Week 12 – 5/29/2018
Today was the long awaited individual campfires day. So far this semester the weather hasn’t been on our side for campfires, it’s either been too cold, too windy, too rainy or way too hot. Today was pretty warm but we hoped the clouds would keep us cool long enough to practice our campfires. They did, for the most part. After gathering up in the Outdoor Classroom, we hauled our wagon down the road and stopped at the bridge for an early snack. We pulled out our journals and wrote down our two favorite things we did this semester and one or two things we learned this semester. Almost everyone agreed that their favorite things from the semester were visiting the stream and ponds, fort building and campfires. Some of us liked building the dam in the creek, flying the paper airplanes and creating the origami. Noa shared that one of the things she learned this semester was about native and non-native plants and how non-native plants can become invasive and take over areas by stealing nutrients from native plants and taking their space. We talked about this on the week we learned more about buds. While snacking at the bridge some of us took our shoes off and got our feet muddy on the quest for frogs. Eva caught a very slippery (and muddy) green frog!
We hiked down to the barn to start our individual campfires. Grouping up at the fire circle, we reviewed our basic fire safety rules. Part of the challenge of individual campfires is starting it with matches and trying to start it without tools that make starting your average fire easy, like newspaper, fire starters (vaseline doused cotton balls for example) and other conventional materials. We did have newspaper on hand because the weather the week before our class had been very wet, so dry kindling was hard to find. We all created our own space around our personal campfires and got working setting up our fire to be lit. We all built our fires a bit differently. Some of us went heavy on the dead grass and what small sticks we could find, others built a teepee with small sticks and some grass and some of us built flatter fires. We struck our matches and all of us started our fires with only matches, some as few as 3! Another tool we did use to try to start our fire was a flint and steel. We were able to shave off magnesium into our fire but we struggled with the spark. We tended to the fires for some time until the sun got to be too hot. We checked on some of the nearby bird boxes and here are our findings: one nest with tree swallow eggs and the nest was made with grass and feathers, one nest was likely a wren nest made from only sticks and it had small, brown speckled eggs, one nest had blue bird eggs in it. We also saw and heard a baltimore oriole singing in the tree nearby and Piper found a hatched and empty bluebird egg. We cooled off at the ponds and then hiked back to Irvine where we checked on more boxes and found eastern bluebirds actually in the process of hatching!
Week 13 – 6/5/2018
Today was our last day of the semester! It was such a fun semester it is hard to say goodbye. We had a nature filled time, from created forts, to climbing trees, to dunking to our shoulders in the pond, to finding salamander babies, discovering countless cute baby birds, making friends and forever memories. On our last day with the temperature the most mild it’s been all spring for us, we hiked to a place at Irvine we have never been before. We hiked down Caves Wood Road and stopped to have snack under the shade of a tree. Lev found a bright red wood mite too! We continued down Caves Wood Road and looked at a few bird boxes along the way. We found one had a Tree Swallow nest with white eggs. We turned right and went along the Bauer Path. This is a new trail for us, that we have never been on, so we were excited to see what we would find. Our end goal was to find the Old Duck Pond.
We hiked through Hawk Meadow and ventured onto the new Hawk Meadow Loop trail. We found a lot of vernal (seasonal) pools with a lot of wetland plants. We spotted a lot of dragonflies flying around and Piper noticed the Red-tailed Hawk soaring it the sky over Hawk Meadow. After only a few minutes along the trail we came across a Mulberry tree that Lev immediately identified. It was loaded with berries! We picked through them looking for the deep red/purple berries that would be ripe being sure to save enough for the birds.
Next we came along a wetland full of beautiful willow trees. The trail led us through some water where Piper and Eva found water snakes and frogs, that quickly got out of our way. We continued on and found the trail to Old Duck Pond. Some of us ventured down to check it out while others waited in the shade. Old Duck Pond turned out to be an old pond and now a grassy meadow with a quickly flowing, cool stream passing through it. We definitely felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. We looked around briefly and then headed back to Irvine, taking the future cut trail back to Caves Wood Road.
The rest of the day we spent enjoying s’mores at the campfire, checking on the status of the baby eastern bluebirds (which have fully hatched now), eating snacks and playing with friends from our homeschool class and the other classes too.
Thank you for such an amazing Spring semester. Every single one of you made it fun, exciting and memorable.