and carry you to the ant hospital. Once the injured ant is in the hospital ring, he/she is healed and ready to get back in the game. This was really fun to play with the other groups, and we were full of giggles as we helped carry our friends to safety! 

After all this running around we were hungry and ready for morning circle, but we decided to switch things up and hike to our Ringtail camp first. We grabbed a quick snack then brought our minds together through a fire challenge. The Ringtails had about 5 minutes to gather any tender, kindling and firewood they could find. Then they worked together to set up a teepee with their sticks, carefully placing their tender bundles in the center. Before striking any matches we talked about our fire agreements and reminded the Ringtails how to safely strike a match. We were all eager to see how the teepee would fire up, and today their hard work paid off! We ooohed and ahhhed over the beautiful flames and were ready to gather around and appreciate the fire they made. We continued discussing potential hazards related to the warm weather like snakes, dehydration and even sunburn. We reminded ourselves where snakes are most likely to be found out here and how we can avoid running into one. Then, Lauren shared a wonderful poem called 5am in the Pinewoods by Mary Oliver. We reflected on it afterwards, some sharing the imagery they had while Lauren was reading it. We had some extra time to explore so we made our way down to the dry creek with our field guides, excited to find any tracks or signs of wildlife! While some were busy looking at deer and raccoon tracks, others were determined to work on the forts we have at Ringtail camp. We enjoyed swinging from vines and climbing the nearby cedar trees until it was time for lunch.

At lunch we warmed up any leftover snacks over the fire like apples, marshmallows and even some veggies. After lunch we focused a bit more on fire building before making our way to the big creek. We were determined to look for clay and excited to cool off in the creek. Once down there, we were excited to find even more tracks! One of the Ringtails even found us some vulture tracks in the mud! We split into smaller groups each searching for pockets of clay. Today we were in luck, we found some clay along the creekside! Some of us used the clay to make little pots or figures, while others used it for face paint and even mud balls. We enjoyed looking for crystals and shells in the water, and other unique finds in the forest. Some of the Ringtails found a mud pit and thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck in it and having their friends pull them out! Time flew by while we were there and before we knew it, it was time to hike back! Since we were all camouflaged in mud, we decided to play Eagle Eye before gathering for circle. The eagle was amazed at how hard it was to find people, and we eventually called everyone back to see where they were hiding. The mud helped them blend in next to the trees and vines so well! Afterwards we hiked back to our spot for closing circle and shared our rose and thorn of the day.

See you at McKinney Falls next week!

Love, Lauren and Lindsay

January 25, 2017 (Coyotes Story of the Day - ages 9-12)

Today dawned clear and glorious a and we gathered in the cool of the morning at Mckinney Falls to start a guild series. 

While we waited for sign in to be completed we played otter steals fish. This is a game where the kids take turns entering a circle in groups to try to steal the bandana fish from a single player who acts as a bear who attempts to guard his catch/ the fish.

We rolled this into a game of fox tails before sitting down for snack and morning circle. We heard a story from Tom Brown's book The Way of the Scout before going around to give each participant a chance to talk about their progress on the Coyote shield challenge.

Then we introduced the new guilds. The guilds were Containers! Fire! and Quick Survival Bows! 

The container crew started by defining a container and what it is used for. They talked about the importance of a container in a survival situation. Then they started in on creating pine needle baskets. They built the floor of the basket by winding and stitching needles and then working upwards to build walls. The students were introduced to the concept and were invited to suggest other materials that could be used.   What is a container, what is it used for. Why important in survival situation. Kids stuck to it and started some awesome projects.

Fire guild watched Jess demo how to create and use a bow drill kit start to finish. Each child then crafted their own bow drill kits and worked hard to try to advance their skills using privet and western red cedar. Many were successful at getting smoke. Some kids worked in pairs to do do partner bow drill. All in all it was a successful first guild day. 

In bow building we hiked out of the park and harvested privet and juniper staves. We discussed how to choose a stave and what makes a good bow wood. We talked about how to determine the belly from the back of the bow and how to use the string to measure to find the center of the bow. We focused on using the y in a tree to pull equal pressure on both sides to correctly tiller the bow. All students had a started bow to take home and work on. We will be bringing them back the next two weeks, but remind them not to dry fire them due to the possibility of breakage. 

We met again for final circle to share about our day and then we moved into sit spot to connect with nature through quiet close observation. We hope all the kids had as much fun as we did and we will see you all next week.

Please  remember to bring your knives, bow drill kits and bows to class in Bastrop next week.


The Wednesday Coyote Team

December 18, 2015 (Ringtails Story of the Day - ages 5-6)

Hi everyone!

It was our last day at Mckinney Falls State Park before the real winter gets here (yes, I am a believer in the Texas winter!). It was a perfect, beautiful, blue sky day. We even got to see crows mobbing a hawk during our quiet time on the moon rock today!!

We found a new part of the creek to explore with rainbow clay and balance beams. It was a wonderland! We spent a long time there making face paint, un-damming the mucky water, playing star wars, and playing pretend. Then we went on a long hike below the lower falls to meet Jessica's group for lunch. We splashed in the water, made an amazing dam as a team, and created a nature museum complete with fossils and a piece of root that looked just like giant ginger! We learned a new hiding game that I didn't really name, but its where the coyotes stalk up on the deer, but only get 10 seconds before the deer opens their eyes. Better be quick and sneaky to touch the deer without her noticing!

Loving speech, great teamwork, and support when each other needed help were themes of the day. If someone fell, another was asking if they were ok. If someone thought they couldn't make it past the cactus, others ran up the hill to move it out of their way. Fridays are filled with such love and joy. Looking forward to next semester!

If you would like to do some Earth Native type activities over break, here are some ideas:

  • make a wild edibles salad or add some wild edibles to your family meal!  
  • make a family "celebrations" journal!  This semester we read a book by Byrd Baylor called "I'm In Charge of Celebrations."  The little girl in the story keeps track of the amazing nature events she's a part of, like seeing a jackrabbit watching a triple rainbow.  She draws about the events in her journal and gives the day a celebration name, like "Triple Rainbow Day." 
  • try family quiet time!  Each week we sit quietly alone out in nature, sometimes with a journal.  When we're quiet, we're more likely to notice things around us.  
  • practice lighting matches or make a fire together in a backyard pit or fire place!
  • keep working on shoe tying!
  • learn to ID the trees in your backyard!  You can even draw a tree map of the yard and label them :)

Can't wait to hear how y’all enjoy your vacations!

Love you


December 16, 2015 (Kit Fox Story of the Day - ages 7-9)

Greetings Earth Native Families! Chris here, bringing you another story of the day from beautiful McKinney Falls. Our day was wonderful! One of the best I've ever had with the kit foxes!

Our day started with some awesome running games of Fox Tails and Palm Tag! The kids got a chance to get all their energy out before we focused on our less energetic topic of BIRDS! The beautiful, majestic avian masters of the sky! We explored three important techniques in identifying local birds, including visual, audial, and habitat. By using local field guides, binoculars and a handy bird app on our phones, we were able to create an awesome world of learning about birds together.

It started with our stories, Lindsay and mine, about how we became interested, and now are lovers of birding. Then we allowed the kids to explore some examples of binoculars for use in birding by having them try and spot prominent objects in the distance. While some used the binoculars to try and spot birds, others attempted to hunt them down by using only their voice and calls. A few struggled, most had a blast and wanted nothing else except to keep finding the calling bird.

It was awesome to get to see the kids get so passionate about a subject that honestly, is very difficult to inspire interest in. But there they were (!) excited to try and test their skills in identifying mystery birds using key features of bird anatomy. So they pulled as much detail from just a glance and then attempted to ID them. After our fun and exciting morning of discovering the world of basic birding, we decided to put our new skills to practical use in aiding in a research project, hosted by the state park, called the Christmas Bird Count. It went amazingly. We got to see a wide variety of birds as well as identify them by their calls in order to submit our finding to the state park for the end of the year. We had a blast!

Finally, to explore the world of bird diets, we had the kids try and find "bird food", really red and green dyed toothpicks that we sprinkled on the grass. Most students found the red ones, easier to spot. In the end, the kids learned how feeding yourself as a bird isn't always the easiest task. Now compound this by feeding yourself AND your young ones in the nest and you've got a recipe for exhaustion that the children all felt in the end.

This brought us to the end of our day, where we shared what's our favorite bird, and what will we do with this new skill set? We're eagerly awaiting to hear the stories of children's birding over the break.

Well that's all folks! Our wonderful day together at beautiful McKinney Falls! Filled with fun, laughter, and birds!

Take care families! Have a wonderful holiday! Don't forget to get out and explore over the break.

-Chris & Lindsay

December 11, 2015 (Coyote Story of the Day - ages 10-12)

Hey Coyote Families -

Another great day today. This weather is amazing! I'm from the northeast and this is my first winter in Texas. It's so hard for me I believe it is December!

The first half of the day was a classic "walk through the mentoring wheel", as we call it. The sun rises in the East and brings excitement to the new day. Similarly, we began with a high energy, exciting activity called Mamma Moose. The kids loved running around being wolves trying to steal the baby moose from the mamma. After that we went right into a slower, more focused activity, similar when the sun is in the southern part of the sky and calls us to focus on our day's work. The "south" activity of the day was fire keeper. The kids needed to sneak up on a blindfolded person and steal away a large ring of keys. I really love this focused energy due to it's ability to bring awareness to their influence on the surroundings. For example, if they get distracted or clumsy with their movements, it gives them away in this activity. I think these are really important lessons.

The next activity piggy backed on this same concept. We all silently stalked down the trail, hoping to minimize our disturbance and not scare aware any animals. I asked them to continue to be silent as they separated from the group and went to their sit spots.

Sit spot is similar to the silent, focused activities. The difference is that it is a solo activity, which I believe is so valuable and personal. How often in our society do we get this personal time with nature without any activities or technology to distract us? The only instructions are to observe.  I am honored to help foster this in young people. Also, sit spot allows opportunities to see really cool things in nature that are usually unnoticed. An old saying goes: "that which moves slowest in the woods, gets seen the least", which should be good motivation to sit still.

From there we came back to our circle spot and I asked them to share one question that came up for them during sit spot. I would like to pass along the habit of constantly asking questions, piquing their curiosity and increasing their learning curve for connecting to the natural world.

We then came together for the "West" activity following the focus of the south, similar to coming home at the end of the day and sharing a meal. The sun is setting at this time of day in the west and it is time to gather with loved ones and share the stories of their day.

That led into a story time. Well, that's how I had it planned anyway, but they weren't ready to listen and I don't like to force that. So we played a tag game called tree tag, where the base or safe zone was a tree species that I would yell out. In this way, the kids needed to quickly learn the names of the trees while being chased!

Afterwards, we ate lunch with the ringtails and I told them a story about a survival trip I went on and went more than 24 hours without a drink of water. In the story, we desperately needed to get a fire going using a bow drill in order to purify water by boiling. This led into some bow drill practice before an awesome afternoon playing in the creek!

My best,


December 19, 2014

Hi everyone!

Thank you to all who joined us for parent day at McKinney!  The rain held off and each group had great adventures to report :)

Our opening reflection at morning circle invited us to consider what it would be like to be a baby animal of our choice!  Some chose shark because they'd love to start exploring the ocean right away, and others chose birds so they could learn to fly!  We moved our bodies into the forms of some baby animals, including a moose growing its antlers, and then Deanna told us a story about elk dogs!  Today was a choice based day so each teacher offered their day's project and the kids chose who they'd like to go with for the day.

Nichole's group was studying bird behavior.  They hiked to the lower falls and along the way saw 2 hawks and 2 vultures circling above and decided to follow them into the woods.  The birds crossed to the other side of the creek and we couldn't make it there because the water was too high from this week's rain :(  We went off in teams of two completing our Bird Bingo sheets.  We marked off bird behaviors as we witnessed them, such as flocking or preening (grooming).  As a group we saw 3 vultures sitting in a tree past the lower falls and got to witness them preening!  Other bird encounters included a great blue heron, cormorant, egrets and song birds!  We played 2 games - Ghost in the Graveyard and Hunting Hawks (both hiding games with a tag twist!).  Our day ended with a parent/child sit spot.  Many enjoyed sitting on the cliff above the creek with their legs hanging off, listening to the water rush (or was that the highway....), and noticing the changing leaf colors!

Deanna's group focused on making bird feeders.  They cut shapes out of cardboard, spread on soy nut butter, and covered the cardboard with bird seed.  They even tied sticks on so the birds had a place to rest while they pecked at the seeds.  From a snowman and christmas tree, these feeders are sure to make the birds happy!  They even made a "centerpiece" out of a cardboard square, spreading soy nut butter on and making a symmetrical pattern of seeds, cheerios, and an avocado pit to set out for the birds!  After the feeders were made, they crafted leaf crowns with beautiful autumn oak leaves.  Their group was small today, but they were visited by 2 red shouldered hawks to keep them company :)

Michelle's group carved christmas ornaments out of wood using their knives and made cordage to hang them.  They carved designs in the wood like peace signs and smiley faces!  On their hike they saw 9 vultures circling in a "spinning girl" dance, and they lied down to trick the flock!  They found a big fuzzy black caterpillar and suspicious piles of chinaberry seeds in the field - who has been eating here?!  Maybe it was the deer whose tracks they spotted - some tiny, some larger.  Possibly a deer family!  They played Fire in the Forest and Palm Tag, and ended the day by finding a deer vertebrate on their way to circle!

This has been a wonderful semester and we're so grateful to have spent it with each of you and your kiddos!  Take good care over break and we'll see you next year!

Nichole, Michelle, and Deanna :)

November 21, 2014

Greetings Kit Fox and Coyote Families!

Thanks to all of you who joined us tonight for the Evening Program, and those of whom could not make it--we missed you! Today was a blast, and illustrated well the burgeoning community here at Earth Native.

We started out our 
day playing games beneath a cloudy sky. The Kit Foxes were busy with Fire in the Forest, while the Coyotes played Fox Tails and 1 Fish 2 Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. After everyone had gathered, we circled up along Onion Creek and two Kit Foxes taught us a song that Deanna had taught them and that they sing everyday at circle (ask your child to teach it to you!). We then all introduced ourselves to the two new students who just joined the program today (welcome Schwartzes!). We all mentioned things we were thankful for and then got our blood pumping with animal forms.

After circle, we had the kids line up from tallest to shortest, and we numbered them all off into four groups. We spent a few hours in these groups spread across the park gathering items for our nature museum. We ate lunch in caves, found buried treasure (including a key!) inside a standing dead tree, got ourselves lost on a very long hike, and all returned back with armfuls of mystery items to share with the other groups. We met up at the dining hall and played Fire in the Forest, Palm Tag, and a new game called Empire, and then split the kids into two groups: those who were for sure attending the Evening Program, and those who weren't, or weren't sure. Those who were for sure attending could choose between helping Nichole prepare for the Nature Museum Game Show, or make skits up with Michelle. The rest of the kids went with Grey and I to play a huge game of Capture the Flag in the picnic area.

Before long, it was time for sign out. All 
day, the weather had seemed pretty nice, but on our hike back it started pouring, and we were glad we had rented the dining hall for tonight's program. Everyone brought delicious food, and so many good conversations were had. The skits were funny, the parents impressed us with their knowledge during the game show, and we got not one but two violin performances by our very own Ruth and Santiago!

Thanks so much for your involvement in this program, for sharing your kids with us and for seeing just how valuable a 
day outside in the woods every week can be to a child's development. Remember, there is no class next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We look forward to seeing you again in two weeks out in Bastrop!


Jessica Ennis

Coyotes Instructor

Earth Native Wilderness School

November 11, 2014

Good Evening Earth Natives!

Grandparent Day + Village Day = Magic

To start, we had amazing weather.  As the children arrived, they played foxtails, checked out the nature museum, and chatted with their grandparents. We then made our way down to the lower fire pit to begin our day.  

Grey started us off with a song celebrating circles within ourselves and all around us, then moved into a beautiful/hilarious story, shared by Nichole, about a drought and how the animals joined in song to bring about rain.  Magic was in the air!

Village Day was then underway!  We had a number of options, and the children and grandparents enjoyed the lovely weather, the lovely company and the beautiful, wild outdoors!

Michelle took interested parties on hikes into the land.  On the first hike, they ate wood  sorrel, gazed at a group of dragonflies and made a sand castle.  The second hike, they saw caterpillars, a lizard, a floating spider web, a duckweed covered pond and got good and muddy at mudslide hill.  They painted with mud, made mud pies and had mini mud fights.  They also saw a spider web high up in the trees, and it was decided that particular spider was hoping to capture a butterfly!  They also learned that mud is just as tricky as quick sand and can turn your feet into suction cups!  

Jessica spent the day teaching how to make paracord bracelets.  Many-a-yard of paracord found its way around the wrists of Earth Natives, as they spent the day weaving.  Paracord is one thing you WANT to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere with, considering its endless possibilities of use, from stringing up a tarp to finishing off a bow drill kit.  Even if you aren't in a dire situation, its also great for making necklaces and jump ropes!

Grey showed children and adults alike how to make knife sharpeners from wood and sand paper.  Those who participated learned how to sharpen knives, and worked on their carving skills. He also smoked the hides several Coyote students had been working on.  It was quite intriguing to see the hides strung up, wearing a jean skirt to ensure they were properly smoked, and to collect any coals that went astray.  The staff had a great time separating the hides from the jeans at the end of the day!

Nichole had stumbled upon a fairy village that needed expanding, and many were more than happy to help!  It became quite the city: Mud chairs and tables, grass carpets, ziplines, houses, soda cans, purses, banks, soccer fields, mini weeping willow trees, churches, a city hall, lakes and creeks, and even a haunted poison ivy trail was made out of natural items collected by the students.  

After all this hard work, the kids were more than happy to head to Deanna to roast some delicious bananas and chocolate chips over the fire, and learn how to make pecan butter.  They used a mortar and pestle to ground up the pecans, folded bananas and sugary goodness into foil, and some worked on making burn bowls.  Skittles and grapes also made their way onto the fire, because all is better when it has a slight touch of roasted goodness!

We ended the day with a great sharing circle, not only about what we had done today, but also what students had seen at their sit spots.  Children spoke of how they were able to observe not only at school, but at home as well.  

Thanks to all the grandparents who came to share this magical day with us!  

Til next time,

ENWS Staff

Ocotber 17, 2014

Good evening, Kit Fox families!

We started off this beautiful day with an exciting game of Fox Tails, then headed off to our morning circle where we each told of our favorite animal encounters.  After that Nichole led us through some much appreciated stretching and yoga.  Then Deanna shared a Native American legend about the changing of the seasons.  Today was a 'guild' day (the first of three classes focusing on a topic), and the options were Knife Safety and Skills, and Sneaky Animals.

We are happy to report that were able to accommodate everyone who chose to learn about knives (17 in all).  Michelle and Deanna led this guild, and Nichole's group enjoyed many awareness-based activities while learning about how animals' keep themselves from being detected.  

Nichole's group began the day walking past items she had hidden earlier that morning - it is amazing what we miss when we're not actively focusing on our environment!  By the end of the day Nichole's guild was spotting even the smallest of animals including numerous caterpillars, and got to journal and draw the differences between them!  Their favorite by far was a spiny black and red caterpillar they nicknamed the "Devil Caterpillar".  Later in the daythey all ended up sitting in a large Juniper tree and learned a funny song about Monkeys and Alligators!   The guild also enjoyed new 'sit spots' where they sat quietly and observed the world around them.  They saw and heard so many interesting things that they asked to do sit spots three times today!  Over the next few weeks Nichole's guild will continue to learn how to be uber aware of their environment, and will truly become Sneaky Animals.

Michelle and Deanna led their guild to a shaded, quiet area where they could focus their attention and energy on the task at hand: learning how to safely use knives.  They began by acting out skits showing the correct and incorrect ways to use knives (Deanna was killed twice)!  After learning the ABCDE's of knife safety, the kit foxes were given butter knives and apples or bars of soap to demonstrate safe carving techniques.  Everyone showed great progress throughout the day and no fingers were lost (no one even got a scratch)!  Many kit foxes carved boats out of their soap, and many went so far as to add stick and leaf sails!  After all that hard work and concentration it was off to the river to cool off.  Many 'boats' were sailed, and it might have been the first time the kids came out cleaner than they went in!  

Then it was time for our closing circle of the day.  We were having so much fun (and admittedly got a little lost on our way to the creek) that we gathered much later than normal for our circle, and everyone did a quick shout-out before heading to meet their families.  

We look forward to the continuation of our fantastic guilds next week!

Deanna, Michelle and Nichole

2013-14 School Year

January 29, 2014

Hi Families!

We had a great sunny day at McKinney Falls today.  After our morning game of foxtails we moved to the upper falls for our morning circle.  I told the story of Ötzi, the 5000 year old ice man mummy found in the Alps back in 1991.  The kids then picked new guilds for today and we split up.
Jessica's group went stealth, practicing their sneaking and camouflage skills.  The went to their secret hideout to fortify the defenses and make secret calls to warn of invaders.  They also made a new map of the hideout.  After lunch, they decided to try their hand at making fire.  Though they made great efforts with 3 matches and a magnifying glass, they weren't able to build up the flames.  They ended the day with a game of eagle eye before returning for the closing story.

Libbie's group practiced carving today.  They first reviewed all of the knife safety rules, then set in to carving boats out of soap.  They tested them in the creek and they all floated.  After lunch the kids decided to try to track and sneak up on Dave.  They weren't sneaky enough though, and Dave caught on right away.  He showed the kids how to split wood for a fire using other logs.  Then, they also played a game of eagle eye.

My group (Sarah) learned about bugs today.  We talked about why bugs are important in the ecosystem and we caught some bugs to observe and identify.  Some of the highlights were earwigs, centipedes, and fuzzy wuzzy warriors (funny, we couldn't find any bugs by this name in the field guide).  After observing the bugs for a while we released them back into their natural habitat.  We played a game of tag while waiting for the other groups.

At closing circle, Nigel passed around the earwigs and centipedes in a jar for everyone to see, and Libbie passed a raccoon skull she found.

Overall, a great day!
See you next week in Bastrop,

January 22, 2014

Evening Coyotes and Co!

How lucky are we that we had class today and not tomorrow?!  Snow? Austin? No thanks!  Due to this amazing weather, we were able to run about outside, get wet at Lower and Upper Falls (for some probably a little more than they would have liked) and bask in the glory of the sun.

We started off the day with a game of Amoeba Tag, which quickly tired everyone out.  Running and running and linking arms and running and a wee bit of falling ended with collapsing under the shade of a nearby tree.  Here, we enjoyed elk jerky from our friend Liana, as well as a sweet note:)  Then we settled in to hear Michelle tell the tale of the origin of the name for the amazing man-made lake in North Texas called Possum Kingdom.

After the story, we split up into Clans and both decided to make it an adventure day! The Scorpion Clan did a little bit of everything, from carving, to building shelters to mining at the Lower Falls.  They also worked on their camo skills during some intense games of Eagle Eye.  The Pirates "got lost" in the wilderness of McKinney, bush-wacked through cacti and dead trees and stumbled upon an awesome shady spot for lunch.  They learned a new game called Empire, as well as worked on their sense of smell by trying to guess an object just by taking a big whiff!  They also found an amazing pirate lair, ending at Lower Falls, where seaweed fights and rock climbing concluded their day.

We all met up Upper Falls to share our stories of the day, and dry off from our escapades in the water.  

So grateful for another great day with great company!

Safe travels tomorrow in the nasty weather,

Michelle & Brian

December 11, 2013

Today, the Coyotes had a guild day where Liana offered Wilderness Medicine and Rescue while Brian offered Survival Skills. We started the day with a game of Bear, Salmon, Mosquito. Then we moved into our circle where Dave told a story about a wilderness rescue he was involved with in the past. From there, we broke off into our groups.  Liana's group simulated emergency scenarios to learn from. Those scenarios, by choice of the group, involved being struck by lightning and rope burn. They then learned about making a number of different types of slings and splints. They were even referencing wilderness medicine and rescue books and referencing them as they practiced their procedures. 

After a full day of learning this information, Liana offered a communication challenge that involved learning to effectively communicate and how to complete tasks without speaking.

Brian's group headed into the forest of trees right behind where the group had it's circle. They went in search of sticks and logs to make throwing sticks and fish spears. The group planned on heading towards the creek, but the entire group was really loving this forest area. The group stuck around in this area. Some went straight into practicing throwing sticks, others got out their knives and practiced their carving skills by putting personal touches on the sticks. Things like handles and such.... a few of the youth were inspired to build a shelter, and others began making fish spears.

It was an afternoon of fun and engagement. The kids stayed interested and excited the entire day, and the group agreed that it wanted to spend much more time in this area of the land. 

Towards the end of the day, the two groups of Coyotes met together... Brian's group had imaginary injuries while Liana's group was there to come to the rescue. It was quite impressive, Liana's group putting splints and slings on the group, managing the crowd of chaotic people, and handling it all with grace!

It really was a great day today!!

Brian and Liana

December 05, 2014

Hi Families!

It was great to see you all again after the break, and we especially enjoyed having some parents join in our fun today!  If you couldn't make it, this story will fill you in on some of the details.

After our usual morning sign in and games, the kit foxes and coyotes split up for their morning circles and stories.  We then merged the groups to introduce our Village Day activities; each instructor lead a different activity and the kids were free to participate in whatever struck their fancy.

Dave joined us today and taught fire making skills with a bow drill.  His group began by learning about different qualities of wood that were suitable, and then they began the work of creating the tools.  As the day went on, a popular side project emerged; the kids worked together to dig a giant hole and they took turns burying each other in it.  By then end of the day, many kids had gotten dirty, and also had successfully made a fire with nothing more than friction and elbow grease.

Jessica lead a plant walk today.  With a small group of kids, they were able to hike quite far, and often bushwhacking while they checked out how the property has changed since the flood.  Throughout the day they identified lots of plants, learning what was edible or otherwise useful.  They eventually made their way back to the main area where Dave's group was.  They worked on making some cordage with agave, and they also had fun playing in the giant hole.

With Brian, the kids worked to build and supply a nature museum.  They built small structures and filled them with berries, a scorpion, some interesting leaves and bark, worms, etc.  They also created a pet shop where they traded caterpillars, daddy long legs, and stick bugs.  Throughout the day they also tried their skill at building bows and arrows.

With Libbie the kids focused on making art from the trees and fall foliage.  They talked about different characteristics of leaves like weather the edges are smooth or serrated, weather they are symmetrical or not, and the difference between simple and compound leaves.  They made colorful crayon rubbings of all the leaves they found, and put them all together into books.

My group (Sarah) learned to make bread on a stick.  We experimented with both corn flour, and some of the more adventurous tried some mesquite bread.  We also found that a little bit of honey goes a long way towards attracting swarms of bees.  At first, both the bees and the kids were staying calm, and the kids really liked the close up opportunity to watch the bees eat.  Some students even bravely allowed the bees to land on them and eat honey off their fingers.  But of course, the party was over once someone got stung.  We left the honey to the bees and we relocated to the other fire pit.

Liana's group helped us in our relocation process by carrying embers from our fire to the new fire pit.  They experimented with different ways to safely carry a hot coal, and what the coal needs in order to stay lit.  Once they got to the new fire pit, they slowly blew the coal back to flames and built it into a full sized fire again.

We all rejoined as a group to close out our day.  We shared our favorite stories and lessons learned with each other, and then played one last game of everybody's it tag.  We took full advantage of the beautiful weather today before our impending cold snap.

Hope you all stay warm till next time,

Sarah and all of the Earth Native Instructor

November 13, 2013

Greetings Kit Fox Families!

Today was absolutely freezing, and we had a great time experiencing all that it had to offer!

We started out with a game of Otter Steals fish to get everyone's blood pumping and then moved to the bigger field for a huge (and mean HUGE) gave of Fire in the Forest. We then made our way to the Chinaberry trees for our opening circle and the continuation of my survival trip story. Today we heard about day two of my survival trip in which I found water and helped eat a lizard whole! We then split into our guilds for the last time this rotation.

Libbie's navigation guild started their time together with a scavenger hunt. Libbie told everyone she had been out on a jog and seen something weird in the woods. It turned out to be a map of the park complete with clues leading to various toy animals hidden around. Halfway through their epic hunt, the group took a break in the Oak Grove to work on shelters and eat lunch.

Sarah's art guild was working on jewelry today. They searched the land for materials to made beads and ended up down by the water where they found a flock of geese. The geese came close enough for the kids to touch them, but no one dared. They tried to feed the geese their bead berries, but the geese weren't having it. The group worked a bit on plant ID down by the water, ate lunch, and then went back up near the parking lot to work on their necklaces and bracelets. They learned some cordage techniques and found some volcanic rocks, leading to a discussion on local geology.

Meanwhile, my (Jessica's) hunting guild was refining our stalking techniques. We practiced sneaking and giving one another constructive feedback on ways we were being sneaky and on ways we could improve our form. While practicing, we came upon Libbie's group and tried to sneak up on them. We followed them for quite awhile, traveling on our hands and knees and eventually our bellies before being eventually spotted. By this time, we were getting hungry, so we headed to the Oak Grove to eat lunch. We again encountered Libbie's group and helped them build shelters. Of course, this eventually turned into an all-out game complete with hierarchies, wars, and the like. We separated to work on refining our atlatls and adding fletching to our atlatl darts to improve their accuracy.

Before we all knew it, it was time to circle up and share our favorite moments of the day. We did so and hiked back up to sign out.

Thanks so much to all of you who were able to make it out to the Evening Program. A great, yet chilly, time was had by all. To those of you who weren't able to come, we missed you!

See y'all next week!

In Peace,

Jessica Ennis


Earth Native Wilderness School

October 30, 2013

Hello Families!

Today we invited our grandparents to join us at the program, and despite an ominous weather forecast, we began the day with many grandparents and much excitement. We started by circling up and sharing our names and our favorite outdoor activities. Some kids joked that they like playing on the iPad outside and the grandparents laughed at the thought. Jessica shared a story about her survival trip, inspiring us to learn skills such as building fires and shelters.

We joined together at the amphitheater with the Coyote group and introduced the 'village day' structure for our day-- each instructor leads a single-theme activity, while children and grandparents are encouraged to move freely from one instructor to another as their interest dictates.

Brian led a cordage group, teaching the children and grandparents how to weave rope from natural fibers. Besides weaving, we had a great time sharing stories with Brian and coming up with uses for our new cordage. Meanwhile, Jessica taught fire-building skills using bow drills. First, students collected tinder and small twigs. Then they used the friction from the bow drill spindle to create a coal. By placing the coal into a tinder bundle and blowing the students built a small flame and started to add twigs. Soon, we had enough flames to dry out the wet wood nearby and eventually catch larger logs. Many students and grandparents made their first coals throughout the day and added them to our village fire. Once we had a nice bed of hot coals, Sarah's group began cooking tortillas made from corn masa. They had a great time organizing a tortilla assembly-line while Sarah oversaw the cooking. They also roasted apples and tried cooking foods from their lunches, including sandwiches, olives, and carrots. Liana led a soil activity, then rounded up a group of students to play field games. Libbie led a photography course after lunch, inviting her students to be human cameras and document the park sights.

Near the end of the day we gathered again at the amphitheater and shared our thoughts and played a game as a big group. We began walking back just in time to get caught in a very sudden and violent thunderstorm! Half the group took shelter at the bathrooms, but soon we were all back together and the sun was shining again in time for pick-up.

Thanks to all the grandparents for sharing the day with us!

Libbie, Sarah, and Jessica

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