October 2, 2008

Teaching, Tracking, and Permaculture

Week 2 of the Certification Program was a blast. There were new mysteries presented, skits performed, and garden beds dug up.

On Wednesday, a man named Hawkeye educated us about education. What makes an effective teacher? There are core values that good nature-based educators have; these range from respect to repetition. One value that must be present in teaching children, we learned, is an animated personality. We learned about dressing the part, feeding off the group, and using heavy body language to not only hold interest but get the children excited to learn. We were assigned random topics to act out in two minute skits. This was a chance for us to animate our personalities, and animated they became. We had Jimmy the growling bear, Fritz the shapeshifting raven, and Dixie the big-eyed nocturnal flying squirrel who came out during the day. There was a lot of laughter and excitement, and I noticed that I retained more information given in these skits than I have from most college lectures I have attended.

Day 2 of Week 2 was a tracking day. We went out to Bob Harman park and tracked along the Snohomish river. On our way out to the sandbar we were fortunate enough to come across a Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) cleaning itself high in a snag. It took off and showed us it's flight pattern of flap flap flap glide, flap flap flap glide. These hawks have to fly fast and quiet because their main diet consists of other smaller birds (such as Cedar Waxwings). We got down to the sandbar and saw raccoon, coyote, mink, and beaver tracks. The beavers had some easily identifiable trails that lead into the sloughs near the river. We saw some cottonwood sapling stumps with what I call "tooth stairs." Beavers leave these ridged bite marks on the wood they harvest that look like little stairs. Further along the slough, we were studying some Great Blue Heron tracks near a spotted sandpiper trail when a juvenile bald eagle flew overhead and landed in a cottonwood. He was followed by an alarming Osprey who held a small fish in its talons. Maybe the eagle had come into the osprey's home without permission. The eagle eventually took off and showed off his ginormous wingspan, gliding 25 feet above our heads. We then found some mystery tracks on the sandbar, riverside. We all knew it was a bird, but which bird was it?

Friday was our introduction to permaculture. Adam Rawson, our professor, taught us that in permaculture, anything is possible. Permaculture is defined in many ways, the most blunt being permanent agriculture. This is a sustainable way to grow the crops you need with as little manipulation of the natural world as possible. Adam showed us the map of the property and where him and Jason had planned on putting raised beds, ponds, food forests, and chicken padducks. At the end of the day we all chipped in to take out some grass and till some soil that will soon have some edible plants in it.

A great second week with a lot of new ideas and experiments was very fun. Stay tuned for week 3, which will include stone tools, ethnobotany, and birding.

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