Learning Landscape for October 2018: Rhythms of Nature

This Month’s Learning Landscape Illustrates the Rhythms of Nature

The rains have littered the October ground with a crackling sea shed from the maples outside our window. Fall at our West County elementary school is beautiful, as it turns out, and warmer than we expected. Stories about the chill of fall air sit on the shelf, waiting for the cooler mornings to last all day long and provide the proper climate-context for their telling. Even our wardrobes are confused, and small bodies alternate constantly between winter coats and t-shirts as the temperature bobs up and down. Our classroom “pets,” a collection of pond snails, move about their bowl at approximately the pace that fall has arrived at this year, and they devour green leaves at about the same rate that those outside our window have changed. Our caterpillar has come and gone, his quick chrysalis-ed exit to an outdoor overwintering suspected to have been the result of a few days’ worth of boredom in our room.

Fall’s stunted (yet colorful) growth is reflected in our collection which has, as a result, changed yet still remained quite similar to the previous month’s. We’ve continued to find lots of different seed-bearing pods, as well as a healthy heap of half-green, half-brown leaves of all shapes and sizes. Clippings from hardy flowering plants have trickled in from home gardens, and mushrooms of all kinds remain readily available on the school grounds and elsewhere. But it’s no problem – the slow pace that the changes around us have been keeping up is teaching us the rhythm of nature. Change is always a slow process in nature, whether or not temperatures are unseasonably warm, and it’s an important lesson for us to learn. Patience and close observation will allow us to become more closely acquainted with our surroundings, and will help us to see exactly the moment when all of the leaves have finally turned or when the grass has finally ceased to need mowing. The need to look closely is an important one, for it teaches us the specifics of things that might otherwise seem to have fuzzy edges. 

And speaking of looking closely, we’ve certainly been making some great observations! A multi-day mushroom observation surprised us all by providing us with the opportunity to see veils break, gills appear, and spores be distributed – all within a matter of a few days, and thanks to the help of a mist bottle and refrigeration. We drew mushrooms, we poked mushrooms, we took notes about mushrooms and, most importantly, we wondered things about mushrooms. The things that we wondered will guide us towards some new discoveries – once we’ve collected a new stash.

This month’s nature table collection includes:

  • over-ripe cucumber
  • “lucky” river stones
  • crabapples
  • pottery pieces from the river
  • burrs
  • milkweed pod
  • shelf mushroom of epic proportions (unidentified)
  • wasp’s nest
  • endless collection of walnuts, acorns, and chestnuts

For further study, we’ve looked to the pages of:

Robin Morgan Huntley, Community-Based Education Correspondent

Robin joined Hilltown Families in 2011 as an intern and has remained with the organization ever since, first volunteering as a community-based education correspondent until 2016 and now as a contributing writer with two monthly columns. Robin is a graduate of Hampshire College and Antioch University New England, where she studied place- and community-based education. She lives on the banks of the Sheepscot River in Maine, where she and her husband are working to start a small farm. Robin teaches at Juniper Hill School for Place-Based Education and is the founder of our first affiliate community-based education network, Dirigo Learning.

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