We have had a really special last few weeks in the aftercare program. Here are some highlights!
Three weeks ago, we offered the children another way to connect more deeply with their senses, through an ancient initiation ritual called the Drum Stock. Drum Stock challenges the participants to find the source of a sounding drum, which is being played somewhere hidden far in the woods, while the initiates are blindfolded – and sometimes barefoot. The drum stock is an invitation to trust your less-used senses, as it removes our most-trusted sense of sight. We did the activity twice, as the group proved to be so successful in discovering the source of the sound quickly and with ease. It was a lot of fun.
Then – two weeks ago, we taught the group a few new songs, and they sang them so beautifully and quickly! We were pleased to discover that the singing in the Waldorf curriculum must really work to increase the precision of its students listening! The songs included a Diné Indian Prayer, where the singers sing and dance the chant, “Now I walk in Beauty, Beauty is Before me, Beauty is Behind me, Above and Below me.” We also learned a song called “Sanctuary”, which goes – “Earth make me a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. And with Thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”
Also this week, Elana introduced the children to the possibility of connecting to plant spirits. The children were sent off to discover a plant that “appeared brighter than the rest” and pulled them in somehow. When with the alluring plant, the person must then engage that plant with all their 5 senses, including the sense of hearing. When sitting beside their new plant friend, they were asked to be patient and listen deeply to the information that the plant chooses to offer them. Sometimes the information will be guidance or emotional support, sometimes it is just to be still, silent and rooted into the ground beside the plant. You can say hello to the plant and ask it questions that you wish to have more information about. The possibilities of what one can receive from opening up to having heartful communication with the plant spirits is quite expansive. Of course, this activity was at first met with skeptical disbelief from the group, but as soon as the kids were sent off, they found themselves instantly sucked into an unexpected heart-to-heart connection with their plants. They returned to the group for closing circle with a sense of peacefulness and stillness that we had never seen in the students before. All of them spoke of an ease of connection to their plants and trees and spoke about it with a kind of reverence and vulnerability, closing out the day’s program with a true sense of the beauty that lay “before, behind, above, and below us.”
The following week, we learned about different animal totems and the different kinds of wisdom carried by the different animals on the earth. We played games such as Fire in the Forest, where we choose animals and an “It” has to ask questions that describe qualities of animals, when the quality called out by the “It” matches something of your animal – you must run across the field, hoping not to be tagged, for then you will turn into a tree!! We had a great time playing this game.
In the last few weeks, we’ve played some other great games such as: Ants and Spiders, Birds on a Perch, The Western Wind Blows, and The Unending Game of Tag.
We have also enjoyed a good dose of “sneaking” around the property, working with our “Fox Walk,” which is a very quiet and slow walk that requires a great amount of balance and stillness. While sneaking, we notice tracks or any other subtle changes that have happened on the land, and we discuss what we believe may have happened there. While sneaking one week, nearby the rabbit’s dens, we discovered the decapitated head of a bunny rabbit and its innards splayed out atop the dirt mound behind the classrooms. We discussed the kinds of predators rabbits have, and the qualities of prey animals that a rabbit exhibits, such as its very large ears so as to hear a predator coming, and its huge hind feet meant for hopping large distances. Around the rabbit who had passed on, we discussed the cycle of birth, death, and the potential of rebirth or reincarnation. The kids were very emotional about the rabbit and we felt it was a great lesson in the reality of life in nature, exposed to the elements of survival, and the ability to accept death as a inevitable part of life.
We have had a great time with all the kids, as we hope they have had with us! Looking forward to many more warm days together in the wind and the sunshine, as spring shoots burst up from the ground.