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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Children on the Move with Sticks

Sitting in the corner of my porch I have a walking stick that was given to me as a present for my high school graduation. It's a beautifully hand painted stick that resembles a Common Loon. My art teacher made it for me upon request by my mom. I was heading off to college in the fall, north into the Adirondacks. I think my mom felt I'd be better equipped to stave off bears and conquer steep mountains with it in my hands while on my journey into adulthood. That walking stick has been so many places with me and holds many adventuresome stories. Much like the stories I see the young children creating every week in ECO.

This spring at two participating ECO schools, Moretown Elementary and East Montpelier Elementary, we decided to "branch out" and leave the safety of our warm and worn base camps. What does the local landscape have to offer a group of traveling students? We found the prompt we needed to select and carve our walking sticks.

Children searched  the forest eagerly for their very own walking sticks. Height, thickness, strength, and weight were all serious considerations. How long should it be? Just shoulder height. How thick should it be? Well,...it shouldn't be too heavy to carry! How strong should it be? As strong as your journeying spirit will take you. Interestingly enough, all the children chose sticks that in one way or another really represented themselves. Slight yet strong, curvy, gnarled and full of detail, dense and strong. All of them beautiful.
We used various tools to help craft our walking sticks. Saws for cutting. Whittling peelers for adding fine detail. A shave horse and draw knife to take off bark and bring the wood grain to life. A drill for holes to make a decorative lanyard. Some children even added a few finishing touches with paint. The students were incredibly focused on and dedicated to their walking sticks. So much that they immediately wanted to take them home. Their teachers promised, on the last day of school, they could. Hooray!

Using a shave horse and draw knife
On the last day of April, students at EMES headed to the East Montpelier Trail system for their first adventure. The chilly day proved challenging. We learned to switch hands and hold the walking stick while the other is getting warm in a coat pocket. We learned that we still need hats in May. Many children soon discovered that things are not as they seem when hiking,...no, we are not almost to Burlington!

On the Road

Staying together is safe and FUN!

Children used their sticks to poke mud puddles, climb over fallen trees, carry their snacks slung over their shoulders and draw pictures in the dirt. Our dedicated teacher team brought along Green-Up Day bags and we picked up garbage on the last leg of the journey. Leaving Vermont green for all to see.
Two hours later we were back at East Montpelier Elementary with plans for our next ECO outing. We might gather wild leeks for soup or head into a neighbors forest in search of vernal pools. What stories will our walking sticks have to tell?

Passing through a cornfield

Can't go around it, can't go under it, gotta go through it!

Earth Caretakers

Good conversation on the trail. 

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