“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
During this past summer, my sister Blythe and I attended a week-long teen birding camp on Hog Island, Maine. The Hog Island Camp, run by the National Audubon Society, is now in its 80th year of existence.
Having applied for and received scholarships to attend, we joined 22 other teens to learn about everything from bird banding to seabird restoration. In the sport of birding there are few young people, so spending time with other fledgling birders was particularly special.
Not only was this our first camp away from home, it was also our first time birding on the East Coast. Other campers were endlessly helpful with identification, and everyone was so willing to share their knowledge.
We designed an advanced study project (ASP) through Oak Meadow about our explorations in ornithology, and our trip to Hog Island was a part of that adventure. Being able to pursue my dreams and incorporate them into my high school experience is one of the reasons I find Oak Meadow extremely special.
A Day on Hog Island…
4:00 a.m. Get up and out of bed, having awoken long before, unable to sleep because of the excitement of unknown birds singing and the lobster boats motoring around checking pots.
4:30 a.m. Out the door and down the creaky wooden stairs of Crow’s Nest cabin to meet up for a bird walk or thrush banding with Scott Weidensaul (program director) and a few other souls.
7:00 a.m. Breakfast, finally!
The weather held, and we motored out aboard Snowgoose III on an all day trip to Eastern Egg Rock. Common tern chicks hatching, Atlantic puffins feeding, and painting the five research interns’ shelter on the island while being dive bombed by a tern parent are memories I will never forget.
12:00 p.m. Lunch
Off to a bird banding workshop, or an intro to recording bird song, or drawing with the resident artist.
6:00 p.m. A delicious dinner.
7:30 p.m. Nightly presentation by someone highly regarded in his or her field; tonight it was Stephen Kress, author of Project Puffin and director of the Sea Bird Restoration Program that brought puffins back to Eastern Egg Rock.
Then teen campers known as the Corvids met to discuss the day, do activities, and enjoy bonding time.
Bed? Not quite.
Owling with Josh Potter (teen camp leader), moon and star gazing, and then journaling time.
10:30 p.m. Heather (teen camp leader) singing and playing her guitar as the campers fell asleep, to do it all again tomorrow. Paradise!
Hog Island, Maine is an incredible place with remarkable people. The National Audubon Society camp I attended, Coastal Marine Bird Studies for Teens, would be an excellent camp for teens with a strong interest in birds, hands-on learning and a love of nature. Hog Island hosts camps for those interested in other aspects of birds, including drawing and photography or a wish to learn more about nature. Explore the Hog Island website (http://hogisland.audubon.org) to find out more.
Author Fianna Wilde is a senior at Oak Meadow High School. “Since I can remember, I have loved all aspects of nature. My sister Blythe, also a senior at Oak Meadow, and I used to have lunch with all of the bugs we found around our yard. Two years ago my family moved to Morro Bay, California, and that is where my love of birds took flight. From then on, birding evolved from a pastime to a passion. “
The winter solstice has arrived in the northern hemisphere! For many people and many cultures, it is a festive time of year, and the activities are often centered around festivals. Festivals connect us with seasonal rhythms of nature and the cosmos. These celebrations can be as simple as preparing a seasonal food, sharing a special story, completing a handcraft project, making a seasonal table, or having a party with friends and family members.
In celebration of the winter solstice, I annually host a Winter Garden Spiral Walk for my local home school students and their families. It is a time when all are “invited” to go inward and kindle our inner light to bring into the world and share with others. For those who are unfamiliar with the Winter Garden Spiral, or Advent Spiral as it is often called, it is an old European tradition. Evergreen boughs are laid on the floor (if held inside) or on the ground (if held outside) in the form of a spiral. I like to adorn my spiral with watercolor painted stars, wooden animals, felted gnomes, elves and angels, and elements of nature (such as seashells, pine cones, rocks and crystals, colorful berries, etc.) In the center of the spiral is a lit candle that represents the coming of light into the darkness. With only this one candle initially lit, each person takes a turn to walk the spiral holding an apple containing an unlit candle. Some individuals choose to walk in silence, while others choose to recite a verse or to sing a song that others can help sing. As the person reaches the center, the unlit candle is lit from the center candle. Walking back out of the spiral, a place is chosen along the spiral to set the apple with the lit candle. As each person has a turn, more and more lit candles grace the spiral, and the space becomes increasingly filled with light. It truly is a beautiful experience and one of my favorite festivities of the year.
Some of my favorite winter solstice books for children include: The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson, and A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg. If you are interested in learning more about other seasonal festivals, here is a list of books that offer creative ideas and projects: Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large; A Child’s Seasonal Treasury compiled and written by Betty Jones; Celebrating Festivals with Children by Freya Jaffke; The Nature Corner: Celebrating the Year’s Cycle with a Seasonal Table by M. V. Leeuwen; and A Time to Keep – The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays by Tasha Tudor.
Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!! And Happy New Year!
“The 2016 December solstice will come on the 21st at 10:44 UTC. That’s 4:44 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.” http://earthsky.org/tonight/years-shortest-season-starts-with-december-solstice
Best wishes for a happy and healthy winter or summer season wherever you are on Earth!
The season of winter is a time of contraction. As the days grow shorter, we find ourselves inside more. It’s a perfect time for expressing our festive, artistic side. Making lanterns that shine from within and bring a warm glow to your home can help you and your children ready yourselves for the cold days and nights of winter.
You will need:
-heavy water color paper (9″X12″ or 12″X16″)
-watercolor paints and paintbrushes
-tacky glue, white glue, or glue sticks
-warming candles, votive candles, or tea lights (the ones in metal containers)
What to do:
1. Paint the paper. (Dark colors work best, such as ultramarine or cobalt blue.) Encourage your children to fill the entire paper with color.
2. After the paper dries, make a fold all the way across the length of the paper, approximately three inches up from the bottom.
3. Cut a fringe of three-inch wide segments all along the bottom folded section.
4. Cut several small shapes out of the top portion of the lantern. These are the “windows” that the light shines through. (Star and moon shapes are always fun!) Small pieces of colored tissue paper glued over the inside of the windows create a beautiful effect.
5. Form the lantern paper into a cylinder, gluing it from the top to the bottom. Fold the fringed edges in and overlap them to make the lantern’s bottom. Put small dabs of glue between the fringes to hold them together.
6. Add a fairly long handle (12-15 inches) 1/2 inch wide and attach to each side of the lantern with paper fasteners.
7. Use candles that come in individual metal cups. A dab of glue placed in the bottom of the lanterns holds the candle in place.
Important Note: These lanterns should be used only under close adult supervision.
At this time of the year here in New England we are in our winter months. As the temperatures hover below freezing, we do all we can to keep warm.
The temperature of the oceans, the air, and also the wind patterns of the planet all create climate. In the Oak Meadow 7th grade science curriculum you study about climate, weather patterns, and global winds. You learn the relationship between air masses and weather. You become a meteorologist! Collecting weather data is one job of a meteorologist, so students using the curriculum set up their own weather station, keep records over a 5 day period, and report their data. Looking at the past data and the present data allows meteorologists to predict the weather of the future.
Today some scientists are collecting data about the Arctic sea and the Antarctic sea. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center study the CRYOSPHERE, or more simply, they study the cold places on our planet. They study glaciers, snow, sea ice and specifically the areas around the North and South poles. In their studies of these areas, scientists have recorded warmer temperatures of the seas and the air. Those records provide data for the scientists to measure how much sea ice is disappearing. Just as 7th grade students record their own weather data and make predictions, these scientists gather data to report the impact the state of the cryosphere has on the planet. That means that they are able to report and predict weather patterns on the Earth. With warmer temperatures of water and air recorded, scientists are able to warn us of future climatic changes.
In the Oak Meadow science curriculum, you learn that ozone depletion, the thinning of the stratospheric ozone, contributes to global warming.
“How much can a single person affect Earth’s changing climate? According to researchers in the United States and Germany, 3 square meters of summer sea ice disappear in the Arctic for every metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) that a person directly or indirectly produces. How can one person produce 1 metric ton of CO2? That’s about a roundtrip flight from New York to Europe per passenger. Or, a 4,000-kilometer car ride.” https://nsidc.org/news/newsroom/us-and-german-researchers-calculate-individual-contribution-climate-change
The Oak Meadow science curriculum across the grades has assignments in which students consider how to limit, or reduce, their impact on the ozone, and how the ozone can be preserved. If you are a student, or family, looking for suggestions on how to reduce your impact, read this.
by June M. Schulte When we began homeschooling in 1982, our eldest was just over seven years old, the legal age for school in Vermont. Although we were doing a lot with our children – reading aloud, making crafts, singing, dancing and so on – we weren’t quite sure which things might count as education and what was needed that we didn’t even know about. The day we received word from the State that we were okay to homeschool, our five children were ages 7¼, 5¾, 4, 2, and 10 days old. John Holt spoke to homeschoolers nearby that week, and we were encouraged by his words about the natural way children learn by doing.
We had searched for a good curriculum to use, and felt the one which best matched our view was offered by Oak Meadow School. Based on exchanges with cofounders Bonnie and Lawrence Williams, our eldest was placed in second grade and our daughter in first. We also bought the kindergarten curriculum to guide the younger children and, in truth, to reassure us in case our eldest had missed something important. We felt ready and excited. Execution of the curriculum was another story altogether. Our fifth child was a newborn and a robust 10lb-er; however, he also startled very easily and had rapid respirations for his first two weeks. In years to come, we would discover he had attention inconsistencies, but in those first months of homeschooling, it translated into needing to keep the household relatively quiet (in Winter) so the baby wasn’t over-stimulated. Also, as a nursing mother, I had a series of breast infections not easily quelled with antibiotics, as we eventually discovered there were two germs involved, not one. It was a challenge!
By the time we were sending our first quarter report and samples to Oak Meadow, I was quite concerned, as it seemed to me we had failed miserably. I felt that the most academic thing we had done all season was make a leaf mobile! We had also written a poem about the season, read aloud, sung songs (things that can be done with a babe in arms), and played a lot. But there were few lessons of any kind. At least I had kept a journal of what learning I noticed, and sent it along. I braced myself for the response from Oak Meadow. What came was a beautifully encouraging letter from Bonnie Williams herself, highlighting the many learning opportunities she found evident in my journal. Being a mother of four, she had read between the lines. She noted that my older children had learned that babies come first, to make their own sandwiches, and to help one another. She assured me that there would yet be plenty of time to accomplish the paperwork in the curriculum and recommended we simply stay with it.
We did, and I am so grateful for that. Bonnie was right. By the end of the year, we had completed the lessons in the curriculum, and our State Certified Teacher (who later opened a Waldorf school) confirmed it, giving me the greatest sense of accomplishment and peace!
Our children are now ages 41½ , 40, 38, 36, and 34. They all made the Dean’s List their first semester of college, graduated, and have been gainfully employed since. They are not social misfits. In fact, our eldest is a company manager, 5th-degree black belt and international TaekwonDo referee, dad, and co-owner of a horse farm with his spouse. Our daughter graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. in Mathematics and is a partner in a worldwide firm, a mom, and owner of a large house in Maine. Our third child has a Ph.D. and is a wildlife biologist who headed up shorebird recovery in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP oil spill; he is a dad, town selectman, marathon runner, and 3rd-degree black belt who teaches TaekwonDo. Our fourth child has a degree in Computer Science, works in customer support, and founded a non-profit focused on sustainability that grows food for food shelves. Our youngest has a degree in Networking and Website Development and makes websites for a good living; he is a dad, records local bands to get their music out to the public, and owns a house with his spouse.
Moreover, they are happy. They care about the world, the nation, and their local communities. They play with their children and are good friends. The many fears we had in those early days (and along the way) have been allayed. Our six grandchildren, currently age 10 years to 10 months, are intelligent, funny, sweet people.
I wish I could have known at the outset how it would be now. But, really, we just had to take it one day (sometimes one hour!) at a time. I’d say keeping a journal was the most important work I contributed, because it not only recorded the moments for which there was no paperwork, but it helped me notice and appreciate their slow and wonderful flourishing. On the tough days (and there were many), it was sanity-producing to read back over the last month’s journal and know for sure that we were making progress. It was what I drew from to create our end of year reports.
Note to former self: If a child is loved deeply, is given good resources, great art materials, lots of trips to libraries, field trips when possible, hands-on exploration, and heaps of fun, they cannot help but thrive. The curriculum itself is secondary. There is no way we can give a child all the knowledge they will need in life. So we need to teach them, largely by example and conversation, to mull and articulate, to explore, discover, invent, and create; give them the tools for doing their own research, creating their own art, writing their stories, and living as caring citizens. Give your heart to it and don’t second-guess yourself too much. If something isn’t right, trust that you’ll recognise that. Turn a deaf ear to naysayers and listen to other homeschoolers who share your philosophy. Have a small group of homeschoolers you can get together with or at least some homeschooling pen pals (for you as well as the children). You are all going to be just fine.
June Schulte completed her college degree as an off-campus student while homeschooling her children. She applied for and was granted the maximum three semesters of Life Learning credits from Goddard College (known for its progressive approach), earning a B.A. in Home Education and Religious Studies. She then completed a three year Diocesan Study Program as well as some seminary studies. A lifelong contemplative, June also completed the two year Shalem Spiritual Guidance Program, and for 20 years has been meeting with people who are seeking spiritual guidance. Guidance seems to be most of what homeschooling was about for June, and she feels that her children taught her more than she taught them. June and her husband, Bill, have been married 42 years so far, and are the delighted Grammie and Grandad of four granddaughters and two grandsons. As the Irish saying goes, “Children are the Rainbow of Life; Grandchildren are the Pot of Gold!”
Now that December has arrived, the holiday spirit is in full gear and children and families around the globe are excitedly making their special preparations. If Santa is celebrated in your home, you might like to join the NORAD Tracks Santa countdown that begins every year on December 1st.
This particular event hosted by NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) has a wonderful story relating to how tracking Santa actually began. According to the NORAD Tracks Santa website:
On Dec. 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a young child in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper – the youngster wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.
On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.
Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.
Every year on December 24, fifteen hundred volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Website (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.
If you visit Santa’s Village, you will discover there is even more than just the tracking of Santa on Christmas Eve. In Santa’s village, there is a Theater to watch movies, an Arcade to play a new game every day, a Music Stage for listening to Santa’s favorite holiday songs, and a Library to learn about Santa, his magic sleigh, and holiday traditions. There is even a gift shop you can visit!
For the past 61 years, NORAD Tracks Santa has provided a magical delight to families all over the world. If you are a Santa “believer”, then you just might like to join in these annual festivities!